Daughters start kindness campaign to honour mother
How the pandemic has highlighted the wage gap
IN DEPTH: Covering a contentious lobster fishery
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Daily forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
What you need to know about COVID-19 today
It’s odd I know, but I’ve always been drawn to busy places when no one is there: newsrooms when there’s no paper the next day; the waterfront on a Sunday morning when all the cranes are quiet; commercial areas before the first workers arrive, keys and coffee in hand; office buildings when the only other person around is the cleaner.
I can’t exactly explain why, other than to say that there’s an extra calmness that comes to a place that is perpetually busy that has suddenly gone silent.
It is almost like if you listen really hard you can hear people’s voices in there, like ghosts, even though the room or space is empty.
I seem to like that notion for some reason, which is why I headed downtown on Tuesday, to visit some of Halifax’s newly empty spaces, and see if they still had what I was looking for.
Such places, as you surely know, are at a premium at the moment in this city where the coronavirus and ensuing lockdown have emptied out office buildings, shopping malls, and other spots where people used to congregate.
If you happened to be downtown on Tuesday when the first vestiges of the Christmas season would normally be visible, you would know what I mean.
This revelation would have begun with the illuminated space-availability sign at the entrance to the Scotia Square parking lot.
In my experience that list usually measures in the dozens. Tuesday at about 11:30, with 1,124 different spots to choose from, I made a couple of dicky turns, then found a vacant wing of the lot, where I could have parked my car sideways and no one would have noticed.
Inside Scotia Square, approaching noon hour, I was used to seeing a mob of people going back and forth to the office towers, doing some shopping, grabbing a bite from the food court.
Tuesday the stores were mostly silent and the remaining dining options only doing takeout. The bottom level of the mall was empty enough that I only passed 13 people while walking the 100 metres-or-so from the Duke Street entrance to the start of the food court.
Instead of magical, the emptiness was forlorn, as it was a couple of blocks away at the cavernous new Nova Centre, where the doors were locked Tuesday, which seemed about right for a convention centre whose bookings have been slammed by the pandemic.
Out front, the Argyle Street pedestrian thoroughfare — most of its restaurants and groggeries closed due to the government’s regulations -- was unpopulated, as you would expect on a rainy December day in the midst of the plague.
When photographer Tim Krochak and I took a walk down to the Halifax ferry terminal we discovered, other than a zealous security guard and a ticket agent, it was empty too.
Further along Upper Water Street we ducked into Historic Properties. There we saw a few people taking their coffee as the Pogues melancholic Fairytale of New York played in the background.
We walked around a little more. But most of the businesses, - including the normally thriving ones where on a quiet day I might have been tempted to stop and take in the incongruous calm - were dark and locked.
One of these days, we’ll be back inside those buildings. We’ll buy stuff, hit the tread-mill and the bar, just like we always used to.
The sounds we make will be joyous enough to echo for a long time to come. Maybe they will even linger in the air just waiting for someone to show up when no one else is around and listen.