A few years ago I was lucky enough to appear on CBC Radio’s The Debaters, taped here in Halifax, and I enjoyed myself. It was fun to try and persuade the people in the audience that Halifax isn’t a world-class city. Understandably, they weren’t with me. Plus, I don’t think we’re a world-class city. And by world, I mean Earth. If we’re talking Venus, then yes, we are world class. Best by a country mile or a city kilometer, or however Venusians measure distance.
But I saw something the other day here that gave me hope for the future. It was something I had never seen before in Halifax.
No, not a car stopping at an unmarked crosswalk, or a French immersion parent who actually wants their kid to learn in another language and not just get a free private-school education, or a Halifax Councillor coming off as reasonable on The Rick Howe Show. No, what I saw was even more implausible: I saw someone raise their arm to hail a cab on a Halifax street. The cab, seemingly against all odds, came to a halt, and the person got in.
I should admit I have never understood how cabs work in Halifax. I mean, I know you can always call them, and because I grew up here, there is a phone number embedded in my brain for one of the companies, just like I can still hear Stompin’ Tom exhorting me to call P.E.I. In fact, once I wanted to call Tourism PEI and tried to do it by memory, but I misremembered and dialled 8675309.
Before that day, I don’t think I had ever seen someone (successfully) hail a cab. The light on top of the Halifax taxis always seemed random, and I didn’t even know what the system was. It always seemed to me that if the light on the top wasn’t on, it meant it had someone in it and the taxi wouldn’t stop for you. And if the light on top was on, it meant it was empty and it wouldn’t stop for you.
The way it works in most cities, world class or otherwise, is that if the light is on, you can hail it.
But here in HRM, it seems to work like this: if the light on the roof of the taxi is off, you can hail it. This strikes me as backwards. It’s as if instead of “Wet Paint” signs everywhere the paint is wet, we had “Dry Paint” signs plastered around the city everywhere the paint was dry, and you would infer that the paint in a given area was wet by the absence of Dry Paint signs.
But that’s a digression. Someone hailed a cab in Halifax and I saw it.
I’m okay with not being a world class. It doesn’t bother me that we’re not big enough to have Uber, an opera house, or Bass River. But after seeing someone successfully hail a cab, I am glad that we are finally on the way to becoming a city.