The other week the metro was suspended in the middle of the evening rush hour. Some unfortunate had found it all too much and felt that the swiftest conveyance to his final destination was under the wheels of an oncoming train. At the time, I, and I imagine much of Montreal, was less than sympathetic to his difficulties, as we sought alternative means of transport to our own more temporary destinations.
Being at Snowdon and wanting to get to Côte-Vertu and Vanier, where I was teaching, I decided that there must surely be a bus route going north up Decarie. There is, the number 17. It runs every thirty minutes and, I, and everyone else who had had the same idea, had just missed it. With no hope for the metro for the next hour and it being minus twenty, the best option seemed to be to walk from one bus stop to the next, an approach I felt would both give a sense of progress and keep me warm. I soon discovered my error. One does not simply walk up Decarie and what takes ten minutes by metro or car on the expressway, on foot entails more than an hour of stumbling though a windswept landscape filled with low-rise office blocks, mattress showrooms, vacant lots, and construction sites abandoned for the winter. In such a wilderness, what at first had seemed intrepid, now looked foolish. Putting questions of my sanity aside, I weighed the odds of carrying on – possibly reckless – and turning back, which seemed like cowardly. I chose cowardice, retraced my steps, and took shelter at Plamondon.
That wilderness pretty much describes where this project has been since the start of the new year as I have been floundering around my own construction site. Thinking I had left it properly wintered and in good order for the holidays, I found it to be utterly incoherent and strewn with bric-a-brac on my return. Since then, I have not so much been staring vacantly at my computer screen as gazing in utter dismay at the structure I thought I’d left solid and well founded seems to have been reduced to a couple of planks and a torn tarp flapping like a defeated flag in an arctic wind. (That this sense of disarray seems, at least to me, to be an inevitable part of any large project does not take away from the sheer panic it induces; after all, I am supposed to know what it is I am doing. Apparently, I’m convincing too, as evidenced by my appearance in Mathieu Perron’s own exploration of the metro and its travellers on Mon Metro.)
Amidst the horror and dismay, there has also been a fair bit of staring at actual empty spaces as I was also moving home (not far as it turns out, from one side of Jean Talon to another). That move now completed, the incoherence of the construction site is once again beginning to make sense. My initial research is done, my blog posts are mere notes to be combined and questioned, and my lesson learned: one leaves the metro for neither Christmas nor suicides.