Monday, May 30, 2005

CN Tower

Saturday, Mary had to work the conference: she was both Chair of the Gender and Diversity Division, and charged with recruiting potential faculty to UofL, so pretty much booked up for the whole day; Consequently I had charge of the kids, and took them to the CN Tower.

Getting there should have been straight forward, but taking a stroller through the Toronto subway turned out to be more problematic than I would have thought: We often got lost trying to find the wheelchair accessible entrances to stations, malls, etc. Toronto is shockingly backward when it comes to building codes accommodating the disabled or moms....

When we finally arrived, Kasia had already started to melt down. It may have only been 10:00 AM, but as far as Kasia was concerned it was noon in Alberta and therefore time for nap. My optimistic scenario that she might fall asleep in the stroller proved completely unrealistic, and she was already crying and struggling to get out of the stroller as we waited in the ticket line up. That he morning had suddenly turned cold and started an icy rain did not help matters, as I struggled to get Kasia into her rain coat exactly as we came up to our turn at the ticket wicket.

I should probably have bailed at that point, but Tigana and I had already invested a fair bit to get there and I held onto the hope that once we got in out of the cold, all would be well. The line ups for the elevators were not too long -- about 20 minutes -- and then there we were, atop the tower!

It was not a good experience. Kasia melted down completely, forcing me to try to find a quiet corner to contain her in, while still being able to monitor Tigana trying to see out the windows. Tigana tired quickly of looking out at the city, and was frustrated that adult tourists felt entitled to summarily push her aside as they snapped photos of themselves at the window. I can't say I blame her. When she was finally able to get a turn at one of the toonie binocular stands, it simply didn't work, refusing to open even as it's digital timer merrily counted down the remaining seconds before turning off. Trying to assist Tigana while keeping Kasia from going hysterical was challenging, and I again found myself sympathizing with single parents who have to manage on their own routinely. Tag teaming with Mary is much much easier.

I eventually broke down and bought a tiny bowl of fresh fruit to feed Kasia, in case she felt it was lunch in her time zone, but she wasn't interested in eating. She did calm down a bit when she found she could feed the fruit to me, but I was too resentful that I had had to pay $7.50 for half a dozen pieces of melon to enjoy the experience. Calm having been partially restored, if only temporarily, I suggested to Tigana that we go, and she readily agreed. Our tickets allowed us to go 'up' to the highest level, but I frankly could not see waiting in line for 50 minutes to go up another couple of hundred feet if Tigana was already bored and Kasia a ticking time bomb.

The next level down, where the 'down' elevators are located, had as its attraction the glass floor. Now this captured Tigana's imagination! Once she found the section of glass floor (about the size of our kitchen floor) she could not be moved from it. I was too busy trying to entertain Kasia to care for the view myself, but Tigana insisted that I at least walk out on it once, believing that she was helping me overcome a fear of heights. Her solicitude was really rather sweet. Then Tigana insisted that Kasia be allowed out on the floor, though I feared greatly for the crowds of tourists tramping onto and off the floor at irregular intervals. Waiting for a break in the crowds, I unstrapped Kasia and set her on the edge of the floor, while Tigana called her to her.

I remember my psychology texts talking about the 'visual cliff' experiments, in which babies are placed on the edge of a sheet of plexiglas that runs across a platform, and then out over what appears to be a cliff. The babies' moms would then call to them from the 'cliff' side of the plexiglas, and the infants would crawl as far as the 'cliff' edge, and then abruptly stop…confused, hurt, but refusing to cross into 'empty space', even for mom. The experiments were conducted for years before they found a small percentage of babies for whom the cliff held no terrors. Well, I have always believed that was a gene missing from my kids, since both of them stepped off into empty space on numerous occasions, and this was no exception. Kasia dashed into Tigana's arms without a moment's hesitation, and once out on the glass, stood starring down and pointing along with the best of the adults.

