I moved from Saskatchewan to Ottawa in January of 2001 because I’d been offered a job here with a national arts organization. But when I started looking for a place to live in, I was shocked by how expensive everything was. There was no way I could afford even the smallest, ugliest place I saw that was reasonably close to my new office.
But since I needed to find something, for the first three months I lived with a couple in Aylmer - an anglo community just across the bridge from Ottawa.
We lived in a townhouse right beside the Ottawa River. The couple who owned the place were looking to bring in a renter to off-set their costs. The price was right, but otherwise it never fit.
They didn’t have a separate suite to rent out – I just had a bedroom on the same 2nd floor that they did. We shared the bathroom, the living room, the kitchen... well, actually it felt more like I was invading their privacy every time I used any of these rooms. The woman was a stressed and anxious type who didn’t really warm to me and with whom I had a hard time talking. The guy was easy-going and I could make conversation with him – but if I talked too long his wife would glare daggers at me.
So I spent most of my time in the house up in my room. I also tried to be away from the house as much as possible. I actually ended up getting to know Ottawa a lot better than I might have if I’d lived in a place I actually wanted to be in.
They would sleep in on weekends so I’d get up early and have my breakfast and coffee. As soon I heard them stirring, I’d grab my keys and get in my car. Often I‘d drive just to explore, not sure where I was going till I got there.
I don’t think they were too surprised when I gave notice that I was leaving. And as far as I know they didn’t take in another tenant – so likely the experience wasn’t all that great for them either.