adventures in the far east — of canada!

The worst things about St. John’s

In st. john's on June 23, 2009 at 12:18 am

I’m just about 2 weeks in, but it has already been filled with a lot of traveling about, grocery shopping, eating, sightseeing, getting lost, etc.–in other words, not a bad experience of the city so far. This is especially true when you have to walk everywhere.

Anyway, yes, this blog has been thus far filled with “OOH, this is cool!” and “BEST __________ EVER!” type sentiments (predominantly), and it’s dawned on me that I may be painting a false picture of life in this city. I need to communicate some honest criticisms and negatives regarding life on The Rock.

Here we go.

The Roads
Are pretty much uniformly horrible. You don’t know how bad it is, until you’ve experienced a city on a grid–like Calgary. Even Ruth, the house’s owner I unexpectedly met recently, observed this, and only after having gone to Edmonton driving a friend’s car somewhere. She thought she wouldn’t be able to do it–the heightened anxiety of driving a friend’s car, and an unfamiliar city. But she marveled it was easy as anything, because of the way the city is organized (apparently much of Edmonton is also gridded).

Here, roads are haphazard; when my brother was still here with the rented car…yikes. Tons of unmarked or unlabelled streets, tons of one-way, traffic lights sometimes not where you would expect them (off to a side), and uneven or potholed pavement.

Roads here double back, randomly converge, or change too quickly–you turn onto a street, and like 100 meters afterward, you’ll run into a triangular island unless you decide left or right pretty quickly.

Driver Mindset
You assume that passengers have the right of way, and they should.

Now, understand that it is mostly alright–but there are definitely more cars and drivers in St. John’s that don’t seem to look out for people! I find it’s best to dart across streets when there’s no cars; even when you use a marked crosswalk, everyone sorta hesitantly steps on, and wait until the cars slow. Mostly, anywhere else drivers are far more aware and willing to stop for pedestrians. I’m not saying they’re crazy and I’ll be hit–it’s just that I’ve noticed I have to be more careful and conscious crossing the street.

However, it is unacceptable to strand an elderly couple on a crosswalk, because no one wants to stop–which I have seen happen once, which is a shame.

Steepness
The angle at which a lot of the roads go towards downtown is downright ridiculous. Walking these hills are frankly a pain–not because it winds me (not really as a runner), but you feel the strain in places because you’re bracing from falling forward, or fighting to climb–your shins feel damaged after a while!

And seriously, I shudder to consider the consequences of stumbling and tripping down….

The Wind
The place is not cold, in fact it is milder than Calgary throughout the year. But one thing disguises this fact: their wind, which is often very strong, and makes it quite chilly.

HST
I mentioned this before, and said it was the combination of 5% GST and 8% PST–but it’s more than that. People at work told me that they do this also so it can be applied pretty much everywhere–some things anywhere else you can buy free of PST, but here HST is applied on everything.

Shopping
I don’t mind this too much, but let’s face it–you don’t go to St. John’s to shop. The variety is much lower, and you can’t find some things here at all that’s everywhere in a bigger city.

…that’s all I can think of, for now…

But here’s a fun fact…only in St. John’s can you find some stop signs at 4-way intersections labelled “All Way.” In fact, you know that insurance commercial–Grey Power, I think? You know, the one that goes, “You don’t drive like her, so why do you have to pay insurance like her?” or something, and this lady’s having an exaggerated attack of road rage (“C’mon already!” and muttering something as she flails her head crazily in the car).

Anyway, when you see that commercial in St. John’s, the 4-way intersection they stop at–has been modified to say “All Way”! There are still some 4-Way Stop signs here, but I thought it was crazy to go to such lengths to change it!…

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  1. Hmm.. quirky!

    You’ll probably have to put up with me huffinf and puffing a bit with the hills, I hope you don’t mind. Not the most in shape person ^^;

    And I didn’t know they had HST – I thought only Quebec did that. The more you know. I mean, I know they had PST… but wait. I learned waaay back in Grade 10 (I think) that HST is actually tax on tax, like PST charged on the amount that has GST already added to it. Is this not the case in Newfoundland? Maybe I had it wrong all those years ago. And now I feel old.

    I’m familiar with the chilly wind, having been to the West Coast many a time, although perhaps the Atlantic is a bit cooler? Considering you can see iceburgs and such things.

    And 4-Ways and cartveyors – kooky, but amusing. I look forward to seeing ’em XD

  2. Driving in Edmonton IS easier because of their awesome grid system! ^_^! One thing that I do like about Edmonton is that 97% of streets are number in sequential order, with Avenues going east-west and Streets going north-south. As a result, when someone gives you an address, it is very easy to guess how far/long that address is from your current position!

    That said, Edmonton streets are notorious for crazy intersections at OBTUSE angles (that’s right… OBTUSE [and ACUTE ones, for that matter]), and CRAZY traffic circles… apparently the chief enginner of Edmonton back in the 1950s was British, so, brilliant as he was, he thought “you know what would be great? Building traffic circles, not everywhere, but at stragetic locations where major streets meet, even though 99% of Edmontonians don’t know how to drive in one… HILARITY will ensure for sure!”

    Anywayz, my story is over, lol…. I better watch for them crazy-ass hills when do get to St. John’s!

  3. Aha! You just made me remember something else about these roads–yes, OBTUSE angles indeed! Is it so unreasonable to have people turn at 90 degrees?

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