It was a long-anticipated Easter weekend trip to visit my parents in Alberta, booked long before SARS. But the bunny has come and gone, and I'm still in Edmonton.
Could my reluctance to return to T.O. have more to do with SARS than my claim that my parents need me here? Even I'm starting to wonder.
Maybe it's the media coverage, the WHO decision and the travel advisories. Maybe it's friends in Toronto who tell me stories of doctors refusing to see patients with bronchitis for fear of contracting the dreaded disease.
"Don't come back," one friend advises. "I'm taking my kids to the coast for the week. You're lucky to be out of here."
I know others who pooh-pooh the fears and insist people are getting worked up over nothing. These are the folks who look for the silver lining -- no lineups in restaurants and near-empty movie theatres. At least that's what they say. I'm not convinced, so I've extended my trip for another week.
Being a Torontonian in Edmonton is not without its drawbacks -- mainly, that I must deal with the reaction of Albertans when they find out I'm from Toronto.
"So you're from Tranna, partner?" a Stetson-wearing cowboy asks, feigning casual interest. "How long have you been here?" That's a loaded question for sure.
"Eleven days," I say quickly, one day past the SARS incubation period. Of course, I've been saying that since I've arrived. The truth is that I've now been here nine days.
He tips his hat. "Now what day was it you left Tranna?"
I furiously try to count backwards but not fast enough, and the jig is up.
The cowboy, gripped with fear, hightails it out of my breathing space. I realize I need to try a new tactic, and an opportunity soon presents itself.
"Where did you say you were from?" a woman asks, after hearing the T word.
"I mean I was born in Toronto," I lie. "I haven't been back in years."
She breathes a sigh of relief. That seemed to work, so I tell the next person I meet I'm from Winnipeg.
When my brother-in-law tells me he's going to the doctor because he has a sore throat, I shriek, "Don't tell him you have family visiting from Toronto."
As I walk the Edmonton neighbourhood where I'm staying, I feel like a leper.
Finally, I decide to quell the rumours once and for all.
"You know, I haven't been to Toronto for a year," I say. "Not even for a visit."
With that bold falsehood, calm seems to have returned.
On the Easter weekend alone I must have denied I was from Toronto three times! I swear I could hear a cock crow.