The Chopper

A huge SUV stops in front of a shoddy looking convenience store on the corner of our street next door to Payless Meats. Three people who look as though they might be in the Secret Service get out of the car and walk stiffly into the store as the SUV speeds away. A helicopter is hovering above our house, moving only occasionally, but always returning.

We had heard the helicopter for a while. We have become used to sirens of all kinds, but a helicopter was something new. My mom is getting my daughter dressed for bed and I have just come out from putting my infant son in his crib.

“It’s just hovering there,” my wife says. “There isn’t another neighbourhood in Vancouver they would do this in.”

I laughed.

“There isn’t!”

The helicopter was not a police chopper but was filming an arial shot for a commercial for Verizon. I know it is a Verizon commercial they are filming because I had seen a notice at a neighbour’s house earlier in the week. My neighbour said everyone films around here. Vancouver has built up the infrastructure for shooting commercials, movies, and television shows in the past couple decades, so even though the Canadian dollar is currently no cheaper than the American one, I suppose it’s relatively easy to film things here. Because our new neighbourhood is the only one in town that might qualify as gritty in “the most livable city in the world,” we often encounter crews filming on the street during our walks.

“Could you imagine the residents of Shaughnessy putting up with this?” M. continues.

It’s not actually that late in the evening, but we get on edge when something might interrupt our children’s sleep. We moved not too long ago from a small town in the UK. We rented a very large flat in the second and third floors of an old house. We also had a large lawn which our landlords would cut once a week and it always seemed to be during the kids’ nap. I would almost want to go down and tell the gardener to come back in a few hours, but the lawnmower never seemed to wake the kids up anyway.

Nevertheless, my wife has a point. The helicopter is awfully close to our house and I bet that the producers of the ad have no idea how many children live on our block. There may be 20 people under the age of 20 and 12 kids under 13 on any given night sleeping in the 6 houses on our block. Walking through the neighbourhood during the day, one would not get the impression that many young families live in the area.

I’m not sure that would have hindered anyone from flying a chopper above our houses anyway, even at midnight. We live in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, after all. Google “notorious downtown eastside” in quotation marks and your search returns 39,100 results. It’s unlikely any advertising exec would care about disturbing the peace in this neighbourhood. Does anyone even think there would be peace here?

The kids are tired from swimming at the swimming pool at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, where my parents are staying. They sleep through the noise though my wife and I are on edge until chopper leaves.

After eating, I walk my parents down to the bus stop. The closest one is right in front of Payless Meats so we have to walk two blocks down the street. Two nights previous I waited for the bus with them at the closer stop while two coked up prostitutes paced furiously behind us. Despite the noise, I have to admit that the film crew provided a welcome change from the norm.


About azlewis

I'm an academic living in the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. I also teach at a local seminary.
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