Commuting is a Crazy Train

Public transit has been a part of my life for a couple years now, but has never so present as this co-op work term in downtown Toronto. Compared to some people, I can be considered lucky; an hour and a half commute each way is not ridiculous, especially when I don’t have to concentrate on where I’m going. But as any regular city commuter can testify, transit can absolutely drive you up the wall.

My day begins in the early morning, where I either take the bus or bum a ride off of my neighbour to the Go Train station. From there, it’s a ride into the city and a quick walk over to the subway, which luckily takes me to the corner less than a block away from my building. While living at home undoubtedly has its perks, commute clearly isn’t one of them.

Does it get ridiculously boring? Not usually. I admit that I regularly spend the morning trip knocked out stone cold (I’ve developed a talent for sleeping just about anywhere…), but the trip is far from dull. Regular activities can include (but is not limited to) reading, playing Dots on my iPad, coding a side-project, talking to friends, and staring out the window whilest listening to a little Bastille or Ingrid Michaelson.

However, my favourite pastime by a highway mile is people-watching. You may be protesting that this is actually quite creepy, and I have to say I agree with you. But you can’t deny that it’s fun. My methods stray from the traditional objectives, such as creating a “possible life” for the person I watch; rather, I look for commonalities, searching for habits that define humanity in their own seemingly insignificant way.

One of my favourite incidents happened on the subway one morning in the usual oppressive 8:30 rush. Below are some rambling thoughts I jotted down about what I saw.

Dazed business-people with glazed eyes
Bleary schoolchildren and disgruntled teens
Staring everywhere but at each other
Drawn to colourful signs with impossible promises
Sipping coffee on a normally bleak ride
Doors signal closing with a cheerful triad
And a well-dressed man rushes indignantly
Just missing the doors closing behind him
But upsetting white-cupped expensive coffee
In the hasty process
And everyone stares
He apologizes half-heartedly to a woman’s shoes
Offering a smudged newspaper to clean
And everyone stares
As the train slows, the coffee runs
An above-ground muddy river
Carving its path through the stifling air
As people in nice shoes try to avoid it
It winds its way down the car
Flowing against the train
Filling the red tracks
A woman with nails striped blue and white
In allegiance to a losing team
Tries not to look at the spreading, pathetic lake
Another eats a Danish quietly
Trying desperately to stay awake
Looking longingly at wasted caffeine
Navigating the maze of wet and dry
Every person avoids the emblem of clumsiness
Like it is a plague they can catch
A beacon of a bad start to a worse day
When the doors chime open
The once-cheerful triad seems less genuine
Trying too hard
Going through the motions with a tuneless, plastic smile
And when I exit the train
I step over the coffee too.

Anyways. What was the point of this post? I’m not quite sure. But what I do know is that the singularity in which we carve our way through the city, the isolation we seek amongst the crowds, is simply odd. We avoid anyone and everything on principle; widening our paths into a clean swoop around a screaming customer, looking down at the sidewalk instead of at a person walking towards us in case we accidentally make eye contact, re-reading irrelevant signs for the 15th time because we are afraid to look anywhere else. Humans have gotten so good at separation that it has become the norm. But should it be?

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