I have been fortunate enough for the majority of my adult life to be able to commute to work by car in locations that are not subway accessible (see the first point below) within a close proximity to my home. Or unfortunate if you take an environmental standpoint, but Toronto’s transit system is so antiquated that it would have taken double the time to get to work and when I don’t want to be there in the first place, why would I want to spend more time getting to and from the necessary evil?
Beginning last December however, I have been temping downtown and there is no other feasible way to travel except via the subway. And although there are advantages, like being green and the additional reading time, there are plenty of disadvantages. I’m sure transit lifers have more stories as I’m such a newbie. But I’ve seen my share and sometimes my novels don’t quite offer the escape required from the sardine machine.
Kudos to everyone who has traveled ‘the better way’ every day for decades because there have been many a trying moment in my last nine months (including a 1.5 hour delay where I had to stand on a platform. Outside. In February). I normally have my nose tucked in a book, so I probably miss much, but from time to time (especially if the book isn’t interesting, or if I get too sidetracked by annoying people), I turn up my head and take in the scenery.
In no particular order, my Toronto commuting pet peeves:
- The Toronto Transit Subway System itself. Having recently visited NYC, we quite easily traveled via subway from time to time and were shocked at the staggering amount of lines and routes available. Toronto desperately needs to get its act together. It’s embarrassing.
- Delays – At a minimum of once a week, there is a serious delay on my commute. At times it is more than once during what is supposed to be my 30 minute train ride. Today, for example, my penance for writing this was an additional 20 minutes due to several issues. Malfunctioning trains, idiots who press the emergency button because they have nothing better to do, fights on the platform, security issues and the thing they never talk about, all crop up on numerous occasions. I’m all for the emergency buttons. I am. For an EMERGENCY. Like when my grandmother fainted on the platform last year (she commutes to bingo. And I won’t even get into the stories she can tell). That’s an emergency. When you’re annoyed at your fellow sardines. That is NOT.
- Pole Huggers –Go take a class if you want a pole all to yourself.
- Pickers – Need I say more? See germs below.
- Coughs that are not covered by hands, sleeves, newspapers. Nothing. It makes me want to crawl into a bubble. Again, see germs below.
- Germs – The subway will make a germaphobe out of you faster than you can buy stock in Lysol. (see above).
- Cologne and Perfume bathers – The sinus headache before my day has begun is fab.
- For the boys: Even if my nose is tucked into a book, your crotch is at eye level and any adjusting you do is still well within in my line of vision. And so are your underpants when your jeans are around your ankles.
- Mold – I realize there is probably not much that can be done about this, but my sinuses tell me loud and clear each morning that it should be a growing concern.
- You love your music. I don’t. To channel my mother, and show my age, you’ll go deaf.
- Screaming at fellow commuters and near fist fights. These are always fun.
- Obnoxious talkers. You don’t need to speak quite so loudly. It’s a confined space. And I want to read. I know its not the library, but at 7:30 in the morning, please do not disturb my delusions that life should still be quiet and calm. Or at 5:00pm when I want quiet after a busy day (well, as busy as a temp can be), I do not need to hear your life story.
And two of my personal favourite moments:
- The groaning woman with bowel issues who had no qualms letting the entire passenger car know about it. Yet she wouldn’t get off. I really could have used some thumping music of above said offenders. How can you not get off, travel above ground to find facilities? This also proves the subway system desperately lacks restrooms.
- The drunken teenage girl I thought was going to fall onto the tracks until her equally inebriated friend dragged her back. (No, I have never been that drunk and stupid. That I can remember). Thankfully she got off the train before she could decorate it with the Rockaberry Cooler or whatever the cool kids are drinking these days.
All grumbling aside, I’ve also seen good. Seats given up for the elderly, infirm, stroller bound, or expecting women. Doors held open and people stepping off a busy train to wait for another to make room for a handicapped man in a wheelchair. Heck, I’ve even braced myself to catch a toddler and once, an elderly man, who chuckled profusely when he notice I had thought I might catch him if the train jerked and he fell. At least I made him laugh. There isn’t much laughter on the subway. Maybe there should be. Then again, maybe not. I need to keep reading after all. And throngs of people need to keep doing what they’re doing. Unless they’re things on my aggravating list. Then they should stop.