The 2013 blackout was difficult for Torontonians to handle, especially with Christmas around the corner inducing anxiety in those preparing feasts. For OTD’s Kayla Calder, the experience was made surprisingly pleasant by the kindly people around her on the Danforth.
Chapter 2: Fade to Black
I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m afraid of the dark, but rather I don’t overly enjoy it. Despite my preferences for soft lighting over no lighting, the blackout that affected hundreds of thousands of people in Toronto before Christmas forced me to face my aversion to darkness. Living in a spacious but partially underground apartment made for a couple of bumps and bruises, and a cold four nights.
Though the blackout wasn’t an ideal time to be in Toronto for anyone, it certainly wasn’t ideal to be living in the east end. The darkness lasted the Danforth from the Saturday before Christmas until it clicked back on mid-Christmas day, mere hours after my landlord purchased a generator to keep us warm. I cannot offer enough praise and thanks to the way this massive loss of power was handled by the city; even with four days in the unpleasant darkness, I was impressed with everyone’s drive and determination.
After working a busy 12-hour day (full of stressed out and hungry people forced to relocate to expensive Front Street hotels due to lack of power), I took the subway back to Pape to find the streets enveloped in darkness. As the prospect of going back to a freezing and hazardous apartment (my shins will never un-bruise) made me feel ill with premeditated boredom, I decided to walk up the Danforth pretending to be deep and contemplative.
In apparent ignorance of the cold and icy conditions, the sidewalks were full of roaming Danforthians whose thought process mirrored my own. Bundled up, walking dogs, or holding hands with their significant others, it seemed as though half of the community would rather chat with one another than hibernate in their homes. In the immediate wake of what was almost considered to be a state of emergency, the Danforth was singing with the sounds of small talk and praise for electrical workers trying their best to restore power to the city.
The change was unbelievable. As someone who has only lived on the Danforth for a short period of time, I am not the highest authority when it comes to comparing neighbourhoods, but I felt a distinct shift in attitudes between central Toronto and the Danforth. I felt the same shift when it came to my sister’s house in High Park and the Danforth, and everywhere else I visited in the days of the blackout and the Danforth.
I was handed candles and a flashlight by perfect strangers and offered extra blankets by my landlord. Whether I was working downtown, on the platform in the Annex, or grabbing a bite to eat somewhere warm, those with power and without did nothing but rage about the “useless” nature of the city and all those involved in getting the power back on.
You might argue and say I couldn’t understand what it was like to have a prematurely thawed turkey and no Netflix to watch, so I couldn’t possibly know the true frustration of the city’s blackout. To that, I argue perspective. I walked around the Danforth that night and was greeted with nothing but patience, kindness, and a sense of camaraderie in a situation where very few were spared. If I lived in any other area, I might have wanted to berate hydro workers on the street corner as well. But me? I sat on the couch of my dark basement apartment and happily wrapped my family’s Christmas presents by candlelight. As fearful as I was of the ribbons catching fire, I was comforted by Florence and the Machine as it played in my ear (thanks to a kind couple on Pape avenue who offered every passerby a chance to charge their electronics in their car) and the hot water bottle provided to me by my next-door neighbor, which kept my toes quite toasty.
Thanks to my living in Danforthia, the blackout really wasn’t that bad at all.