Saturday, April 24, 2010

Reflections from a Grady Doctor in Canada: Thoughts a-boot Toronto, AT&T and "food-weirdness"

View from my hotel room window

Live and direct from the
American College of Physicians National Meeting!
Toronto, Ontario

Colleague-sista-friend: "Girl, we MUST go to the ACP meeting in 2010!"

Me: "Oh yeah? Where is it?"

Colleague-sista-friend: "It's in TORONTO, girl!! Toronto!! How awesome is that?"

Me: "Apparently, very. . . . ."


I'm in this quasi-foreign land called Canada right now. . . . it's like having one foot in America and one foot in somewhere completely different. It starts off subtle. . . .

"Hello there! Are you looking for your connecting flight?" That's what this really nice lady said to me when I stepped off of the plane into the Toronto Airport terminal. Her accent was totally vanilla--like somebody from Nebraska, you know? Basically, no accent. Hmmm. Very interesting. . . .

"No, ma'am," I answered her with a big smile. She gave me this suspicious tight-lipped expression in return; clearly telling me that "we don't ma'am here." That would be last time I said ma'am in Toronto.

Next sign that we were so very not in Kansas, Toto, came when I pulled out my cell to text Harry that I was indeed safe in Canada. I swiped the iPhone screen only to get some heinous message telling me (just so that there would be no surprises) that "this is SO not a part of your AT &T plan so don't use me with reckless abandon or else!" Maybe they mean calls, right? Made a few text messages . . . .figured this was safe. Was wrong. Called AT&T who told me that even though people standing outside of your plane in terminal sound exactly like they are American-- (that is until they say "a-boot" or "soo-rry")-- the cost of talking to OR texting any of them or your loved ones via cell phone will cost you.

"So wait--how much are we talking about anyway?" I grilled the customer service rep from AT&T global over the phone.

"50 cents per text and 79 cents a minute per phone call," said Khalid, the dude who was very likely recording my phone call for training purposes. And he was way too cheerful about it.

"Dag, Khalid! There ain't no kind of hook up you can give a sista?" (I wish I could tell you that is not exactly what I said to Khalid, but I did.) Oh yeah. I am always trying to get "the hookup." Even in Canada. Here's the thing--in the states, you have a 50/50 chance of the name "Khalid" being attached to a brotha from Brooklyn, NY so I figured I'd take my chances. Heck even if he's Canadian, perhaps I'd stumble upon someone from the Bed-Stuy equivalent in Canada-- you know, a place that would inspire a fistbump even this far north. I mean, just maybe Kha-leeed, as I was pronouncing it, was one of the homies and just maybe he had "the hookup" on international talk minutes. (Note: "the hookup" is very different than "hooking up." Let's just be clear on that, people. . . .)

"Pardon me?" Khalid replied, sounding genuinely puzzled. One thing his answer suggested: he is probably NOT one of the homies with "the hookup." Turns out this Khalid was more of a Khah-lid than a Kha-leeed. Dang.

"Never mind," I groaned. "Can I at least just use my iPhone in wi-fi hot spots? That's free, right Khalid?"

"I'm afraid not. The data is not free. You pay (5 trillion dollars per) MB that you download. But you can get an international package if you are interested." (Also for 5 trillion dollars.)

"That's crazy, Khalid! Don't you think that's crazy?"

"Soo-rry . . . . even when you're oot in an area with wi-fi, now it still incurs a fee. ("now" pronounced like "know.") I can have our global specialist talk to you a-boot international plans if you like." I have now noted that Khalid is a sho-nuff and bonified Canadian, and now am sure 100% that he is NOT one of the homies.

"I'm cool, Khalid. I'll just suck it up."

"Pardon me?"

"Errr, soo-rry, Khalid. I meant to say, 'No thanks--but I appreciate your help." Canadian Khalid didn't have the hookup on international anything. (Should've said 'preciate you just confuse him.)

Later that day, had an epiphany that I am a grown woman with a job + benefits, so I should still be able to afford to talk/text even in Canada when I please. This is what you do when you are grown, right? This is what I told myself. Either way, decided Harry and the ninos are definitely worth well over 50 cents per text and even more than 79 cents per minute.

Next Toronto observation: It is clean. Like real, real clean. There is no trash on the ground anywhere. And it's almost impossible to throw stuff away. Every where you go, the trash is separated into "organics" and "cans/bottles/plastic/glass" and then "paper." I asked this man where gum goes and he said, "Hmmm. Never thought a-boot it." Decided that since I saw no wads of gum on sidewalk, side of tables or anywhere else whatsoever that gum was just not the thing in Canada. Especially if a full grown Canadian man couldn't tell me where to dispose of it. (Sidebar: Hey, did you know that in Singapore it's illegal to chew gum in public? A friend dropped that pearl of wisdom on me today which gave me peace about the gum conundrum in Toronto. Not having a place to spit out gum is nothing compared to getting flogged for having it in your mouth.)

