I’m walking across the Riverdale Bridge in Whitehorse, just about three hours shy of the ten-minute morning rush hour.
5:30 in the am.
There isn’t a car in sight, and the lack of wind only pronounces the gurgling sound of the river.
Considering how rare it is to be comfortable outside so early in the morning at the beginning of October, I figure I can afford a pause.
Looking across the river at the glow of the hospital lights, I soak in this rare opportunity.
I’m taking the pulse of the city.
Years ago, I worked in a tiny smoke shop in the heart of downtown Ottawa. Being the main source of caffeine for the government drones in the building attached, I needed to get the place percolating at a pretty early hour.
Thus, I had a half-hour walk through an empty downtown, the only sound coming from the whirring air intakes of darkened buildings. My route took me past darkened shopping centres, barren bus depots and empty restaurants.
A highlight of my wander took me past the Parliament buildings, brightly lit and somehow seeming more grandiose with a lack of people on the grounds.
The ghostly, early-morning city, while looking like a post-apocalyptic scene, actually felt surprisingly calm. It was as if the city itself was having a short break before its denizens began their morning scurrying.
Far from being “empty”, I was walking through a city at rest.
So now I find myself, making my way off the Robert Campbell Bridge, watching Whitehorse have its morning breather.
I can see all the way up 4th avenue, the traffic lights changing colours as if they were warming up, stretching their electric legs. A lazy allusion to Christmas pops into my head as I watch the lights flip from green to red.
Even from six blocks away, I can clearly hear the cross-walk signals on Main Street bleating at each other. Pedestrian traffic signals might be needless this early in the morning, but I like to think that even in a state of rest, the city is still looking out for us.
Just so you know, anthropomorphizing a city isn’t as kooky as it seems.
You likely know of a few cities that feel comfortable the moment you set foot in them. Or you may have experienced the polar opposite – places that make your skin crawl.
Why do you think there’s a highway that goes around Winnipeg? Zing!
I chose to come back to Whitehorse upon realizing this was where my heart was.
It’s only at these early quiet hours, when the city – a blinking, beeping mass of concrete – feels like it truly comes alive. Just you and the urban landscape. The perfect time to tune into its urban vibe.
This morning it was just me and Whitehorse. An old friend I didn’t realize I needed to reacquaint with.
This morning I took a long listen to the pulse of the city, and found our hearts beat at the same rhythm.