I went for a walk the other evening in our Osborne Village neighborhood, heading down Nassau and turning left at the corner of Wellington Crescent. There is a building right there that I have always admired. Impulsively I headed up the driveway, and wouldn’t you know it, the door swung open like it was expecting me. The small foyer inside showed beautiful and wonderfully clean glass doors. Through the doors there were statues tastefully placed around the room. On my left was a man seated in a cubicle. He had one hand hovering over a phone, and seemed frozen by indecision.
“Is this an apartment building?” I asked excitedly.
“It’s private,” he said, like he was going to the bathroom and I was being rude enough to watch. Which reminded me. I really had to go.
“Can I come in and look around? I’ve always wanted to see this place.”
“You’ll have to leave.”
“May I use your bathroom?” In retrospect, I can’t believe I asked this, except that my bladder was overtaking my brain.
“Absolutely not,” he said, as if a simple no would lead to some persuasive arguing that would wear him down.
Continuing on my journey, I passed an Anglican church that rings actual bells on Sunday morning. They play ‘Ode to Joy,’ making me feel like I’m in the movie ‘Sound of Music,’ and have just gotten married in a beautiful cathedral. It inspires me to sing, ‘How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?’ I can get away with that kind of thing in Winnipeg, because no one knows me and anyway, Clarence is impossible to embarrass.
But back to my bladder. Since it’s the size of a soy nut, I decided to stop at the Safeway across from our building. The small bathroom at the back is tucked between the egg fridge and the meat counter. A strong odor of cigar met my nose when I stepped inside. As I exited, a guy in an apron was standing there with a frown on his face.
‘Someone’s been smoking a cigar,’ I tattled helpfully.
“It’s not allowed,” he said, glaring at me.
“I know. I’m just reporting it.”
“Especially cigars. They stink up the whole place.”
“I know. I…” He walked away, leaving me feeling as if I really had smoked a cigar in the bathroom. As if I’d just forgotten it. His certainty was very unsettling.
Feeling disoriented, I headed home. Why, I wondered, can’t we have real way stations? Ones with helpful attendants, convenient bathrooms and guides willing to satisfy one’s curiosity? Wouldn’t life be wonderful if, every day, we were met with snacks, hot towels and comfy chairs wherever we went? I’d like that. For now, though, I’ll settle for my friendly apartment building, where nobody knows my name, but where people will hold the elevator and even say hello. It’s a start.