Arriving in Canada in the fall of 2012 and residing with my brother in Scarborough, life seemed tranquil and easy-going in Toronto. The concept I had of life in Toronto was that of the big smoke, busy intermingling people going about their business struggling to meet deadlines in the fourth largest city in North America.
In Scarborough, life seemed somewhat different. Although signs of the big city existed, there was vast greenery and empty spaces. People didn’t seem hurried but went about their business largely to themselves with little or no interaction except for the occasional greeting of “Good Morning” or “Hi”. Coming from a country in South Asia, this was a marked contrast. People there said things to each other and it wasn’t just a greeting. In fact, greetings were rarely exchanged. But it was normal for a total stranger to strike up a conversation in a public bus on politics, the cost of living, state of public transport or any topic under the sun. In politically correct Canada, I heard it was taboo to talk politics with strangers and especially in the workplace. People rarely raised abrasive issues in public places, except of course, in the media and in parliament. The latter was a commonality I was happy about.
While awaiting entrance to the Corporate Communications and Public Relations course at Centennial, I had time to explore life in my new neighbourhood. My brother’s house at Vauxhall drive was a tranquil place with a backyard growing pumpkins and tomatoes, in addition to its apple and cherry trees and a grape vine. It also had a rather dilapidated shed where we kept our children’s bicycles. Taking long walks and riding the TTC became my way of discovery.
Torontonians would be surprised that the Toronto Transit Commission has one of the best organized bus services. Whatever complaint people in Toronto have of their public transport, its standards are far ahead of public transport elsewhere. I guess it is a universal tendency to criticize what one has without realizing that things could get worse.
During my sojourns into the east side, west side, downtown and elsewhere, I kept thinking about the people I saw. A disproportionate number seemed engrossed in their mobile phones. I could tell that some were listening to music or texting but I often wondered as to what could be so interesting about their phones. I am an old-fashioned guy. I didn’t own a smart phone and had just a professional account on LinkedIn and a facebook account which I occasionally used to connect with friends far and near. In Sri Lanka, high profile people used their Blackberry but that was more an imperative of the job with companies insisting that their senior managers use one. Smart phones were hardly a social tool and hardly anyone tweeted. Given that internet penetration was only 30 per cent, this was perhaps natural. So naturally, I was curious. What did these people find so interesting about their phones?
I pondered until I got lucky and won an iphone 4s at a lottery draw, with a 64GB memory as well. At first I did not know what to do with it. What use had I of that latest tech phone? To me mobile phones were to take calls and send messages. Other inclusions were just gimmicks and distractions. I briefly flirted with the idea of selling it before finally deciding to use it.
They say the process of discovery needs just one spark. All of a sudden I had discovered a new world. The iphone opened me to the world of possibility. It was the equivalent of moving around with a mini computer in my pocket. Browse internet, send emails, watch videos, read books, listen to podcasts and radio, engage on social media, skype back home to Sri Lanka and of course the 200,000 plus apps that caters to all and sundry. Plus the 8 MP camera enabled me to take real quality digital images and email them back home to my parents. Twitter and Pinterest became my new friends.
Now, cool apps of all sorts keep me entertained throughout the day. Today, I am hooked and I have discovered why other people are hooked too.