a peek inside the fishbowl

09 Jun, 2021

Strange things, familiar things

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro|Misc. life

The other day I wandered down to Westboro to pick up a loaf of bread from Mamie Clafoutis. I can’t express to you how happy that made me — the mere act of walking down the street on a sunny day to buy something so simple and lovely as a fresh loaf of bread put a smile on my face.

As I approached the front door I donned my favourite mask and scanned for signage. It’s strange to think how much my train of thought has changed for such a simple thing as opening the door to a shop I’ve been in dozens of times: Only four customers allowed inside at a time, okaaay, but that means I need to open the door and step over the threshold (a BIT, not TOO MUCH) and do a head count. Hmm. So there’s one guy over here, a married couple over there. Couldn’t one of them have waited outside? Ok, so that’s three and I am the fourth so I think I can proceed, oops, I better keep my distance from the guy in front of me…!

I ordered my loaf while drinking in the view of all of the gorgeous treats in the display case but didn’t buy anything else. I paid up (are you taking cash now?) and made my way along the one way exit route that all customers must travel to leave the shop through a different set of doors. My eyes scanned the upturned chairs and cordoned off tables. In pre-COVID times I rarely came here to linger with a coffee and a pastry but I suddenly missed it very much, not just the act of eating a pastry with a friend or a loved one or even alone in a bustling cafe, but having the option to do it in the first place.

As I neared the door I realized I’d caught up to the couple ahead of me. They’d taken some extra time to doctor their coffees with cream and sugar and stood at the exit door. When I finally approached he was out on the sidewalk and she was closer to the door, and consequently, to me. She held the door open for me to walk through. It happened so quickly I almost missed it. For a moment we were closer than the prescribed 2m guideline! She touched something and then I touched it! I said thank you and she said you’re welcome! And then we all went on our way.

It seems silly to recount here, but I honestly don’t remember the last time I’d had this kind of exchange, one that involved shared air/space/place/time with a total stranger in my own neighbourhood. I’ve missed it very much.

4 Responses to "Strange things, familiar things"

1 | Alison in Ottawa

June 10th, 2021 at 10:45 pm


I felt the same way when I was a Corner Peach a few days ago. A couple going in the store together and they filled up the limit. If one of them had waited outside I would not have had to wait while the store made their drinks and sandwiches. They could have ordered abs then one person gone outside. I only wanted to get the soft serve ice cream which took less than a min. By the way their rhubarb-strawberry soft serve was amazing.

2 | andrea tomkins

June 11th, 2021 at 11:21 am


This has happened to me as well. :( People should try to be a bit more aware! And thanks for the reminder about Corner Peach. I’ve been meaning to check them out for ages.

3 | Alison in Ottawa

June 11th, 2021 at 7:38 pm


Also – The Corner Peach sourdough bread was maybe the best I have ever had. And the make your own Eton Mess was a fun purchase too

4 | Wanda

June 12th, 2021 at 8:26 am


Thank you for sharing your inner dialogue. I must admit that I have become nervous about social interaction. It is an awful realization because I always loved time with friends and hosting. It feels weird, but it has been a year+ of planned or furtive conversations. It has been a year+ of polite distance. It been a year+ of mainly interacting in a professional circles or with family.

I was thinking of inviting a couple over for a casual drink on our deck and got bogged down in details and never did it. (When would be a good time? I don’t want to push someone into a situation they aren’t ready for. Should I offer food, would that be safe/comfortable for them? Should I get disposable hand towels for the bathroom?…) My inner dialogue got overwhelmed.

It will come back…I am just unsure of how to start. Maybe I should just be brave and rip the metaphorical band aid off.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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