Once I got Kasia off the glass and into her stroller, I kept her entertained while Tigana spent another half hour on the glass floor. The highlight here was watching a guy pull up a huge case, the size of a steamer trunk, onto the glass, then climb on top of that, before taking a zoom lens photo looking down. What am I missing here? 81 stories up is not enough for this guy, he needs another 4 feet? And what is the point of then using a gigantic lens to eliminate distance? The low point was noticing that over the hour Tigana had been goofing on the glass floor, the line at the 'down' elevators had not moved. The same family was patiently waiting at the front of the line as when we had arrived. But all this time, people had been streaming in from the floor above, presumably as the 'up' elevators continued to bring load after load of tourists up the tower. Consequently, it was becoming increasingly crowded, hot, and claustrophobic. Time to leave.

I rather optimistically got in line, even though it hadn't moved for an hour, but the second we lined up for the elevator, Kasia started to melt down. Nor was she the only one. Tigana started repeating every minute that "I want to go, Dad." I pointed out that we were in line for the elevators, that leaving was also my own heart's desire, and there was nothing I could do about it. "Dad, can we leave now please?" On about a fifth repetition of this cycle I asked what she expected me to do, and she said, "Take the stairs," referring to our earlier experiences with the subway where I would eventually give up on finding the elevator and simply (if somewhat precariously) carry the stroller down a flight of stairs. I pointed out that we were (a) 81 stories up, and (b) there were no stairs, to which I got an admittedly satisfying "Oh, I forgot."But two minutes later, "Dad, can we go yet?"

So the next time a staff member makes one of their rare appearances, I ask if this elevator is working, and if there is another line up we should be in. Over Kasia's screaming, she assures me this is the down elevator and that there will be one a long in just a minute. I point out that the same family has been at the head of the line for over an hour, and she looks confused, but simply repeats that it will be right there, and wanders off. Eventually, as the line up threatens to turn into a mob, a male employee takes it upon himself to reorganize the lineup, so that it bends back and forth around the room in some sort of order, but in so doing manages to move us another 200 people back in the line. I protest to no avail.

Still no elevator has arrived.

Kasia has meanwhile become hysterical, stopped breathing, and had a short seizure. Having recovered from that one, she is working herself up to another. I again see, and corner, the worker who earlier assured me the elevator would be up in a minute. I point out it still has not come, the same family is still waiting, and what's the deal? I point to another line up moving into its elevators every couple of minutes, but she again assures me that I am in the correct line up for the 'down' elevators, and to stay put. As she is talking to me her walkie talkie pings and a male voice informs her that "elevators 11 and 12 are toast!" So I say, naturally enough, "So these elevators aren't working?" to which she replies, "There fine. That was a miscommunication, don't move." She frowns, and runs off.

I'm an optimistic guy, and like to believe the best of people, but there are times when I get the distinct impression I am being lied to. And as Kasia begins holding her breath for the second time in 20 minutes, I have had enough. I grab the next employee going by and say, "My baby is having a seizure, we need down NOW!" This gets her attention, and she says "Come with me," and leads me to the elevator door. She radios down that she needs an elevator, but security tells her not to move me, they will come to me. I say this is not acceptable, I need to get my baby out of this crowd now, and once out in the cold air and free of crowds, she will be fine. She says wait here, and runs off, presumably to meet security. The moment she leaves the elevator doors magically open, and the operator says, "Are you waiting for the elevator?" so I say yes, and we go in. They let in two more families, and then its down we go. The operator asks if we've had a nice time, and a well dressed family man responds that he has not, that it was the worst customer service he had ever experienced; that he had had to wait for over 2 hours to get down. "Well, it's the start of the summer season, so line ups are normal." The man explodes, "How stupid do you think we are? That was no normal delay! The elevators were not working! There were no elevators! Don't insult my intelligence! Just tell us what was happening" The operator shrinks and mumbles about complaints being addressed to customer service, which brings a hearty, if cynical laugh from everyone in the elevator. We are not impressed.

At the bottom is a lone security guard with a first aid kit who makes me fill in a bunch of paper work on Kasia's seizures, even though I keep trying to impress upon him the necessity of getting her out of the tower and out of her stroller before he personally triggers yet another seizure. Since it is obvious he has no clue what to do in the event of a seizure (apply a bandage from his kit?) he glazes over and sends us on our way.

In contrast to the previous day's experience with the Medieval Feast, I could not recommend the CN Tower to anyone, though it must be said that Tigana expressed the opinion that the glass floor had made it all worth it. But then, she wasn't the one dealing with Kasia.

No comments: