Well today was officially Day 1, and what a day. If everyday for the duration of this trip is anything like today, which I am almost certain it will be, I'm in for quite the journey.
It started with a serious sleep in, I woke up , wrote my early entries of past days, and packed my gear. The plan was to get to Niagara Falls, and meet up with either the journalist who offered me his couch or my close friend's pad in St Catherines. I was hoping to just get to the Niagara region in general, and out of Toronto, and into a new place. I guess because I have been here for the past week or so, I don't feel like such a fresh out of towner, and like I mentioned, they can smell it.
After finally making my way to the 401 via Yorkdale Shopping centre, again, asking the TTC attendant to let me ride the rails for free, it was roughly 4ish when I first started hitching. Not exactly a good start. I suppose I was too hopped up on adrenaline, or it was the delusion from lack of food, but I was optimistic and didn't really see an issue to hitching after 4, assuming I would still be able to get a ride before darkness fell like a drunk girl in heels.
Well darkness fell, like a fat drunk in heels, and not a single ride stopped. I had a simple sign stating 'Niagara' and with my gear propped up in a good spot on the highway shoulder, I thought I was for sure going to get a ride.
No way Jose. A few honks, and I wasn't sure if they were friendly honks, or 'get a f*cking job' honks. I took them as friendly honks.
I'm constantly talking into my handheld DV camera like I'm Survivorman and it consumes alot of my time, and allows me to have the loverly feeling of painfully numb fingers on the cold tripod in the cold air. I remember ranting into the lens about how hungry I was. I hadn't eaten a thing today, the last meal being the slice of pizza at roughly 10ish last night. It was 6pm, and I was on empty, after lugging the heavy packs around. The videos will remain unseen for the time being, as they need to be uploaded and edited, so Ill be recapping alot of what was said and done. Today was entertaining. Better than a Jonas Brothers concert(the most entertaining thing in the entire universe) I was hungry, and it affected my mood. It opened my mind as to the things we take for granted, the luxury of food. I knew at any given time I could jump into any place and buy a meal, but it completely contradicts this trip and video, and would tap into the already peanut funds I'm on. I remember at one point considering it. Reality snapped in, and I laughed at the thought of me giving in on the FIRST FRIGGEN DAY. There was no chance in hell I could allow myself to buy a meal, buy anything that matter. Im going to need to be stronger for this to work.
So, as it was not completely dark, and there was no chance I was going to get a ride at this point, I decided it was time to turn to the brightly lit Yorkdale Shopping Mall behind me, and go for my first attempt at a free meal.
I walked to a popular family restaurant chain, and asked for the manager. I told him what I was up to, and proposed that if I did dishes until close, I could get a free meal at the end. Although he seemed genuinely interested and wanting to help, he told me that since I wasn't on the payroll, I was a liability to insurance, and couldn't help me out. I don't know if it was a line or the truth, but I realized Ill be hearing things like that alot, and I had to get used to it. I thanked him for his time, and went looking for the next. I tried Subway, even though it was 3 young girls with no sense of power or authority to allow this to happen. One said 'for sure', the other said 'I think so" and the obvious experienced one said they'd get in trouble, as the bread is counted. Again, don't know how it works there, but I didn't stick around to ask.
An old favourite of mine; Jimmy the Greek. The staff was in abundance, and the 6 young guys behind the counter were really keen on me and my story. They grabbed the manager and said 'yo, we gotta help this guy'. The manager was down like a clown, and when I told him I didn't just want free food, rather to do something mutually beneficial, he was even happier. I offered to come back at close, in 3 hrs and mop, clean and take out the trash. I said he could send the boys home, Ill clean up. He was more excited than I was on the thought of a free meal, and believe me I wanted to eat. I went to Chapters, grabbed some reading material and tried to think about anything and everything but my grumbling tummy and frustration at still being in Toronto.
When I came back, they had already cleaned in hopes of ducking out early, and had a massive tray waiting for me. He said not to worry about helping, just that he can only do it once, because even he too had someone breathing down his neck. I gave him many thanks and went to a table to DEVOUR that meal. I swear food court food had never tasted so good. I threw my packs on, and went to find a spot to do my video clip of my success. That's when a curious man eavesdropped as to what I was doing and waited til I was done to ask me what I was up to. When I told him, his eyes widened, and he told me he was a marketing consultant, and that the idea was phenomenal. He complained about him not travelling enough at my age, and how his life sucked, and he was secretly hoping his wife(whom he was waiting to pick up) was in a tragic accident so he could start a new one(joking, but not really, you catch my drift?) He then pulled out his wallet and slapped a twenty into my hand. I kindly refused and he said 'no way, its yours'. He left abruptly so I would have no choice but to accept. The roller coaster. Mental anguish, freezing extremities, empty belly, full belly, $20 within 20 seconds. It gave me a buzz, and I left the mall, sorting out what I would do for tonight. As I was walking to the warmth of the subway station, an street musician saw my packs and asked it I had change for the train. I shook my head no and he tossed me a day pass, obviously what he was planning to use to get home...Utmost kindness. Too cool. I headed down the subway steps and went to the payphone. I got an email this morning from my NGO saying to call them. So I did. The Rwandan project is still in the same position, but I found out something I'm not sure how to deal with; It looks like I'm going to Haiti. Its unconfirmed, but my coordinator is there now, and had been trying to reach me on an old phone number, as she doesn't have Internet to email me. I find out Monday the confirmed details, but this whole trip might halt, and resume in HAITI!!! It would be great, they're still in so much need.
Ive just been booted from the lobby of the hotel who's Internet I'm leeching, Ill try to continue the update somewhere else shortly....
Day 1 was overall a success....