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5# An unexpected challenge

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

Summer time in Montreal is marked by two colors. The end of winter lets the flora thrive and green takes over the city. Trees, flowers and plants embellish every alley. Even downtown, there are parks where people can lie on the grass and reconnect with nature. So many shades of green, it’s delightful.

An angry orange follows the first bursts of green. Street signs and orange helmets take the city hostage. Roads, bridges, sidewalks; all is being remade. Heavy machinery starts the show at dawn while orange vests populate every corner. Main boulevards are blocked, traffic goes crazy and local businesses suffer the consequences. Even cops spend most of their summer sorting out the chaos caused by construction. It is so intense that Montrealers have a saying about it:

“There are two seasons in Montreal, winter and construction”.

I walked out of the dealer with a firm handshake and the keys of the van. Full of doubts, I wondered: what do I do now? Where do I go? I realized after buying the van that I had nowhere to park it, duh! Not only did I need to find a parking spot in chaotic Montreal, but one where I could do all the conversion work as well.

I drove to the closest Tim Hortons, the famous Canadian (bad) coffee chain. The temporary plate expired in ten days and there was a lot of paperwork to deal with. First, the insurance.

A full day of research led me to a depressing conclusion. To be able to drive a self-converted van in Quebec, you need to pass 3 inspections. Then you must have a certified engineer approve every system you built. And finally, pay triple the price...Fuck that! I’m leaving Canada anyway. I contracted a regular car insurance and hoped for the best.

At night, the search for parking began. Every street has fucking restrictions! Some I couldn't even understand. On top of the city parking headache, construction sites also added their own. I tried all the nearby blocks, entering the street with hope and leaving disappointed. It was a true test of patience, and driving a 7-meter van didn’t help.

Wandering for an hour, I finally found a spot…30min walk from the house. I got home late, exhausted and bitter. Besides, I had to move the van before 8am otherwise they would tow it. The next morning, I went to a shopping mall so I could be in peace for the day, no risk of parking ticket or being towed.

I called all the ads online but every time they asked for the size of the van it was over. More than 50 NOs later, I stopped mentioning it. I thought I’d check out the spot first and negotiate a deal from there. I had 3 visits the following day but none of them worked out, the van was too big.

The next days were similar: waking up early, going to the mall for parking and calling ads all day. Every night, the thought of driving aimlessly for hours became oppressing. Every morning I had to move the van to another location. There was not a single stress-free day. All I did revolved around parking, even sleeping became disturbed: what if I misread the sign? The van was turning me into its little bitch.

On the fifth day, desperation had reached new peaks. I was looking for parking outside of Montreal, considering spots an hour away. I was even willing to pay 200$ a month. Still nothing. Every day there were less options and anxiety was creeping over. Fuck! I didn’t expect it would be that hard. I told my parents about my miserable quest for parking and my mom offered to help.

On Sunday afternoon, I received a call from Rita, a family friend. My mom told her about my distress and she suggested I come try their garage. Her house was a bit far but anything would do at this point. I drove across town and to my biggest surprise the van fit perfectly. Thank you Mama! Thank you Rita! Finally, I was free!!!

Seven days of efforts and yet, liberation came from my mom and her friend. I was so grateful that I jumped of joy and hugged Rita. Relieved, I looked up to stop the tears from pouring much for a parking spot!

The time spent with Ibra was a rich experience. Ibra was a friendly and knowledgeable mentor, but it wasn't enough. There was still much to learn and alone, I was clueless. I needed to seek help and the following week-end was a special opportunity for that.


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