During the summer and fall of 1999, I made three different trips to Montreal for work. Montreal is a city with a very European atmosphere. It is also a city that became increasingly more dangerous each time I visited.
I was booked into the Holiday Inn in Pointe Claire which is on the west island near my company's site. When I went into my hotel room, the comforter and sheets on the bed were thrown about. I should have just left the room, but I didn't feel like hauling all my luggage back downstairs. I checked the bathroom to make sure no one was in there, and called the front desk with my best Goldilocks imitation--"Someone's been sleeping in my bed."
"Oh, really. We'll send someone up to make it."
"How about you give me another room?"
The first weekend my co-worker, Amy, and I drove down into upstate New York and then over to Burlington, VT. What a nice New England town. The second weekend she had gone back, so I was on my own. I decided to go down to Vieux Port (the historic district) and look around on Saturday. I knew that parking was limited down there, but thought that on Saturday I would have an easier time finding a parking place. I finally found a spot on the street. I checked the signs carefully (they're in French) and was certain there was no restriction parking there on Saturday. I noted my location so I could find my way back. Walked around the car to make sure it was really in a parking spot. Checked carefully for fire hydrants and parking meters. Excellent. I spent the day walking around Chinatown and Vieux Port.
When I came back to my car, I noticed a piece of paper stuck under the windshield wiper. It looked like a ticket, but it was a multipart carbon form, so I couldn't figure out what exactly was the problem at first (and it was mostly in French too). I could see however, that whatever it was, there was something about $40 on it. Later that night in my hotel room I finally deciphered the whole thing. It was a parking ticket for $40 because of an expired meter. But I had checked for parking meters! The next day I had to drive back down there to figure out where the meters were.
Word of warning--in Montreal, the parking meters are up against the buildings, not along the curb like most of the ones in the US. I hadn't even seen it.
I wrote a very nice letter to to the traffic bureau explaining that I was a visitor from out of town and didn't see the meter. I had been told that if I did this they would just say "stupid tourist" and throw it away. I never heard anything back so I thought it was a done deal. Two months later I had a charge on my VISA from the car rental company. The traffic bureau had gone to them to get their money. The car rental company charged me another $20 for paying my ticket. $60 parking ticket for not plugging the meter. (This is Canadian dollars, so it didn't hurt quite as bad, but still...)
People in Montreal are really not very good drivers. The streets in the city are very congested and narrow, but double parking and U-turns across 4 lanes of traffic are very common. I always watched very carefully and did a pretty good job.
One morning my co-worker, Bruce, and I needed to be downtown early to take a look at a clinical laboratory our site in Montreal was going to be using. We drove past the facility, but were unable to turn into the driveway. I was driving down a residential street, and decided to turn into a driveway to turn around. I had my blinker on, but as I started to make a left-hand turn a car behind me (must have come up fast because I had looked) decided to pass on the left. I grazed her fender. She stopped and got out and started screaming at me (not in French, thankfully) that this was all my fault and to hand over all my information. I don't normally yell and scream, so just stayed calm and told her I had my blinker on when I was making the turn. She continued to scream. I handed her my business card and told her she could contact the attorney there. She continued to scream and demand my home address, etc. I told her no, but would she please give me her information. She drove off. Never heard from her again.
On the third trip I was still staying at the Holiday Inn. The service had been questionable each time, but it was convenient to work, so I never moved out. The last time, however, was almost fatal.
I was staying on the seventh floor this time. One morning as I was leaving to go into work, I stepped into an empty elevator. (There are three and I was in the middle one.) The doors closed and immediately the elevator started free falling. I could FEEL it falling. As it passed each floor it would make a horrible grinding noise, but it wasn't slowing down. The inside of the elevator is all mirrors. I had two thoughts:
1) The last thing I see is going to be the horrified look on my face.
2) If it goes past the lobby level, can I really jump before it hits the bottom?
The elevator did stop at the lobby level, but when the doors opened, the floor of the elevator was about 15 inches lower than the floor of the lobby. Everyone standing outside the elevators stared at me as I emerged and staggered to the front desk. (I was probably a little shocky. I know I was white as a ghost.) I walked up to the man standing behind the desk:
"Shut down the middle elevator. It just free fell from the seventh floor!"
"What? Number 2?"
That was all he said. Never asked if I was alright. No apology. Nothing. I walked away and got in my car and went to work.
That elevator was still closed down when I returned that night. No one at the hotel ever said anything to me about it. I checked out and moved to the Hilton.