Holiday week required two trips two days in a row to Pearson’s Terminal Two via car to drop off and pick up various current and former Torontonians and their festive parcels. It will be nice when a fixed link is established to our airport and the impulse to use a car is diminished — but for now when time allows there is still a certain thrill in getting on the 401, during perhaps the only week when it isn’t insufferably slow, and negotiating all those lanes of fast moving traffic. It was a sad couple of trips though, as T2’s days are numbered. It’s your last chance to see it and the greatest-parking-garage-in-Canada attached to it.
Terminal Two was often our in-between point when traveling between Windsor and Halifax as it was the Air Canada hub. Sometimes we would switch planes there, other times get dropped off after a 3.5 hour 401 drive. It did as much to contribute to my childhood view of Toronto-as-modern-utopia as did Ontario Place or the CN Tower. It was the first place I rode on moving sidewalks (when you jumped on them they bounced a bit, like a narrow trampoline) and sat in chairs with built-in black and white TVs that operated on a quarter-by-quarter basis. Old Aeroquay 1 was more celebrated for its ’60s jet set design, but for us, Detroit’s International terminal was where we picked up relatives from Malta or Australia so T2 was the most familiar place at Pearson. Today it mostly handles Air Canada and United flights to the United States, as domestic travel goes through the new T1. Back in July when flying to California, we bestowed the “Saddest Room in Toronto” title to the U.S. Pre-Customs area at T2. Abandon all hope, ye who enter post 9-11 America.
The terminal itself is only remarkable because of it’s eternal length — it was originally a freight terminal (more about this in a Stroll column from last year) — making the low-rise parking garage stand out even more. The tiered concrete, each level having a row of plants that hid the cars inside, looked unlike anything else. During the summer it was like parking inside of a Mayan pyramid that had been consumed by the jungle, a brilliant contrast of grey concrete and vibrant green. That is, if the Mayan’s had electricity, because all the ramps in and out have guardrails that light up from within. Last week the plants were in winter hibernation, and many of the lights inside the rails were burnt out, but it still made the act of driving into a parking garage feel like docking a space shuttle.
Though there is no need to strike a Save Terminal Two Committee or chain hippies to the concrete to block the wrecking ball, this old parking garage and terminal will be missed a little. When a place this big suddenly ceases to be a place, it’s a strange thing, and leaves a bit of hole in the psychogeography of the city. Two years ago we flew out of Montreal’s Mirabel Airport during it’s dying days — it had a similar feeling of mass abandonment. You can almost hear the buildings say “I used to be somebody, I used to be a contender.”
If you visit this month, spend a little time at the arrivals platform and just watch. If you don’t get to see an overzealous GTAA employee interrogate the old lady above about how she got her airport wheelchair, you’ll watch people pace and fidget as they wait for their missed-one, then when they see each other wave then smile awkwardly for a few seconds as the arrival makes his/her their way down the ramp until they can finally hug. You will cry your own airport tears if the person you’re picking up is late enough and you get to watch a few too many of these little wonderful public-private moments.