Inspired by the best.homage.to.public.transport.ever. three of us decided to see just how far a TTC pass can get you. I've been in this city about a year and a half now, in cities in general my whole life so the 'burbs have always been a scary, mom-jeaned, angsty teen malled, lawn dotted place I rarely venture into. So, on a rainy Sunday we mapped out a route, gathered our bearings and were Steeles bound. We were glaringly obvious fish out of water, lost and found quickly, clutching transfers as reminders of where we came from. Having spent a maximum of eight minutes on a single subway car in the past, the nearly 20 minute stint was enough to start up suppressed childhood claustrophobia that was only further agitated on the solid half-hour bus ride. We peered through misty windows at identical dwellings, cubed into neighborhoods between expanses of basically nothing.
The mall itself was a different experience altogether. Personal boundaries were tested by people strolling arm in arm through narrow walkways, and babies reaching out of buggies for various shiny baubles on easy-access shelves. The sensory overload was immediate, expected and welcome after we spent thrity minutes amusing ourselves with funny sounding bus stops (Waggoner's Wells Lane was especially mirthful in our haze of ennui). We were carried by the flow of the crowd, ducking into the occasional shoe-box sized boutique and revelling at the sheer, miniscule and fuzzy. One shop in particular had me at hello (Kitty) as it was filled with plush or plastic renderings of the Japanese cartoons that were dubbed over at home and helped me learn Arabic.
Soon after I rediscovered the deliciousness of strawberry cream-coated biscuits in stick form, we acquiesced to the flashing, eardrum-shattering call of the enormous arcade. We were immediately enveloped by the scent of prespiring teens, who had their eyes trained on fleeting symbols that rained down the screens in front of them, expressions grave with concentration. Naturally we only debated joining in for about three seconds before the thought of obliterating zombies with machine guns had us battling tweens for turns and rematches.
The main reason for our Markham jaunt, the search for DVDs priced in package deals and sold on the DL, was seemingly in vain at first. One of the shopkeeps we'd asked, led us away from her other customers and, leaning in conspiratorially, informed us that the summer's seige/cop crackdown had left an impression on those that once openly sold bootlegged copies and that they had all but stopped completely. Her tone was grim and bordering on ominous, but the message was clear: keep looking. Somewhere between bubble teas, pointing at strange things in jars and wandering aimlessly (while debating returning to the addictive arcade for "just one more!") a flutter of loose leaf printer paper caught our collecive gaze. Knowing what it was immediately we stopped in front of the store, poised to pounce if we saw it again. Ever since the DVD crackdown certain stores have had to keep secret lists of the movies they had (but couldn't display) that one could order and come back for after a certain amount of time.
We may or may not have entered the store, huddled around that piece of paper, made three selections and listened to a surreptitious phone call in Mandarin. We also may or may not have stalled by eating sushi, wondered what the quality would be like (i.e. heads in the way of hand-held cams vs. FOR PROMOTION ONLY warnings) and returned 30 minutes later with a ripped piece of paper marked "30" in lieu of a receipt.
We may or may not have felt slightly badass on the way home.