A Trashy Commute

It was supposed to be a run-of-the-mill, relatively quiet commute home.

I was going to read until I drifted off to sleep, catch a 10 to 15-minute disco nap, then rouse myself and move along to the next connection.

But, nooooo.

It started out the way it was supposed to. I plopped myself down in a bucket seat and pulled out  my magazine.

Across the aisle, there was some dude, wearing a nondescript baseball cap, t-shirt and jean shorts. On the seats before him lay a huge pile of commuter papers and, from what I can remember, I think an orange.

And for roughly five-ish minutes, it was fine.

Then I heard a loud crumple, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guy lob a crushed plastic bottle.

Uh-oh, I thought, directing my gaze elsewhere, as the train travelled over the Don Valley.

And then a couple of passengers got on at the next station – one of them, a Chinese-Canadian fellow.

Why is that even relevant, you ask? Well, because he was the unfortunate recipient of what happened next.

Whatever the guy in the ballcap was internalizing, he picked THAT moment to spew it out, like molten lava.

The Chinese guy was standing just inside the doors, because, well, there was newspaper all over the seats.

Then Ballcap Dude said rather loudly, “COME ON. SIT. SIT DOWN!” and proceeded to knock all the newspapers off the covered seats all over the ground.

He then started to gather them up, while rather loudly grumbling that no one cared about the state of the subway, that it was ’cause of IMMIGRANTS.

And that’s when it began.

He was barely 30 seconds into his rant when a guy sitting about 20 feet away started responding loudly in term – presumably to shut Ballcap Dude up for his anti-immigrant opinion.

That just set him off.

Like a rabid pitbull, he went after the guy 20 feet away, calling him every name in the book, making a point of referring to the fact the guy was fat, yelling at him to shut up, yelling that he’d come all the way from Jane Station and had been picking up EVERYONE’S discarded papers, and what a waste of paper it was.

At one point, Ballcap Dude got up as if making to march over there and punch The Other Guy in the face – assuming the “wanna go?!” stance and literally SPITTING on the floor a couple times.

The Other Guy wouldn’t go down without a (verbal) fight. He got off a stop before Ballcap Guy … but not before the latter had stomped up and got up in the guy’s grill. I seriously was considering pressing the emergency button if The Other Guy hadn’t gotten off.

Ballcap Dude got off a stop later (Woodbine, if you want to know, since he shouted it to THE ENTIRE SUBWAY CAR six stops earlier), papers in hand, seeming to seek sympathy for his ’cause from a fellow commuter just trying to make it to the escalator.

“Look at all this paper! What a waste!” he said in a slightly less deafening tone. “I picked up all this paper. I’m ONLY. ONE. PERSON …”

The thing is, BallCap Dude – despite his multiple issues – had a good point.

A large number of commuters – young, old, large, small, from all walks of life – are pigs. They treat the TTC subway cars like a garbage can, and leave their trash EVERYWHERE.

Despite the commission’s best efforts, a lot of passengers don’t feel as if it’s their job to keep their vehicles clean. (I’m sure there are some out there who think they’re keeping maintenance staff gainfully employed by leaving their crap to be cleaned up.)

Unfortunately, the man’s argument was mothered to death by the big, steaming pile of poop that was his shouty, spittle-flecked, ignorant invective.

Too bad.

Nixing The Bus

Last week, when Toronto city council had toyed with the idea of a TTC fare increase, a lot of transit riders weren’t amused.

When it scrapped said proposal early last week, we breathed a sigh of relief.

Not surprisingly, that was temporary.

Currently on the table is a plan to cut back service and reduce hours on 48 TTC bus routes across the city.

The current status is that the TTC has voted to delay its decision until a meeting on Feb. 2nd (that’s right, Groundhog Day) so it can hold consultations with riders who will be affected – anyone from seniors to students to people who work late at night. The public meetings take place next week, and there are four of them, the dates and times of which you can find on the TTC’s Web site.

I’m strongly considering attending one of these meetings. But I’m torn on the issue (what else is new, right?).

On one hand is the financial issue. The TTC decided not to raise fares to deal with its financial shortfall. But the money still has to come from somewhere, right? And with routes who are carrying less than a handful of people late at night or on the weekends, what financial sense does it make to pay drivers to drive almost-empty buses till 1 a.m.? Plus, the delays have reportedly already cost the city $1 million in potential savings.

But on the other hand are other issues. Safety. A connection to amenities and communities. Convenience of being able to find a comparably shorter way of getting to work.

Some of the friends and colleagues who know me or read this blog already know ALL about me and my commuting situation. But humour me for the sake of this argument:

Where I live, there are three operating bus routes – four if you count the one that only operates in my area during rush hour.

Two of those routes are a three-minute walk from my house.

The third route – which won’t be sliced – is 700 metres (or an eight-minute walk) in the opposite direction.

The two closest routes are the ones on the chopping block.

So what, who cares? You might think. Just go to the route that’s not being cut.

Well, here’s what: I work Thursdays to Sundays, not 9-5, and my job’s downtown.

The bus ride is only one leg of a one-way, 75-to-90-minute commute.

My shifts start in the morning, and end well into the evening. If I go straight home after work, I still don’t get home until about 10 p.m. And – with the frigid winter temperatures these days – it’s nice to only have to walk 3 minutes in the dark and the cold, rather than almost 10 minutes.

Before 2008, I walked the eight minutes to the main route on Saturday mornings. Late at night, I’d have to decide whether to wait 20-30 minutes at Scarborough Town Centre for the last or second-to-last bus, or take a $20 cab.

In the last two years, it’s been a bit better. Sure, if I don’t want to pay an astronomical cab fare from downtown, then I still need to use the subway and a bus during TTC’s hours of operation. But depending on when I get to Scarborough Town Centre for the last leg of my trip, I sometimes get another option – and one that drops me close to home.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m one of the luckier ones.

There are other Torontonians out there, who may only have ONE route to get around and do important things – like get to their jobs, pick up their kids, do their groceries – in a way that doesn’t make things harder or more time-consuming, if not damn near impossible, for them.

And as a woman, the thought of travelling in the middle of the night and not having the luxury – or the pocket money – to consider taking a taxi as an option, is concerning. Yet there are women of all ages who do this all the time, sometimes risking their safety to get home, or elsewhere.

That’s my take on things.

If you’re a TTC user who rides an affected route, consider attending one of next week’s public meetings – they run from Jan. 24 – 27. Or, if you can’t make it, you can go to the TTC Web site and leave your opinions there.

After all, you’ve got nothing to lose by speaking up.