The other day, I was working at my desk, periodically checking my gmail for any important (read, distracting from work) emails. Just after lunch, I saw a notice from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) about a service issue. Some problem with a train on the Yonge-University south line – a fire investigation, I think. Shuttle buses were on the way, etc etc. Nothing unusual.
So I went back to work and didn’t sit down for a gmail fix til an hour or so later. The service problem persisted. Then, my brother texted me to give me a ‘heads up’ about a major subway incident around Union station, and that it would not be cleared up for several hours. He should know, he works for the TTC. Hmm.
I normally work til about 4:30 pm, so I decided to leave a bit early, at 4:00. I walked along Wellington Street to Bay Street to catch the Bay bus. The 20 or so other passengers and I stood in the drizzle and waited. There were several people huddled under office building awnings, waiting for a ride. Others were hurrying down the street to Union station for their GO trains (the faster commute for those who liver further away).
Five minutes later, a bus came along. Completely packed. Followed by another, not quite as full – but he didn’t even stop! Mutterings, exasperated sighs, toe tapping and fidgeting, strained looks down the street to scope out another bus. Moments later, an empty bus whizzed by, the route sign read “NOT IN SERVICE”. Great, just great! The bus was moving up the street, where it would pick up passengers at stops further north. While we stood and waited!
Then another too-full-to-stop bus was followed by an empty NOT IN SERVICE bus scenario repeated itself twice more. I confess, I was not a patient or gracious commuter. I was damp from the light rain (I should have worn my other jacket and different shoes!), tired, frustrated. And I had to go pee. So I headed into the nearest office building, went downstairs to use the washroom, then back up to the street. This time, I walked down to the stop before the one at which I had so miserably waited.
Already, 30 or so bus-rider wannabees jammed the sidewalk. I plopped myself at the top of the line, right next to the stop, figuring I deserved preferential treatment, having been so wrong-done-by during my 40+ minutes at the stop up the road.
After a wait of more than 10 minutes, a bus finally pulled up. Maybe 25% full. Of course, the driver opened the rear doors as well as the front, so everyone pushed in – but I managed to snag a nice standing spot near the front of the bus. The beleaguered bus driver kept telling people to stop boarding, that the bus was full, and he could not pull away until his side sightline was clear, so “everyone, behind the white line, please!”
Finally, we pulled away from the stop and headed up Bay Street. The normally 15-20 minute ride took 45 minutes but, finally, the bus disgorged us at Bay subway station, just as someone called out “the subway’s back up and running!” Thank goodness! Every person on that bus breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing we would soon – hopefully – be home.
For me, a normally 60-75 minute commute ended up taking 150 minutes (that’s two and a half hours). I walked through my front door, took off my jacket and shoes, and went to pour myself a generous glass of a nice red shiraz. Now… what should I have for dinner?
Oh, I almost forgot! About 15 minutes into the bus ride on Bay Street, I got a seat. The woman sitting next to me was travelling with another woman who stood in front of our seats. We all had a very nice chat and passed the time quite pleasantly. It made the remaining 25 minute ride almost fun 🙂
As a seasoned public transit traveller, I have seen it all. Or rather, been a passenger on a subway train, bus or streetcar, during every type of transit woe – from minor delays due to missed buses or someone pulling the emergency alarm; to fires or criminal incidents; to a mysterious parcel found on a subway platform and deemed a possible terrorist threat; to severely depressed souls who chose to end their lives by jumping in front of a train.
All of it simply a part of life in a big metropolis. Ironically, just before writing this, I read an online article which ranked the Toronto transit system 3rd in North America, with a score of 78. Since I can’t afford to move to New York or San Francisco, I guess I’ll stay here and make the best of it.