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Journal: World Youth Day at TGH

Toronto General Hospital (July 2002): Toronto General Hospital was closing — yes, CLOSING — in honour of the World Youth Day parade, which was to take place next door. No one was to be permitted on the site without a pass. This level of precaution struck me as not only unreasonable but very difficult to enforce, so I decided to go visit the hospital anyhow and see how tough it would be to snipe the crowds below, if I was interested in doing that sort of thing.
       The main front entrance to the hospital was closed entirely. Heading to the main back entrance, I joined a single-file line of people being admitted through a single narrow doorway. Two guards wearing "security" vests were controlling the flow of the line. When I got to the front, one ordered "I need to see your hospital staff pass or official visitor pass." I then began to relate a long, wearying story about how I had to have a test done, and no one had warned me that the hospital would be closed, and I had come such a long way and the subway was so crowded with Catholics, and so on. The line behind me began to build, and it had begun to pour, so the guard just sort of nodded me through wordlessly.
       I proceeded to the clinic I'd mentioned to the guard, only to find it was closed. Most things were closed — I'd never seen TGH so empty. Suspecting that another guard would be in front of the passenger elevators, I took the nearest service elevator to a floor I knew to be insecure. As I strolled past the floor's reception desk, I smiled and waved at a wall behind the people manning the desk, so they'd assume I had someone's okay and ignore me. They did. I continued down the hall towards the stairs, which I scaled to the top of the building.
       To my joyous surprise, the door at the top of the building was open, so I strolled out into the pouring rain, 17 storeys above the road where the Catholic procession would soon be taking place. Squeezing myself through the one missing panel in the aluminum fence that separates one side of the roof from the other, I was able to get nice pictures of the road below and the construction of the new wing of the hospital.
       As I mentioned, it was pouring this entire time, and by the time I stepped back inside I was dripping wet. Realizing that I'd be very suspicious if any employee saw me in this state, I decided to stick to the stairwell, which no one but me ever uses since the doors to the staircase are alarmed on most floors. As I got down to about the 10th floor, however, I heard jingly footsteps coming down about three storeys above me. My soaking shoes were squeaking fiercely, so I tried to walk down the stairs both as quickly and as quietly as possible, hoping that the jingly fellow behind me wouldn't notice that I was in the stairwell below him. But the guy was coming strong, taking stairs way faster than most people would and quickly closing the gap between the two of us to between one and two storeys — it felt, to me, like he was chasing me. I soon gave up on the idea of stealth and just went for speed, racing down the stairs as fast as I possibly could, holding onto the handrail so I could safely jump down the final few steps on each flight.
       Luckily, I was faster than the guy, and was a full three storeys ahead of him by the time I returned to the second level and hopped back out into the briarpatch of doors and passageways that I probably knew better than my pursuer. Not wanting to risk going out the way I came in, I headed for a side exit I knew of. When I got there, I was surprised to see that it was manned by two guards who immediately looked up at me, clearly surprised to see me.
       It was time to come up with something brilliant, some completely suave justification for the fact that I was emerging, pass-less, drenched and out-of-breath, from an out-of-use wing of the hospital on this day when the hospital was closed to the public.
       "Hi," I said, smiling.
       "Hi," they said, smiling.
       I went home.

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