A gum ad imagining the end of the pandemic went viral recently in which disheveled, cloudy-eyed people emerge from their dark apartments after months in lockdown and kiss in the city sun: on the streets, in front of office towers, in parks, in the grass …
If this sounds familiar to you, then a) you saw the ad, or b) walked around Toronto last weekend and saw the townspeople almost put it on the scene.
All that was missing was free French kisses and a backing track from Celine Dion.
The pandemic isn’t over, but that hasn’t stopped Toronto from defying the Stay-at-Home provincial order to enjoy its own Wrigley shopping moment.
This last sunny weekend, we gathered unmasked in huge gangs in parks, backyards, on bikes, on beaches, in outdoor sports facilities that were supposed to be closed – and on rooftop patios. : Sunday night, the Toronto police broke out. a gathering of 25 people at a King West restaurant.
On Saturday, people stormed the padlocked tennis courts near my four-by-four east end apartment, through a narrow tear in the chain link fence, despite a flimsy sign reading “Equipment closed by provincial order.”
On the street, they lined up around the block for ice cream and practically walked side-by-side along Queen Street East, devouring their melting dessert – all too subconsciously happy to do the awkward skirting maneuver that took storming the city’s sidewalks in recent months. That night, they partied in Cherry Beach until the police showed up to lay a handful of charges.
Across town at Trinity Bellwoods Park, Torontonians sat inside and outside large white circles drawn on the grass to encourage physical distance. They blasted dueling beats from pill-shaped speakers and drank large cans and wine coolers. Despite Mayor John Tory’s past remarks that he is not leading law enforcement, the city essentially did this when it said enforcement of anti-public drinking rules was not not a priority at the moment.
(Yes, you read that right: the city that recently refused to legalize alcohol consumption in parks seems to be discouraging law enforcement from enforcing laws against it.)
But drinking was not the main vice displayed on Saturday. Trinity Bellwoods was a mess of trash when people were done with it, prompting Mayor John Tory to announce a plan to collect trash from parks and beaches on Monday.
Meanwhile, golfers shook their fists, wondering why kids could get by with a green space as their clubs collected dust in the trunk.
Basically, some Torontonians have rallied for justice, others for their own stupidity. Two large protests took place over the weekend in the city, one demanding an end to the deadly persecution of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli government and the other demanding an end to science-based decisions that help stem a fatal infection. Although extremely peaceful, the two protests together resulted in a few arrests on charges of assault.
People everywhere have been vaccinated. The hard-hit neighborhood of Thorncliffe Park was a big hit on Sunday, with nearly 10,000 doses administered at one of its community vaccination centers before dark.
In Jimmie Simpson Park, near me, dogs roamed freely, not a leash in sight. Unmasked teens from probably a thousand different households flooded the basketball courts, panting at each other, damn the provincial order.
In short, it was a weird but glorious weekend in a city nearing the end of a crisis, but still arguably in denial of what might be needed to make it happen.
On Monday, Toronto’s top doctor, Eileen de Villa, didn’t reprimand anyone for going out on Saturday and Sunday, whether it was a human rights rally or playing tennis on a padlocked court. But she called for caution with the B.1.617 variant first detected in India.
“When it comes to COVID-19, there is often a gap between appearance and reality,” she said in her usual hesitant way.
“The new variants are there and we should act as individuals with this knowledge. As our times improve, the temptation might be to get ahead of ourselves.
This is probably how it’s going from now on. Because life is not a gum commercial (unfortunately), there will be no official announcement from health experts signaling the end of the contactless era, no massive orgy of cuddles and cuddles. handshakes in the streets, but glimmers of connection and normality on weekends in good weather – followed by calm reminders from nervous officials that it’s not over yet. Until it is.
Fortunately for de Villa and his colleagues – and perhaps everyone – the forecast does not look good for the Victoria Day long weekend.