Navigating the Death Star

Peter Jackson
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Some doctors have a nickname for the Health Sciences Centre. They call it the Death Star.

You won’t often hear them use the term around patients. Some patients might not take it the right way, especially if they’re unaware of the allusion to the film “Star Wars.”

The reference has nothing to do with mortality rates, but rather the image it conjures of intergalactic heroes being chased through an endless labyrinth of corridors by enemy storm troopers.

How, you are thinking, can they possibly figure out where they are and where they are going?

The average architect could not deliberately design a building more confusing than the HSC.

It must have taken an evil genius, working in cahoots with number crunchers bent on saving the health system money by making sure few clients ever get where they need to go for treatment.

On Monday, I had to stop by the hospital to pick up some prescription drugs. I’ve been in and out of the main entrance enough over the years to know exactly where I need to go.

The trick is, you have to go the same route every time. Commit it to memory. Never stray.

This time, though, I took a bus from the Village mall, which meant I had to get off at the back of the building.

There’s one small public door at the back. I’ve gone through it many times, but it was snowy, and I have poor vision.

Somehow, I must have walked past it.

I struggled around snowy parking lots, encountering curbs and fences and other obstacles, including some temporary offices for construction work.

Stepping around a big garbage bin marked “Metals,” I suddenly felt my feet sliding out from under me on a patch of ice.

I landed sideways on my shoulder in a position reminiscent of a soft landing I recall learning as a teen taking Aikido lessons.

Except I’m old and fat, and I

wasn’t landing on a gym mat. And this was the furthest thing from a calculated landing.

So, my aching arm and I headed to the nice atrium on the side of the new Janeway annex, only to find it was incomplete and the doors had no handles. Further around, I finally gained access to a side door to the children’s hospital. I had finally penetrated the Death Star.

But my mission was far from over. Using the Force, and my keen sense of direction, I took a couple of corridors heading west and south, hoping I wouldn’t hit any dead ends. That was wildly optimistic. Then I hit a parking garage, seemingly between the Janeway and the original hospital. I did not know this existed.

A man in a blue T-shirt walked by looking like he knew where he was going.

I stopped and asked how to get to the main hospital, a question I had to rephrase a couple of times before he got my drift.

He pointed me through the parking garage to a door on the other side.

I went through that door. More corridors. I turned right and left and, predictably, came to a door marked “Restricted Area.”

No storm troopers in sight, but back through one set of doors I found a doctor-like man in an office chatting to a clerk.

“I’m looking for outpatient pharmacy,” I asked, my face flushed with desperation.

He thought for a minute, then pointed back through the doors I had come through.

“Go through there, take the steps up one flight, turn left and you’ll see the north elevators,” he said.

“Thanks,” I said briskly, knowing the pharmacy was about to close within minutes.

“I think I know those elevators.”

In fact, I had to go up the stairs, into the elevators, and then back down to the same floor. I made it in time and exited by my usual route.

If I ever have to do that again, though, I’ll have to up my meds.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s

commentary editor.


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Recent comments

  • VOR
    April 02, 2014 - 08:54

    Next time you find yourself lost like that, start drooling and slur your speech a little - the RNC will gladly dispatch you to a warm cell and they'll probably give you a refresher course in Aikido at the same time.

  • Hard, Hard, Times
    April 02, 2014 - 05:10

    Great dissertation on first-world problem.