You might be from Ottawa if:
- You moved away when you were 19.
- You moved back when you were 28. Or 38.
- You consider politicians mere tourists who don’t know their way around the city.
- You still think of Kanata as a far-flung ‘burb even since it was amalgamated with Ottawa.
- You understand that 9 times out of 10, “bilingual” means a francophone who can speak English. And you consider that, rightly, unfortunate and keep damn well trying.
- You remember being served Screwdrivers made with Tang at the old Chez Henri.
- You keep your secret love for either the Habs or (bleah) the Leafs a closely guarded secret.
- You still wonder if Manotick is or is not part of the new City of Ottawa. It’s a lovely place, and a wonderful place to live, but is it really in Ottawa?
- You call the Alexandra Bridge the “IP Bridge”.
- You remember that the Pope gave his huge address from the site of the current War Museum.
- You complain about traffic. Compared to any other city of its size, there is no real traffic in Ottawa. Even on the Queensway at 5:15pm.
You might be IN Ottawa if:
- You’re in the middle of a farmer’s field. Ottawa includes more rural space than any other city in Canada. And, oh yeah, there’s a farm smack in the middle of the city (the Experimental Farm).
How we know you weren’t born and raised here:
- You think Poutine is gross, or that it’s just a Quebec thing.
- You think Ottawa’s fat city. Ottawa is probably the most resolutely middle class city in Canada, and per capita there are likely only a quarter or fewer as many rich people here as in any other large Canadian city. In other words, If you overlaid the demographics of Montreal on Ottawa, Rockcliffe would be 5 times as big as it is. If you did the same for Toronto, Rockcliffe would be 10 times as big.
- You don’t remember when Hull was the most important city in the region on the Quebec side of the river, and Gatineau was just a bedroom community to the East.
- There’s one really long street that bisects Ottawa from East to West for much of its breadth. The trouble is, it has at least six different names: St. Joseph Blvd (Orleans), Montreal Road, Rideau St., Wellington St., Richmond Rd., and Robertson Road (Kanata). Wellington St. breaks in the middle, and becomes Somerset going East and Scott St. going West, even though it keeps its name on both sides of this gap. Of course this makes no sense.
- If you’re going South on any major street West of Bank St, you’ll eventually bump into old Hwy 16 along the Rideau River. By the way, that is not in any way its official name or number anymore, but if you call it old Highway 16, most people will know what you mean.
- The provincial government has a game it plays called “fuck up the dyslexic people”. The evidence? They changed the number of Highway 17 – good old Highway 17 – to “174”. It is much easier for anyone to distinguish “17” from “417” than to distinguish “174” from “417”.
- Nepean Point is in the center of Ottawa. Centrepointe is in Nepean. You figure it out. (The “E” at the end of “centrepointe” is equally a mystery. I think someone might have wanted the name to seem bilingual, but without actually, ah, understanding the French language.)
- Learn French. Use it.
- Eat at a chipwagon at least once every 6 months (but likely not more than once every three months, if you’re concerned even a little bit about arterial sclerosis). The best one? Glen’s near the old Canadian Tire on Richmond Rd is certainly in the running, as are a couple downtown. The chipwagon in the parking lot near the baseball stadium is good as well.
- Patronize the hardware stores in mixed-use neighbourhoods: on Beechwood, on Wellington near Parkdale, on Bank in the Glebe, etc. Before there were big-box stores, these served all of our needs really well and if they were no longer there, we would miss them.
- Likewise, shop for fruit and veggies at the Parkdale and Byward Markets. Also, in the Byward Market, be sure to shop for your specialty food in the shops there even if Loblaws does a passing job at serving your needs. Shops like those are a great resource for a city. While you’re there, have a sandwich at either the Budapest Deli or La Bottega.
- Go to an Ottawa Lynx game (while you still can).
- Walk on the paths below Parliament Hill on the Ottawa river side. It’s an amazing perspective on downtown Ottawa and its relationship with the river.
- Have a beer (maybe even a Quart bottle) and one of the great old Ottawa tavern/hotels. They’re disappearing, slowly but surely, but everyone should have this experience. Examples? The Chateau Lafayette (well, half of it), The Prescott (have the square pizza), The Carleton Tavern.
- Don’t try to enter a big-box store using the right-hand set of doors. For some inexplicable reason, the entrance doors to big stores are almost always on the LEFT in Ottawa, contrary to what you’d see in almost any other city.
- Don’t limit your nightlife to going out to fake Irish pubs. There has been a terrible proliferation of really shoddy fake Irish pubs in Ottawa, to the extent that it can be difficult to find non-pub nightspots. Do patronize the great Ottawa pubs, in particular the Manx Pub, which is terrific, and the Heart and Crown as well (though it is quite an industry these days). But try and expand your horizons a little bit.
- Don’t assume that the rules in the roundabout on Prince of Wales near the Arboretum are the same as for every other traffic circle in the world. Likewise, don’t assume that anyone knows what the rules are. Do either one and you’ll be hit. Hard.
- Don’t assume that a restaurant’s menu is truthful. In particular, it seems that “sashimi grade tuna” VERY rarely is anything close to that quality in Ottawa restaurants.
- Don’t assume that a restaurant doesn’t have a website just because you can’t find it in Google. Most restaurants in Ottawa have disastrous Flash-only sites that are practically unusable and literally invisible to search engines. Of all of the ways that Ottawa is out of the loop with respect to the Internet, this is the most glaring problem of all. Oh, and the restaurant sites all have crappy embedded music. Turn down the volume before you go.