13 May 2008

Where Is There?


Blurbanism ∕ Urban Environment

Know where you’re at

My first real taste of business travel has taken me 5995 kilometers from home in Berlin to Montreal in Canada. Not that I can tell that I’m there, however, since my entire stay here has been confined to a Novotel hotel room, a small windowless conference room in the second floor of a factory, and the cars and vans which shuttled me between both locations. They say that Montreal’s a nice place, but the sweet irony of my packed working schedule has been that I’ve seen «nothing» of the country I’m in. Just the «nowhere» of the industrial trading estate where I’ve been working.

Welcome to Montreal, business traveller

So what is that «nothing» exactly, and what constitutes the «nowhere»? The nothing is probably the lack of identifying features which might already been known to me before my arrival. A tourist who travels to Paris visits the Eiffel Tower, and expects to find it there before leaving home. Seeing it, and being photographed in front of it as evidence of having been there, is a strong identifying moment.




I have had no such identifying moments here, just a steady, subtle stream of reports that I am some place «other»: these include large trucks, wide streets, local accents, narrower newspaper formats, massive chrome plumbing, 24 hour air conditioning, generic-vernacular architecture, sturdy old fashioned light switches, reinforced electrical cabling, lack of pavements, a glut of processed food …