On the very first day of July, Pierre and I landed on Cone Island for a two-week vacation. Two intense weeks pre-filled with plans of seeing friends and families, with ambitions of making country-side escapes, while hopping in stores with a long shopping lists of things we wanted to bring back, including: Maple Syrup!
For those of you who think that I misspelled the famous New-York Coney Island in the title of this blog, think again, because I really meant Cone Island in Quebec, Canada. Some of you may also know it as Montreal!
Anywhere our obligations or errands were taking us, anywhere we had to reach a destination in Montreal, the journey was endless. Every single day that we ventured in the city, we had to scratch-off the agenda the things we had NOT accomplished , rather than the ones we had planned to do, simply because of the traffic jams of Montreal.
Stuck in the middle of concrete hell, we often wondered if we would survive the journey. Stuck between grey cement structures with nets installed to catch the falling concrete chunks of debris, we wondered if this would be the day we die. Prisoners of the grey tone of the rotting autoroutes and bridges of Montreal, we wondered how to keep our spirits up. Our lives seemed to be a sad cement-grey, except for the cone colour of the day (every day): bright orange, often covered with white stripes or sometimes white tips, but always with one thing in common: No workers in sight.
Yes, tens of thousands of orange cones have been spread across the city of Montreal and all major routes have been either reduced to one lane, closed, blocked, detoured or ripped open. Most cones are placed to alight the traffic of the Turcotte-Yard Interchange that can no longer handle its own weight, let alone too many cars on it, or to alight the Champlain Bridge that is either splitting, stressing or simply losing parts of its structure, depending on the day. Three times during our holiday, the bridge had to be closed due to its dangerous state. As for the Mercier bridge, if you wish to live a long life, let’s say you should avoid taking it, but if you really must cross this bridge, arm yourself with patience and bring a life preserver, just in case!
Upon our return to Singapore, we had barely touched ground when we learned that a 40-50 meter piece of concrete from the Ville-Marie tunnel (the main tunnel of downtown Montreal) had crumbled on the expressway, luckily avoiding the worst catastrophe: killing people.
I will say it loud and clear, MONTREAL SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF ITS CONDITION AND INFRASTRUCTURE! What used to be a great place to live, has become a third world city and actually the term “third world” is light because at least, developing countries are trying hard to get out of their situation, while Montreal seems to be struck by the “Boiling Frog Syndrome”! When a frog is thrown in hot water, it will jump out to survive, but if you place a frog in cold water and slowly bring the water to boil, the frog will adjust so much to its environment that it will stay in the boiling water until death occurs. I have never done the test myself as I am against animal cruelty, but it is a fact that scientists have tested.
Please spare me the excuses that Montreal’s climate is responsible for the poor conditions of the road and the deterioration of the infrastructure (although it plays a role in making it age a bit faster). The true recipe behind the desolation of Montreal is a combination of negligence with poor quality standards and a zest of political incompetence, all marinated in a pool that smells disguised corruption.
Sorry Montreal, but many other countries have the same weather as you and their roads are not in this condition. Many other cities have the same population and age as you and their infrastructure is not falling on the head of its people. Yes, I admit that there are freak accidents everywhere in the world, but please Mr. PM Charest and Mr. Mayor Tremblay, simply admit that you and your management are a shame to the rest of the world. You and your management are stripping Montreal of its true essence: Its pride! You and your management are making me ashamed of my beloved city.
I use to always say to people wanting to visit Canada that they must go to Montreal if they want to see the best city, but now I stay silent or simply say: Yes, Canada has some beautiful parts and Vancouver is really nice.
Mr. Mayor and Mr. Prime Minister, was it also necessary to attack all roads at once? The Jean Lesage highway – Ville-Marie tunnel – the HW 720 and more and more, and yes of course, all the federal bridges too. Beautiful planning, you should be proud! Don’t your guys call each other or is it that you waited so long to act that it all crumbled at once? You truly deserve a medal of incompetence.
Furthermore, what planet do you live on Mister Politicians, where you have 4 months of summer to repair the infrastructures and you let the unionized road workers take their holiday in July. Truly brilliant! By the way, the two-week vacation period called “the construction holiday” is supposed to be the last two weeks of July, but we were there from the 1st to the 18 of July and not once, I repeat not once, I saw a worker anywhere in the city. My blood boiled even more when people would excuse the situation by saying: but it is normal, it is July and everyone is taking time off! OK, here comes the boiling frog syndrome again! Some of you actually find this normal!!!! When I relay this information to the people I work with or my friends in Asia, they are shocked. They systematically say: But why are they doing this? Why do they allow such things? Can’t they just fix this? Well… I guess not!
Yes, ladies and gentleman, it is almost a non-hidden fact that the Unions, the Organized Crime and the Politicians of Quebec have succeeded to destroy what used to be a great city and a great place to live. Perhaps it takes frogs like us who jumped out of the boiling water a while ago to see the danger and to try to warn the others. I can only tell people that the water is hot and slowly killing them, but I am sometimes afraid that Montrealers have perhaps abandoned the idea of taking a stand and are getting used to the hot waters sinking Cone Island.
My sister jokes that a brother or a cousin of Mayor Tremblay has a cone factory or a cone distribution company. Thank God Quebecers have a good sense of humor. All I can say is that while someone is paralysing an entire city with orange cones, a 2 kilometer -8 lane section of the East Coast Park highway in Singapore was moved over night, without disturbing the traffic. Yes, it is a true story: One morning we woke up and the autoroute had been moved, paved, repainted with white lines and little tree bushes had already been planted. Overnight, an 8-lane highway was moved to a new path, so is it so crazy to think that you can properly fix something in Montreal over a 4 month period?
Meanwhile our good friends Fernand and Louise opened their doors to their little heaven in the Eastern Townships where we could gladly resource ourselves, breathe deep, see clearly before the next round of cones would start. Thank you guys, it was an escape that kept our sanity.
Did you know Mr. Tremblay that Malaysia (supposedly a developing country) has impeccable roads, highways and cute manicured flowers and trees for hundreds, even thousands of kilometers. And you know what, they get a monsoon season every year that washes off a lot of land! I wonder how they do it? Would you like to give them a call? Try texting them instead, you might disturb them.
Exasperated by the city, we decided to escape to Baie Saint-Paul, bringing along beautiful daughter Virginie and her handsome boyfriend David. After hours of driving with cones and blocked lanes, we arrived in this stunning part of Quebec that was holding the promise of washing off all the cone images. After a succulent “terroir” dinner with my friend Diane, who has found a peaceful haven with a view to die for on the hills of Baie St-Paul, the bad memories began to fade away and beauties slowly grew inside our souls.
The morning after we hopped in yellow and sky blue kayaks to embrace the natural curves of the Gouffre River. The luxuriant greens and deserted shores of the river combined with its cool water completed the mission of replacing the images in our mind, while the walls of lushes forests and the singing birds protected us from the noise of the towns and highways.
After 3.5 hours of pure nature, Pierre pointed out something strange that we could not yet make sense of due to the distance. But the closer we got and the more we could recognize this foreign object polluting the right bank of the beach. The four of us looked at each other with horror and screamed: OH NO! …AN ORANGE CONE!!!
I rest my case.
P.S: Some of you may be offended and think that I am not patriotic, but on the contrary, I love Montreal and it makes me sad to see it crumble. I deeply and strongly believe that being patriotic does not mean that you have to accept mediocrity. Au contraire!
So send emails – tweet – Facebook or write letters to your MP’s, your city councils, the mayor or make noise, you might wake-up someone. My contribution is my blog.