Vancouver often feels like a completely different planet to me, and I don’t just say that because I’m one of about 10 black people in the whole city. For example, I find it weird how you never meet anyone actually from Vancouver. When I lived in Toronto, there were lots of born-and-bred Torontonians around. When I lived in Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland, damn near everyone was from Rocky Harbour. Yet, not so here.
I found a job relatively quickly when I first got here three years ago and counting. Mind you, it wasn’t a well-paying job. Now, I’m not someone who’s driven by the dollar, but I am aware of how many dollars I think my labour is worth. This city has the lowest wages and the highest cost of living I’ve ever experienced in Canada, which doesn’t even make logical sense.
One of the first jobs I had here – the double-degree-holding, erstwhile government worker that I am – was for $14/hour. The last time I’d made that little cash was when I was 14, babysitting and doing yard-work for neighbours in my hometown of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Another lesson I quickly learned was that, in general, people here aren’t that friendly, and don’t always value the few friendships they grudgingly form. You needn’t look any further than the nearest busy street or crowded Skytrain: everyone is inside a bubble – earbuds in, iPhones active, eye-contact nonexistent.
At least on Toronto subways, people acknowledge you as a fellow member of the human species with a nod or smile. People here exchange numbers with no intent of calling, they don’t commit to plans, and if they do commit they cancel at the last minute… by text.
And then there’s Vancouver’s dating scene. I’ve heard a ridiculous statistic that there’s like nine women for every one guy here. So not only are all the locals gone, but the men are gone, too. This raises two important questions: 1) Where did all the men go? And 2) Why are the few that remain so…so…all of the above?
Again, as a black person, I am greatly under-represented in Vancouver. Admittedly, my people aren’t known for their prowess in snowboarding, climbing, backpacking, or wearing skinny jeans, plaid shirts and beards, looking like – what a friend back in Toronto refers to as – a “hipster-voyageur.” Black people apparently don’t even smoke as much weed as those who call Vancouver home, otherwise, believe me, the “tide” sweeping across this city wouldn’t be a yellow one, and it would happen for an entirely different reason.
“BC bud” is a well-known punch-line throughout Canada, but really, it’s not that funny at all. People of Vancouver, I’m staging an intervention: your attitude toward marijuana is not healthy. Your usage of marijuana is not healthy. Smoking a joint at 7:30 in the morning, or 7:30 every night, is not healthy. And it really smells awful.
But a true intervention is not just a list of complaints; it also involves a course of action – a plan. Not just for the pot, but for the whole negative situation in this city. I can get over the pot, the skinny jeans, the fact some people don’t bathe as often as they should despite the ability to do so. I can get over the low wages – I’ll create my own fortune, or make do with less. But one thing no one can do without is meaningful human contact.
A city’s character is defined by its people, and all of us are truly blessed to live in such a progressive place that most of us weren’t born in, and where the climate is temperate year-round, the food is local/organic, the mountains are right up there, the beaches are right down there, people from all over the world contribute to society and the drinking water is the best I’ve tasted in Canada.
So, people of Vancouver, just be nicer. Smile. Say hello. Call your friends regularly, and mean it when you call them your friends. Stop wearing such sombre colours all the time, and buy a bright umbrella. Between the weather and people’s aloofness, it’s already grey enough around here.
Vancouver has the potential to be one of the greatest cities in the world, but we’re not there yet. And until that day, I remain unconvinced of the navigational mnemonic that east is least and west is best.