Life passing by an office window

So I go down to the Tim Horton’s in our building to grab a late lunch. It’s late afternoon. The restaurant is on the second floor of our building. It has floor to ceiling windows, overlooking the spot where Jarvis and Mount Pleasant split.

There’s a bicycle cop down there and he’s standing in the middle of the road, stopping traffic. I wonder why.

I order my sandwich and walk back to the window. The bicycle cop is still holding traffic. Across the street, on the sidewalk, there’s a security guard from the construction site, a very skinny and slightly stooped Somali who is signaling pedestrians to get away from the road. I assume all of this must be construction-related. They’re putting up a 40 story condo across the street. Maybe a big truck is about to back out from the work site.

From this spot, I can see all the way up the street to the corner of Jarvis to Bloor, a couple of hundred yards north. When the first black car turns from Bloor on to Jarvis, a guy behind me says, “oh, must be dignitaries”.
“Must be the emperor of Japan,” I say. “I thought he was in Ottawa. But I guess today he’s in Toronto.”

One day last summer I was walking home, passing in front of the Royal Ontario Museum when the president of Ireland swooped down, in a high speed convoy of a dozen black cars and SUVs, with scores of cops and security guys with earpieces and suits on the street, blocking things off for a couple of hundred feet in either direction in front of the museum. There is something about the way a motorcade rolls, all speed and menace and get-out-of-our-way-or-else power that pleasures a certain lobe of the male brain.

And then I notice that the policeman is saluting. The black cars are flying Canadian flags. Some of have their windows half-way open, and I can see young blond faces, faces from a small town, looking out. These faces weren’t supposed to be riding limousines except to the prom, or to their wedding day. Some are waving.

And now I know what this is. “That’s not the emperor of Japan,” I say to the guy standing in line. “That’s Kandahar.”

The man behind the counter has finished making my sandwich. Ham and swiss on whole wheat, toasted, with regular mustard. Turkey and wild rice soup. A coffee with one milk.

On the elevator to the 11th floor, I try not to cry.