When someone rolls down the street blaring a song that you love, it is unadulterated magic.
Long before I knew how to drive, I knew about Toronto drivers. I absorbed this wisdom—all of it cautionary—from the passenger’s seat of my father’s car. Cabbies were prone to abrupt U-turns. People in rent-a-trucks couldn’t keep to their lanes. Elderly men in hats? God knows what they’d do. And warm weather’s return meant dudes in junkers with their windows down and throbbing house music cranked.
Even when drivers manage to surprise you—when the geriatric with the fedora does not, in fact, sideswipe a cyclist—it’s a mild victory at best. But the exception to this will always be that dude in his junker. Because when he rolls down the street blaring a song that you love, it is unadulterated magic.
The summer I turned 20, three guys straight out of a casting call for high-school tormenters pulled up to the corner of Dundas and McCaul. I stumbled into the car’s sonic radius; the words came without me summoning them. And so, for the duration of a traffic light, the four of us belted out “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The driver actually dialled the volume higher, which I chose to read as an act of solidarity, not an attempt to tune out my tone-deafness.
This sort of serendipity happens elsewhere: an incredible song comes on the radio or breaks through the din of a bar. But it doesn’t offer that sudden connection to strangers in a crowded urban landscape; it doesn’t quite resonate the same way. So many of the sounds of Toronto are discordant noise—a jackhammer, a siren, a grinding streetcar, or throbbing bass. Every once in a while, though, that noise gives way to a moment of harmony. You respond to the music and, for the length of the song or the traffic light, you’re in harmony with the city, too.