In 1997, I was depressed and floundering in Baltimore. I’d lost a job that I’d only recently started, working for a deeply troubled person. I went back on an informal basis to an old job, but I knew I didn’t want to turn back the clock. I had in mind what my ideal job was, but most employers didn’t see a fit the way I did. That is, until a software company in Canada & I discovered each other, rather accidentally.
The job offer itself came as a surprise; my acceptance, somewhat of a lark. I’d never been to Canada, except for a 30 minute drive across the border from Vermont. Like many people from the US*, my knowledge of Canada was dismal. I thought Toronto was near Detroit. But I was immediately attracted by the prospect of a Canadian Adventure. I was between jobs, between relationships, and my daughter was nearly a 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) away at university. While I was leaving dear friends, I knew that I could, and would, return frequently. I had nothing to lose. The NAFTA provided me with a cross-border work permit.
On Wednesday, April 9, 1997, my mother and I departed Baltimore at 4:00 p.m. bound for Toronto, car jammed with spring/summer clothes and my fat and travel-phobic cat, Otis. Because of our late departure, much of our drive through the mountains of Pennsylvania & New York was in the dark, the beauty of the drive hidden. But the night was cloudless, the journey largely unaffected by light pollution, and we followed the comet Hale-Bopp the entire trip. It was a spectacular site, causing us at one point to pull off, get out, and just stare.
We arrived exhausted at our hotel in downtown Toronto at 3:00 a.m. Driving up Yonge Street, we both commented on the dearth of homeless people, compared to Baltimore / Washington. After hours of sleep, we arose to begin our discovery of my new home. Our first discovery was that it was snowing. (Remember the spring/summer clothes I’d packed?) We adjusted.
Before leaving Baltimore, I’d found a temporary apartment on a Toronto housing newsgroup. Richard, its tenant, was going to England for a 5-month stay, and was looking for a subtenant for that time. It was perfect for me — a small apartment, cat friendly, fully furnished. I liked my landlord, who offered to let Otis move in immediately, although he was not moving out for several days. The location was perfect — in the middle of a neighborhood in Toronto affectionately referred to as the Gay Ghetto, it was safe 24/7, and an easy walk to major attractions & shopping, and a healthier walk to Lake Ontario.
Over the next few days, Mom & I did sightseeing and got me settled. On Sunday, April 13, I put her on a plane back home, and on Monday, April 14, began my new job, my first as an in-house lawyer.
My adventure had begun.
*Note: while it’s easy shorthand to refer to people from the US as “Americans,” the term is offensive in some international quarters, as all residents of the Americas — North and South — can fairly call themselves “Americans.”