Last Friday was my last day as a communications intern with The Vancouver Board of Trade.
Just before 5 pm in the afternoon, I left the office for the last time. It was with a mixture of emotions, and weighed down with the exhaustion of six weeks of poor sleep and stress, that I descended the stairways and escalators leading down from The Board’s offices through the Pan Pacific hotel to the beautiful waterside scene at Canada Place.
I’ll never forget the routine of the 29 mornings I went to work downtown. I loved everything about that routine (except, maybe, that I was always rushing to get a workout in before catching the 8:15 Westcoast Express train from Port Moody). The ride was luxuriously smooth and comfortable, as long as I was pushy enough to get a seat on the always-overcrowded train. The scenery was unsurpassable as we sped by the calm waters of Burrard Inlet.
Once the train arrived at Waterfront Station, I became part of the huge crowd funneling through the station, most of them people on their way to work. I was truly one of them. For the first time since grade 8 (when my mother sewed most of my clothes), I wore a skirt or dress almost every day. I discovered that I liked to wear skirts, once I found a pair of shoes that were both dressy enough for the office and easy to walk in. I had a couple of good-quality suit jackets that made me presentable as a businessperson. I knew that it was all just a costume, but I learned to wear it naturally and with confidence. People treated me differently than when I wore my usual jeans and casual tops.
On the mornings it wasn’t raining (which were few during those six weeks, unfortunately), I loved escaping from the station into the fresh air for the short walk to Canada Place. I usually stopped for coffee before heading to the office. If I had time, I went to Cafe Artigiano on Hastings Street. They have won awards for their latte art, but to me it’s their strong expresso that really sets them apart. Usually I ordered a latte there. Decaf is my default choice because of my chronic insomnia, but some mornings I ordered it regular when I knew desperately needed an energy jolt. (One of those days I was still shaking from the caffeine three hours later.)
Some days when I craved a donut, I would go to Timmy’s instead and order a plain old-fashioned donut and a regular coffee. However, my most frequent choice was a Starbucks short mocha.
Drink in hand, I would enter the Pan Pacific Hotel. Usually I would get a huge surge of excitement as soon as I walked in. There were always conferences going on, so the common spaces were bustling with wealthy, well-dressed people. I would catch a few words of the deal-makers’ conversations as I walked purposefully by. There were tourists, too, many of them destined for the cruise ships whose port was at Canada Place.
No elevators for me. I walked swiftly up the two long escalators that led to the third floor. There, I never failed to look at the beautiful Five Sails restaurant with its huge windows overlooking the ocean and Stanley Park. I remember 10 or 15 years ago, my aunt and her husband Roger, who is a world-famous geography consultant, had been in Vancouver on business. They were staying at the Pan Pacific and invited me to join them for lunch one day. Little had I known then that I would one day be working in that environment!
I ascended a couple more flights of stairs to get to the fourth floor where The Board had its offices. I stopped in the ladies’ washroom, where music was always piped in to provide discreet background noise; checked my hair and makeup; took my magnetic pass out of my purse so I could get in the back “secret” entrance to the office; and prepared myself mentally to greet my co-workers and embark on my tasks for the day.