It’s the Little Things, Always

Yesterday I was trudging home from the subway — trudging because I wasn’t feeling well — and came to the corner where a major arterial street must be crossed.

There is a traffic light there. Normally it takes quite a while to get the light to change.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out, however, that the intersection’s programming has been updated.

The light used to allow <2 secs. of the "white walking man" before switching to the flashing "orange hand" and the countdown of 12 secs. left to finish crossing four lanes of traffic.

Now it gives 5 full secs. of “walking man”, and a 15 sec. countdown of “flashing hand”. This is a forty per cent improvement.

Older pedestrians with walkers … people with sore feet … small children … all have the time they need now.

The school crossing guard who looks after that corner told me that the city had been told many times this intersection needed its walk time lengthened, but the request had always been brushed off.

Suddenly, out of the blue, it’s done.

A little thing, perhaps, but a real treat for all of that.

Most of us are now quite cynical about the world.

Frankly, we don’t expect it to work. If it is sort of working, we don’t expect it to stay in good repair.

We’re getting far too used to civil servants that act like uncivil masters, to politicians who only want our vote and our donation cheque, and to be made to feel small if we ask for anything.

That’s not a sign of a healthy society.

One reason I suspect this corner got the brush-off is that the arterial street serves as the boundary between two city wards.

In other words, neither councillor is fully responsible. So even if one gets behind the old “let’s just fix this” approach, the lack of the other is more than enough “reason not to act”.

I don’t know if my councillor was involved in this, but she got a nice thank you from me by email anyway.

Another surprise from yesterday came when the 2011 Annual Report from the Transition Toronto organisation arrived.

I have been following the Transition Town movement for several years. It’s a big part of community rebuilding for the future.

(If you don’t know what this is about, take a look at this BBC programme about one of the original Transition Towns, Totnes in Devon.)

Having connected with the committee for my neighbourhood, I’d been disappointed with what I’d seen so far.

It seemed a little “flaky”. Not at all what I was expecting.

But the umbrella for the city made me see a much more vibrant movement getting its feet.

Enough to want to roll up my sleeves and do some volunteer work.

Lesson learned: it’s a big city, and if all you see is one small corner or it, you may not be seeing the best view.

So, today, no long philosophic dialogues, no political diatribes, no huffing and puffing about the state of the universe (or at least our corner of it).

Just a little good news — and hopefully, for you too, a little good cheer.

Something, at any rate, to undo any triskaidekaphobia you may be facing this Friday the 13th.

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