Thursday, April 15, 2021

On the road again-ish


be the only cars that make pedestrians and kids grin. And then punch each other.

I got a new office!

The new place is, on a light-traffic day, a 20-minute drive from our home in the west part of downtown Toronto. A short hop, I realize, but at least it’s not just upstairs from the kitchen, which is where I’ve been working since last March.  

I’ll need to get into my car five days a week! And drive! At this rate I’m going to run out of exclamation marks!

Not that there's anything wrong with working at home full time.

But I do miss going to and coming from work. Something awful.  A lot of people I tell that to think I’m joking, but I’m not.

First of all, I love driving and don’t get to do that as much anymore. Commuting’s also a great time for coming up with excuses for things you have or have not done or just daydreaming about all the fun you're going to have.

Just as important, I’ve made a life’s work out of watching strangers do stuff. 

Witnessing the evolving city streets. Flipping around radio stations on my car’s pre-sets. Seeing weird haircuts. At gas stations, I get to talk to people I’ve never met before and they are 100 per cent of the time, without fail, really really interesting.

And the office? It's a circus. Surprise birthday cakes arrive. Co-workers show off engagement rings. New faces, each with an intriguing back story, show up. People (always the same ones) complain about getting screwed over. Gossip-worthy stuff flows like the lava in Iceland. You get to hear about vacation crises. Love lives are parsed. Secrets shared.  

Or this kind of thing: Mere days before we got sent home last year, I was in the company coffee room and asked a co-worker who I’d never spoken to before if he was having a good day. His answer? “I’m on the right side of the sod.”

No way could I have accidentally run into that guy in, say, our hallway downstairs.  

Then there’s the fact that at the end of each day I have to update anybody who’ll listen:

·         “The condo going up where Turner & Porter funeral home was? It’s is almost done. Ya think the real estate agents will tell buyers it used to be a mortuary?”

·         “You should have seen this…a couple making out on the bench beside the pope’s statue in front of the Polish credit union! Wonder what J2P2 would have thought of that?” (J2P2 is Pope John Paul II.)

·         “You gotta go to that Russian market up near Steeles! They have caviar going for $100 an ounce and the women behind the counter really know how to sell. So I just had to ….”

 You get the picture. 

And now I'm back in the game. Thanks, in full, to Yuania Gonzalez-Manresa.

Yuania (pronounced Hugh-on-ya) is a service consultant at Humberview Volkswagen, the dealership where I’m taking my wife’s beautiful black 2016 Beetle later this week. I scraped against a curb on an on-ramp last Sunday and bunged up the right front tire.

I first spoke to Yuania on the phone yesterday when I was scheduling a service appointment.

Me: “I’m coming in around 7:30. Do you have wi-fi in the waiting room so I can work while the car’s being fixed?”

Yuania: “Yes, sir. We have some desks set up. You’ll find it very convenient.”

Me: “Could I use my own laptop?”

Yuania: (You know how you can sometimes tell people are smiling, even over the phone? That’s how  Yuania talked. She has a Spanish accent that makes you want to take off for the Caribbean immediately and she used to live in Cuba): “That works too.”

Me: “This sounds great.

Me, again: “Do you think, maybe, I used to have an office but I really miss it … Do you think I could go to your place and work there every day?”

Yuania: (whom I’d never spoken to in my life before): “Of course you can! We’re very nice.”

Did you hear that? I can go every day if I want. I won't tell anyone and I'll do my best to not draw attention to myself. (You're like: 'that's all you do, Peter.') If they notice me at all, I figure the staff will think it's just some high-maintenance customer with lots of car problems. Maybe after awhile, I'll sort of fade into the background. Failing that, if Humberview catches on and discourages me from using their place as an office, there are loads of other car dealerships--Canadian Tire outlets too--that I can pretend are my workplaces. This idea has, how you say in English--legs!

Me: “I know! Is Michelle still there? That’s the woman who sold us the Beetle.”

Yuania: “Yes she does. She’s lovely. And our coffee is delicious”

Me: “See you Thursday.”

I think perhaps Yuania didn’t hear the part about me going there every day.

We’ll see.  


  1. Congratulations!
    I have no doubt that you will be welcomed.
    I've long regarded Beetle owners to be an inordinately 'chipper' bunch.
    In the late 70's a good friend of mine drove a VW Beetle. His model had the flat windshield.
    He often boasted that "On rainy days, you can pretend that you're snorkeling" !

    1. Thank you for reading, sir. Interesting coincidence. Whenever I go snorkling I think it's exactly like driving a VW in the rain.

  2. Ha! I hope you get to go in every day!

  3. Thanks. When Yuania read this story she laughed and said she loved it and then asked "you're not serious, right?"

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