Here's something I've meant to blog about for ages, a difference between New York and Toronto that Allan and I have noticed since our first visit.
On our very first trip to Toronto, our immigration applications already filed, we met with two legal staffing agencies, to try and gauge our job prospects. One of them is in the Bank of Montreal building, where Allan now works. We walked into the building, and stood there, looking around us, a bit lost - until we realized we could just walk right up to the elevator and go in.
This was absolutely bizarre.
After moving here, when Allan was interviewing and then starting work, he mentioned the same thing several times. Then, more recently, it was my turn. Amazing. You can just walk into a building and go upstairs. No stop at a security desk. No one gives you a building pass or calls up to the offices to see if you're expected. You just walk in.
Even before September 11th, office buildings in New York always had some type of security. When I worked on the weekends, often alone in a large office, I was grateful for that. I woudln't have been comfortable otherwise.
But after September 11th, everything tightened up. For a while it was a bit ridiculous - daily bag searches, as if someone who has worked in the building for years and years is suddenly going to blow it up, and as if a glance in a backpack could possibly prevent that. But even after the hysteria passed, heightened security remained.
Many large office buildings have more than one entrance, and now many of the secondary entrances are closed or at least guarded. I used to know all the shortcuts through midtown Manhattan - a legacy of my temping experience. It was fun to walk from, say, 43rd Street to 47th Street without ever setting foot on an avenue. (Does that make sense to you all? Avenues are the "long blocks," running north-south, streets are the "short blocks," running east-west.) I would walk through buildings, many with a plaza or courtyard in the lobby. No more. No one wants strangers walking through their buildings anymore.
Many buildings have installed concrete barriers - sometimes not-so-cleverly disguised as giant plant pots - that supposedly guard against car bombings. My friend Alan With One L works in a building with a security dog, who has been the subject of our concern - and our mirth. To these we say: Get over yourselves.
But even without that silliness, you generally can't get into a building without either an electronic pass or a stop at a security desk. (This must be quite a boon for the security-guard business.)
To my knowledge, none of this exists in Toronto. And if it's not in Canada's largest city, my guess is it's nowhere else, either.
Of course, firms and companies within these Toronto buildings have their own security. You generally need a pass to get from the elevator into the offices. But still: you just walk in.