This post originally appeared on VICE Canada
Prior to today, I had never been in a Trump Hotel in my life. After the most recent election, I still had no plan to go to a Trump Hotel ever. That was, unfortunately, until my editor suggested I dress myself up, and (with as much enthusiasm as I could muster) spend a few hours at the Toronto Trump Tower (up for sale now that the developer has defaulted on the project) on January 20—to experience Donald J. Trump's inauguration as President of the United States in the most depressing way imaginable.
Now, you're probably thinking, What's the point? Good question. Is there little significance in watching the political baptism of a foreign leader from one of that leader's hundreds of international hotels? Yes, absolutely, but it's 2017, and we now have a "President Trump" (every time you read those two words together in this article, know that I cringed writing it). Just think about it this way: anyone waking up from long coma today probably thought they were dead and sent to hell, so don't question me on how I spend my time.
When I first pulled up to Trumpkins' Canadian HQ, it was 11:30 AM—just half an hour before Twitter's @POTUS changed from the jovial smile of Obama to an awkward, snare-faced Trump photo. I figured 30 minutes would be enough time for me to figure out where the crowd (if any) would be, obtain the WiFi password, and settle into the building's Calvin Bar—where hotel staff had told me they would be showing a broadcast of the inauguration.
As I entered through the building's gold-plated, rotating push-doors, the bougieness I expected to be in the air of a Trump-owned building was not immediately present. The lobby, for the most part, was empty aside from the dozen or so employees, and the Calvin Bar was a total graveyard. Unsure if I was actually going to see anything interesting, I decided to head up to the "America" restaurant (best known for being absolutely savaged in a review) on the 31st floor.
At the elevators, an employee greeted me. "Good morning, sir!" the 20-something baby-faced hotel staffer said to me, gesturing toward the elevator before sending me on my way. "Please enjoy yourself," he said, quickly exiting as the doors closed. As I ascended, I took a moment to look at myself in the elevator's mirror. Surrounded by gold, flying to the top of one of the city's tallest buildings, and I didn't even have to press my own floor buttons. Probably the whitest I've ever felt in my life.
Like the bar, America was also empty. The interior was quite plain—like a Cactus Club designed by investment bankers. White walls, black chairs, lots of natural light being obscured by awful fluorescent fixtures. As I went to take a photo, a server spotted me and tried to usher me in. I ducked out quickly in a moment of sheer awkwardness, finger the elevator button aggressively like I was trying to play QWOP for the first time.
Back downstairs, some more people had filled in the lobby. A few groups of women, and a handful of men, one of whom had a Make America Great Again hat on, were discussing the inauguration quite loudly. Thank god, I found my people.
"We're truly living it," the MAGA-wearing man said to a member of the concierge, who chimed in about his own experiences with protests outside of the Toronto Trump Tower.
"These people keep whining…They protested us a little while ago. Like, are we really the issue here? What are you accomplishing?"
As the clock crept closer to noon, I decided to head back to the bar and grab a seat, even if that meant I was watching the inauguration alone. Thankfully, two older men were at the bar and had already turned the volume up on the TV. There was no bartender, just an empty space, HDTV, and the three of us. To my surprise, as soon as the clock struck noon, President Trump had already begun reading his vows.
"That's it," one of the men said, laughing when Trump mentioned Obama and the camera panned to former president's distraught-looking face. "He looks so mad." I just sat there silently, reading and hearing the words "45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump," wondering if the aliens could come to wipe us out sooner.
As quickly as it started, Trump's speech was done. The two men beside me quickly packed their bags and exited the room, leaving me with nothing but CNN anchors loudly recapping what had just occurred. Outside, financial district businessmen and women passed by without care for what was happening. Feeling a need for human connection, I went back up to America and sat down for a coffee.
One of the servers, initially curious if I wanted lunch, was not willing to talk about her thoughts on the new leader of the country her restaurant was named after. Instead, I was offered milk or cream for my coffee. I took milk. Other employees I asked flatly told me "No" when asked for comment on President Trump. Probably for the best.
On the street, I approached the suit-clad smokers hanging around the nearby banks, on what I assumed to be their lunch breaks, for some quick thoughts on the #Inauguration. Most laughed, some ignored me, a few yelled "Fuck Donald Trump!" Overall, it felt like the world was going to shit but people had adjusted to the temperature of the toilet bowl.
One young man, who simply wanted to be referred to as John, told me he doesn't know what to think of the Trump inauguration, but said the situation is "fucked up" and that he was "praying for me" as a reporter. Although I took the comment tongue-in-cheek, the cab ride home had me thinking about it a lot. As absurd as this situation is, it might not be too long before we accept this reality and get on with ignoring politics.
Follow Jake Kivanc on Twitter.