Summer 2010: More than our share of drama


What goes on in Toronto when the warm weather rolls around? Given all the astounding events that come with each summer, maybe it’s just better for us that winter lasts six to seven months each year.

Last summer we had the indignity of the garbage strike, the fruit fly explosion that was a consequence of the garbage build up, and then there was the bedbug outbreak. But in hindsight those barely compare with what we have been experiencing so far this summer. First there was the earthquake – okay, the tremors – that rippled across the city like a warning of things to come in the afternoon two days before the much-anticipated G8 and G20 summits. The 5.0 magnitude ‘minor’ earthquake had its epicentre in Quebec, 60 kilometres north of Ottawa near the Ontario border.

The Earth moving of its own accord was a great reminder of how powerless we humans can be even as we go about our daily lives making a mess of the planet, yet thinking we have dominion over it. Bookshelves swayed, glasses rattled and people ran out of buildings. Some took the afternoon off.

A local news channel made the 30-second earth movement last for the better part of the day as reporters wrung every last drop out of it. Talk about hyperbole. And that was only Wednesday.

The deep rumbling sound of the earthquake may also be the reason some people are afraid of the more dramatic but relatively harmless sound of thunder. Maybe at a primal level some of us instinctively respond to the similarity in the sounds.

Of course, by the weekend there was a frightening event of another dimension, this time man-made, but no less disturbing. In fact, given the turn of events, what with police cars being burned and regular folks being scooped up and arrested by police officers looking like something from a Star Wars movie, it was just a step beyond the imagination. There is a saying that truth is stranger than fiction.

Then Mother Nature stepped in again with that incredibly heavy rain shower right in the middle of all the chaos.

Now, as if to show us that regardless of what we make of life, Nature will have her way, we find ourselves enduring – or enjoying – a heat wave. But not just any heat wave, one in which a transformer exploded in the west end of the city echoing back to the great power failure of 2003. That unforgettable 48-hour power failure almost seven years ago brought Torontonians out of their homes, away from the TV sets, and into their backyards to gaze at the skies in the absence of any light pollution and to commiserate with their neighbours. Nature was there then too, having placed a full moon above at just the right time.

Perhaps the transformer gave out on Tuesday from all the demands of air conditioners running on high in response to the 30-plus Celsius temperatures this week.

Still, the fact that a stoppage of electricity can bring a city to an almost complete halt continues to serve as a warning that we must find other means for managing the demands of daily life. The subway was affected, as were businesses. With traffic signals not functioning, traffic grew even worse. Computers and cash registers, cordless telephones and a seemingly endless list of conveniences were without power. Then, as the outage extended into the dinner hour, thousands of people had to start thinking of alternative ways to get their evening meal because so many homes use electric stoves and microwave ovens. Thankfully, this power failure was short-lived.

The lights are back on, for now, the Earth is not shivering beneath us and the G20 roadshow has moved on to become the headache of its next host. But there is still more summer to come.

A note on the dream dying this time…

My vuvuzela became a little quieter this week after Ghana’s Black Stars, the last African team to have held out in South Africa’s World Cup, failed to make it past the quarterfinals. They gave it a great go, and star forward Asamoah Gyan put his heart into it. So far, nothing else in the South Africa series beats the drama of the last few minutes of that game with Uruguay. Imagine having the hopes of an entire continent, and beyond, on your shoulders.

Now, it’s on to Brazil in four years.

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