The Price of Pretention

Last modified on May 25th, 2007

After I broke up with my ex-girlfriend, I decided that for the first time in a long time, I wanted to live relatively close to work. Some people argue that if you had to choose, you should always choose to live where you play (as opposed to living where you work). But, I spent the last few years having nearly an hour commute in each direction to go to work, and I was just sick of it.

So, I found a place downtown, and here I am, after nearly two years. I have a pretty sweet deal down here – I pay $1200 for an 800 sq. ft. apartment about 20 steps from the water, in a relatively nice area of downtown. But to be honest, I’m not a big fan of living downtown. I’m a very light sleeper, and a usual night for me involves waking up to sirens, or watching the fantastical art on my walls from the lights the cop cars make as they fly down the Granville Street bridge.

People ask me all the time if I live in Yaletown, and for some reason some people seem to assume I live there (I don’t know why?) I’m not really sure what part of downtown I live in, although if you check out this definition from wikipedia:

Yaletown is an area of downtown Vancouver approximately bordered by False Creek, Smithe, Davie and Homer Streets. Formerly a heavy industrial area dominated by warehouses and rail yards, since the 1986 World’s Fair, it has been transformed into one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the city.

then I don’t live in Yaletown. Which, to be honest, is a good thing in my mind. And the fact that I can even say that bothers me to no end. Because it seems like there’s this stigma attached to so many people in Vancouver simply on where they live or work. Invariably, one of the first questions people seem to ask around here in the bars is “where do you live?” And while I haven’t spent tons of time in other big cities, I have spent enough, at least in Canadian cities, to know that it’s a strange question to ask. What people are really asking is “are you cool enough to hang out with me?”

Yaletown has a reputation for being full of self-important people willing to drop $14 on a glass of wine or a glass of rum and coke. Many of the newest bars in the region are martini bars or tapas houses, and while I swing by from time to time to meet people from out of town who are in Vancouver, I never really feel comfortable in that kind of place. I think of bringing some of my Chilliwack friends into places like that, and it nearly makes me sick to my stomach.

The other day I walked into Starbucks on my way into the office. I’m not one of the people who got on the coffee bandwagon — I actually think Starbucks coffee tastes like shit, and I just don’t buy into the whole latte-three-times-a-day thing. I’ll take a can of diet coke over a partially-streamed no-fat extra-hot over-priced thingamabobber anyday. But, I do like caffeine, and one of the side effects of me being downtown is that I’m usually rather tired after a night of not sleeping very well. So I walked in to grab a medium cup of drip coffee. But since it was nice outside, I figured I’d just get them to throw it over some ice and have a nice refreshing iced coffee. Well, when I hit the cash register, the guy asked for nearly $4. I was like “for what?” He was like “your iced coffee.” I said “it’s just coffee, with ice in it right?” And he was like “yeah it is.” So, I paid $4 for a $1.50 drink with some ice in it. And I beat myself up about it all the way to work.

I read a revealing article last year about why all these coffee places can get away with charging these insane prices. The author’s opinion, and one that I found myself swayed towards, was that people aren’t really paying $4 for a hot coffee — they are buying a small chunk of time outside of the office and the daily grind of the work force. I guess it has slowly replaced the water cooler over time, but I think it’s just insane how much money people are willing to drop at places like that. I for one, for whatever reason, am happy I am generally not associated with that lifestyle, and am still debating getting the hell out of the downtown core.