Though I must say, while I find crowded streets exhilarating, every now and then something rare and wonderful happens in a big city - I'll turn down a side street and find myself completely alone. No traffic, no sirens, nobody. In an instant a bustling city becomes a ghost town, and I can leisurely walk down the middle of the street without fear of being run over by a dump truck. This happens more often in Toronto, given its lower volume of traffic, but is still a much welcome treat.
I used to refer to these rare quiet moments in New York as golden moments since they usually occurred around sunset when everyone was lining up outside of restaurants or settling in at home after the work day. It was then that the occasional side street fell empty and silent in the glow of the setting sun.
This happened the other day when I took a wrong turn off King Street and found myself in an eerily quiet neighborhood. Despite being only 2 in the afternoon, many of the restaurants' signs read: CLOSED. A couple of swings at a church playground creaked in the wind. The fear of getting mugged and/or raped immediately washed over me but then I reminded myself that I was in Canada and put the mace back in my purse.
Although it wasn't New York, and although it wasn't sunset, I appreciated what Toronto was offering me. It was like a handshake from the city itself, a friendly arm inviting me to sit on a stoop, forget about my homesickness for a few minutes and just breathe.