A reporter's life is a lot of hurry up and wait
By Jasmeet Sidhu
I have never driven in downtown Toronto.
Yes, I have a license and have roamed the wide-open streets in my parents' car in Mississauga since I was 16, but until Sunday, I had never driven in the city centre with its one-way streets, no left turn at certain hours, jay-walking pedestrians, construction and other maniacal drivers squeezed onto the roads of Toronto.
But that’s what I had to do when I was sent on assignment Sunday to drive to Woodbine beach to cover mayoral candidate George Smitherman’s news conference on a new waterfront policy. And I am not going to lie -- I was nervous. Not about the reporting part, but the driving part.
Did I mention I’ve never been on the Gardiner Expressway? Ever?
So taking the “Star car” as they are known, vehicles on loan for reporters to drive to stories, I drove for the first time onto the streets of Toronto while profusely sweating (though I’m pretty sure that was in part to the 30+ degree weather outside and not just nerves). I made it to Woodbine beach (which from the Star building is pretty straightforward), thanking my lucky stars, when I realized that I had given my thanks too early.
The Woodbine beach parking lot was full.
The news conference started at 3 p.m. It was 2:45. Panicking, I drove to a nearby parking lot. That was full. I drove through some residential streets. All street parking was full.
Finally, I saw a guy on a bike with a sign that said “parking”. He said that he would let me park in his driveway for $10. I only had $5. He swore at me and biked away.
In sheer desperation and colossal fear that I would miss the news conference and face the wrath of my assignment editors, I raced into a parking lot and created my own parking spot, so to speak. I would surely get a ticket. But at least I wouldn’t miss Smitherman.
Running to Woodbine beach with my tape recorder in hand, I arrived and see no one official looking, no cameras, just regular beach dwellers taking a dip. I panicked some more. Did I already miss it? A volunteer wearing a George Smitherman purple campaign button flagged me down. Apparently George was running late, and the news conference had been moved to 4 p.m.
But at least that gave me time to find a legal parking spot. And maybe an ice-cream.
A story on the press conference did make it to page 2 of the Greater Toronto section on Monday. But reading the story, I laughed about how many readers won’t know the terror of the reporter in navigating the streets and physically getting to the story in the end.
Jasmeet Sidhu is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto’s Peace and Conflict Studies program. She is a summer reporter at the Toronto Star. Follow her on Twitter or phone her at the office - 416-945-8604 or drop her an email at email@example.com