No Such Thing as a Wasted Trip

It would be understandable if I were upset. After all getting a projector is a big part of my plan to create the Living Room Cinematheque. Without a projector the whole thing kind of falls apart, unless I can manage to convince people that staring at a blank wall is somehow entertaining.

Today I ventured out across town to meet the seller of the projector, do a little demo and hopefully seal the deal, giving me a super cheap solution to the projector problem. I got on the metro and headed out, almost to the end of the line, went to the designated meeting spot and ordered myself a coke. Five to ten minutes later my phone rang and the seller informed me that A) he was running late and B) he had just tested the projector and it was “acting funny.” He told me he’d call back in fifteen minutes trying to resolve the problem.

The night before I’d done some research on the projector, obsessively googling it and also checking out the alternatives on eBay. There were some misgivings from “the experts” about the video performance of the unit though consumers didn’t seem to mind. In terms of alternatives there wasn’t much in a comparable price range. It was either this or something substantially more expensive. I figured for the Living Room Cinematheque pilot project a cheap projector that wasn’t perfect would do just fine – at least until such time as I could afford something better.

Waiting for the seller to call me back I decided to explore the neighbourhood since its a part of Montreal I haven’t been in before. My interest was quickly piqued by a rather tall old smokestack and a large circular tower a few blocks away. I set out to discover what exactly this architectural marvel was. As I drew near I figured it out, the smokestack was the physical plant for Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine. Trying to get a closer view of the impressive old tower I ventured into one of the buildings. Immediately upon stepping onto the grounds though a strange feeling tingled at the back of my consciousness. As I walked the corridors I began to figure it out.

Checking up on Google when I got home confirmed it, Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine is a psychiatric hospital. The old halls were permeated with that distinct aura that inhabits these places. The people I saw in the halls had that forlorn, confused and in some cases totally removed look. Some hunched and uncommunicative, others alert to things that nobody could see but them. Electric maintenance trolleys and floor polishers rushed through the facility like busy worker ants, almost oblivious to the patients around them as they slid around with their quietly eerie electronic hum. Most of the hospital was quiet, forlorn, except for the area underneath the tower, the apparent nerve centre of the facility. Here a freight elevator waited to ferry supplies up and down the imposing structure and staff scurried back and forth. Temptingly one of the first doors I walked through was right next to a door marked “Tunnel Access” (in English no less), but psychiatric hospitals probably have more vigilant security than most, and I’d hate to be mistaken for a patient while trying to talk my way out of a sticky situation.

At the end of the day it was an inspiring backdrop with incredible story potential. Sad to think of what it was in reality though, with its fenced off outdoor yards and that panopticonic tower. Suffering from paranoia and delusions I’m sure that tower’s iconography and symbolic power did more to push patients to lurking paranoia then to stability and peace of mind.

With perfect timing the seller called me back as I was walking off the grounds and informed me that the projector still wasn’t working right and that it might be an issue with the fan. He apologized profusely but was glad it’d happened before he sold it rather than afterwards, and this in part is why I’m not upset.

Buying the projector and having it subsequently break on me would have been a much bigger hassle than going out and having a coke and home fries this morning. The projector probably wasn’t my best buy for my purposes despite the excellent price anyway, now I don’t have to worry about it. Not only that but I got to see things in the city that I haven’t yet seen – the eerie mental hospital and the science fiction inspiring Radisson metro station. It got me up and out of bed before noon which is something I haven’t done in… weeks. In the end much more good came of the experience than bad and I’m sure that before you know it I’ll find the perfect projector at a price I can live with. No worries.

So… I have every reason to be upset. But I’m not. I’m actually quite happy. Let’s see what else the day holds in store!


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