Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Dear Internet,

I would like to start off by thanking the omnipotent powers that be for A/C and ice cream. It's quite hot...and after braving my commute home, A/C and ice cream are quite nice.

Which brings me ever so subtly to the topic of commuting. A commute could be a five minute walk, or a two hour ordeal. My commute happens to fall in between, in the "half hour annoyance" category. I walk about ten minutes to a subway station, take the subway a few stops west, get off, get on another subway and take that a few stops south, then walk about ten minutes to my office building (and the opposite on the way home). That doesn't sound so bad, someone naive may say, at least you don't have to walk. At least I don't have to walk. I suppose. But there are times when walking may be less annoying than putting up with the damned TTC.

Damned may be a little strong. But it's quite often an annoyance to me. First of all, the subway stations are stifling. Standing and waiting for the train to come for more than just a few minutes is a special sort of nine-to-five hell that couldn't really be appreciated by someone who did not have to put up with it every day. After the first minute of staring (at the screen saying how much longer until the train arrives, where five minutes for it are about ten minutes on my watch, or into the tunnel through which the train will come whooshing, or at the advertisements plastered everywhere, it really doesn't matter), a dull sort of panic sets in where you realize just how hot it is and just how stale the air is and just how many people are going to be crowding onto the already-packed train behind you. It's overwhelming to the point where even thinking feels hot.

Then, the train arrives, and you pile in and try to maintain as much of your personal space bubble as possible. Although it is cooler and air-conditioned in the train, your brain has already been boiled waiting and everything is annoying. From the man in front of you who backs up when a girl nearly falls into him when the train starts moving, but doesn't move forward again once she regains her balance, or the couple who avoids falling over by leaning against each other (way too much physical contact for the subway, a place where personal space is honored above all else), or the incompetent people who squish around the doors instead of moving into the more spacious centre of the car, or even (if you are riding an older train) the lack of an overhead bar to hang onto as the train jerks towards movement...it's all annoying. Terribly, terribly annoying.

Yesterday, the subway was closed for a few stations on the west arm of the subway route in the afternoon. "Not a problem for me," I thought as I listened to the announcement, barely audible over the sounds of trains screeching to a halt, "I'm headed east." Looking at the screen above me, however, showed that perhaps it did affect the east-bound subway somewhat, for apparently five minutes, as opposed to the typical rush-hour two or three, had to elapse before another train pulled into the station. An extra few minutes of brain boiling before entering the subway car, and of course, the platform filled quickly with people who were probably equally as annoyed as I was. When the train finally arrived (after five minutes according to the screen and ten minutes according to my watch), it was crowded, and I was stuck the middle. And of course, it was an older train which had pulled in, meaning there was no overhead bar to clasp as the train began moving, and thus I was stuck to hone my subway surfing skills.

Subway surfing is what I like to call the action of riding the subway, standing up, without leaning on or holding onto anything. This is best done, I've discovered, by spreading your legs somewhat and bending your knees, as if you were snowboarding (or, I suppose, actually surfing). That way, it's easiest to prevent falling (due to a lower centre of gravity, I believe, but I was never very good at the conceptual side of physics). However, spreading one's feet is a luxury not often achievable in rush hour traffic, and certainly not after the people who boarded the train had been congregating on the platform for more than two or three minutes. Thus, as the train started (and mysteriously and annoyingly stopped and started and stopped and started again) I was moving more than I would have liked and bumping into people more than they would have liked. My annoyance must have shown on my face, because the woman standing next to me, who did have the luxury of holding onto a vertical bar that was sadly out of my own reach, looks at me and says, "You know what TTC stands for? Take The Car."

Ah, if only I could. But I must put up with another two months of the nine to five summer hell in this big, hot city, until I get to return to my blessed, blessed suburbs.



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