December 15th, 2010

Reverb 14

What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

Toronto transit.

So yesterday, I got as far as to decide what I wanted to write about, but then I had to leave and actually take transit. This is what happened:

My first bus is notoriously unreliable–sometimes you wait 20 minutes and then 3 of them show up. I’m sure you know; there are lines like this all over the city. Anyway, I only need to go 4 stops on that line, so when there is no bus in sight I walk, which I did last night. It was snowy and cold, but not as cold as in the morning, so I was more or less ok.

Then I got to my second bus line–this one normally totally reliable and frequent, which is a good thing because the distance I need to go on it is totally unwalkable. Except, last night it didn’t come for 25 minutes. By that point, I’d lost feeling in my nose and toes, and a little bit of faith in my sympathy for my fellow human beings. The two people behind me in the crowded bus shelter had the loudest voices and the most obnoxious relationship on earth–of course, the people behind me always do. But what *was* their relationship? Because it was too dark to read and my iPod wires tend to freeze in the cold, I had plenty of time to contemplate this. A couple? Maybe, they were around the same age, but I don’t think I’d order *my* partner to blow his nose (but maybe that’s just because he’s pretty well on top of things and doesn’t need my intervention). Brother and sister? They sure did bicker a lot; my favourite part was the screaming (but at least brief) argument over how much sugar was too much in the cup of coffee they were sharing (why? why?), which resulted in packets of sugar being thrown at my feet. Then, for a while, the male left the bus shelter and wandered around in the snow, which the female stood where she had been left and wailed, “Get back in the bus shelter, get back in the bus shelter!”

The man beside me attempted to say a couple things to me in a sympathetic tone of voice, but between the wind, the yelling behind us, and his thick accent, the only word I could make out was “fuck.” I smiled pacificistically at him.

By the time I wished I was dead, the bus came. Of course it was packed–by my count, at least 5 scheduled busses hadn’t arrived. I determinedly slithered my way to the back. Something makes Toronto passengers very reluctant to move back–when you ask them, they always say, “I don’t mind standing here, I’m getting off soon.” But *I* am going nearly to the end of the line, and I do mind. After only a few stops, I got a seat at the very back, by a window. I couldn’t look out, because it was coated in grime. I tried reading for a while, but something weird was going on–the bus was moving very slowly and jerkily, stopping and starting. Were we stuck in traffic? It was hard to concentrate. Finally I tipped my head against the window (toque providing some cushion) and fell asleep.

When I woke up, I had no idea how much time had passed, and because I couldn’t see out, I didn’t know where we were, either. I kind of panicked, unreasonably–there is no where that bus goes that I don’t know well or couldn’t deal with, but it was weird not to know where I was. I finally stood up in my seat, panicking the guy beside me with the giant grocery bag in his lap, and looked out the front window–we’d gone about six blocks. We were still stuck in some sort of mystery traffic-jam, the likes of which I have never seen in that part of the world before. I actually couldn’t even see traffic around us from where I sat, I just know that we were going 10km/h with frequent stops–for all I know, we were stuck in quicksand or molasses.

So we staggered along, I read a bit of the New Yorker, and the guy beside me ate two bags of salt’n’vinegar chips in rapid succession. When we finally got to my stop, I had been in transit for a grand total of 90 minutes, about twice as long as it usually takes. I got off with the same two people I’d been waiting with. I overheard them talking about which bus they would take next (those poor people–where were they going?) but then they walked right past the stop. I have absolutely no idea what was going on with those two.

And after all that…I STILL say I appreciate the TTC. For one thing, I still got to my appointment (only 3 minutes late) and there wasn’t any other way for carless me to do so–the TTC is not annoying enough to cancel out being able to go anywhere in the city for $3. And although if I win a car in Roll-Up-the-Rim or something, I would probably be pleased, I wouldn’t have really wanted to driving in all that…whatever was going on with traffic. Also, the people I was travelling with, the crazy ones? I’m *really* glad they weren’t in charge of 1000 pounds of hurtling steel and glass. On the bus, they could only damage eardrums.

Because I’m getting older, so are my friends, and I hear more transit-bashing than I used to. Common threads are: “There are too many weirdos on TTC” “I hate having to brush against strangers to get around them” “You could get bedbugs from sitting in a subway seat” “People always try to talk to me on transit” etc., etc. So much of the negativity I hear about transit basically boils down to: strangers are bad, being alone in one’s car is good. Which may well be true…for some people, people who lead lives with a lot of people in them already. For example, I drove when I worked at a fast-food joint, and was pretty happy to spend that time alone with the radio. But now I have in essence two jobs that both involve being all alone for hours at a time, and I crave strangers. I crave people, eavesdropped conversations, strange ideas–maybe not brushing up against people, certainly not bedbugs, and likely not an extend conversation on nose-blowing technique. But it’s what I’ve got, so I’ll take it and hope it gives me some insight into the world.

Maybe I’m just trying to make the best of the situation; after all, I really did sort of want to die during the above debacle. If I do win that roll-up-the-rim, I might never look back. But as long as things continue as they are, I don’t mind; I think the TTC makes my life more interesting. Also, if I drove, I couldn’t sleep on the way.

One Response to “Reverb 14”

  • http://www./ says:

    I believe the planet will become a black hole, with its center in peacefull neutral “formally known” Switzerland. (as if theire nazi gold wouldn`t be a black hole of it`s own)

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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