In addition to the fancy, earth friendly trash situation in Toronto, they are also dead serious about energy conservation. Made the mistake of leaving my iPhone charger and computer plug plugged in inside my hotel room when leaving out for lectures. Twice. When I returned to my room, the bed was turned down, chocolate was on the pillow and all plugs unplugged. Twice. Soo-rry! (Oh, and the gum that I parked on a piece of paper weirdly did not get thrown out. What is it about Canada and gum?)

Random Canada Observation: They don't jay-walk here. What is THAT about?

The food: Yummy. Lived up to the hype for sure. This part I really like about Canada. While I've already admitted that I think Canada in general does have it's own subtle weirdness, fortunately for me it isn't food-weird. "Food-weirdness" always crosses into the kind of weird that makes me nauseatingly homesick. You know how you go some places and the water is sort of weird and the Diet Coke is just not right and the chocolate is a bit odd and even the fruit is something that you have never even heard of or seen before? Well not in Canada. The ethnic food is authentic and yummy, yet still recognizable to wimps like me.

Had a lovely, lovely dinner with two former residents/Grady doctors, Julie and Joyanna, on last night. Lovely, lovely for a few reasons.

1. Dinner started with bottle plus of yummy red wines selected by our self-appointed sommelier, Joyanna. Nobody was driving, so perfect time for such an indulgence. Chitted y chatted all about grown woman adventures peppered with only tiny doses of work-related adventures. Nice.

2. Strolled through clean, clean Toronto streets laughing and talking and wondering why even the alleys are clean and the dumpsters don't stink in this city. This is where J and J brought to my attention that nobody jay-walks up here. Snarky cabdriver told me that no Canadian is in a hurry and that all Americans are in a hurry which I decided explains this no jay-walk phenomenon.

3. After aforementioned wine, made late arrival to concierge-recommended Thai restaurant and nice man allowed us to be seated even though they were clearly closing in, like, one minute. (Told you they weren't in a hurry.)

4. All aspects of concierge-recommended Thai restaurant were on point. Either that, or the bottle of red wine was so good that everything else was, too.

5. It was an overall good night for me, who is usually a timid-traveling-eater. Decided I was happy with my travels and glad I came.

Random Canada Factoid:
Hush yo' mouth! Did y'all know that DRAKE*, the current "it-guy" on the hip-hop scene,
is from TORONTO, Canada?? Now I bet that HE would have had the Canadian hookup on international minutes!

Does Canada count?

My medical student student advisee, Ant, is like, the queen of travel. She also regularly reads this blog and is surely apalled that I would even have the nerve to intimate that going to Canada counts as travel. (Hel-lo?? It necessitated a call to Canadian Khalid at AT&T global?? Hel-looo??) But we cannot all be "Ants." Truthfully, I think God made some people world-travelers and others domestics on purpose. He had to do it that way or else all the planes, hotels, hostels, etc. would be overrun with world-travelers or instead the homefront would be overrun with domestics. It's all divine, man. Me? I'm mostly a domestic, and (depending upon the place and duration of travel) a milquetoast world-traveler at best. (Despite how ridiculously cool I seem.)



So I give this year's ACP Meeting site a solid B+. Would be an A were it not for Khalid and the phone-fee assault from AT&T--oh, and the surprisingly high number of folks here who smoke cigarettes. Other than that, Toronto is a cool city. . . .clean, diverse, mostly friendly, and with good vittles. My kinda place to visit. . . . .visit, not live. (Soo-rry, it's not you, it's me. . .) Even the free health care and clean streets are not enough to make me move. . . .I don't know. . .I guess I need my "ma'am's" and my "y'all's" more than I realized. But even if I don't want to live here, and even if it doesn't count as sho-nuff and bonified travel, now that I've visited, I can definitely see what all the hype is a-boot.

(By the way, what do you know-- after ALL THAT my hype-raising colleague-sista-friend reneged on this "awesome" trip! Ha!)

s-n and b traveler Ant being charmed by Isaiah

** Wanna read about real travels? Check out my med student advisee, Ant (Antoinette's) blog :

Her earlier posts chronicle her sho nuff and bonified (s-n and b) travels through South America, Thailand, Europe, etc. For some reason, she makes no mention of Canada. . . . . .I'll have to talk to her a-boot that. . . . . hmmmmm


*(More randomness:
If you ever watched "Teen Nickelodeon", rapper Drake used to be on that Canadian teen show DeGrassi High. Bet y'all thought he came out of no where, when he really just came out of CANADA. Who knew?)

1 comment:

  1. Glad to have you back stateside.
    'preciate you (& the shoutout).


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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