TTC Etiquette and The Tale of the Dodo

Day 1

Eastbound on the St. Clair streetcar from Oakwood, I feel as if I’m part of a pack of refugees desperately trying to claw their way onto the last caravan toward salvation. People push their way in through the back exit two stops in and, as the car is already packed, the latest additions to our huddled masses have to stand tip-toed at the top of the stairs to allow the doors to close behind them. They lean backward at dangerous angles. If this were a bus, they would certainly be floored (staired). I feel like an elitist having been able to acquire a seat amidst all this chaos.

When I arrived to get on, the line was piling out into the road past the end of the long, dedicated lane waiting area. Not a common sight as far as I know, though I’m heading to work early today. When a magically empty streetcar turned off Oakwood and pulled up in front of us, frenzied excitement broke the air of concern; we will make it to work / school / wherever on time today. Near the end of the horde, I’m surprised to see that despite the apparent abundance of streetcar real estate (there’s even another one 2 minutes down the avenue), I’m passed by a number of people. One of them is elderly, so I don’t really fault her lack of tact in cutting me off. Though, the assertion of entitlement is a tad off-putting.

Taking the train southbound, we arrive at St. George where the awaiting commuters pulsate like an obese, clogged artery trying to push just one more cheese burger through. I don’t notice any old or decrepit people getting on to whom I could donate my seat, so I stay firmly planted. Of course, I haven’t looked up from my book in a while.

The train grinds to a halt somewhere in the tunnel between Osgoode and St. Andrew. A communal moan stretches through every car like some perverse, rush-hour version of “the wave”. Even I’m stressed and I’m comfortable… and early.

Day 3

I’m late. The manic-panic of this morning rush is something I wish I weren’t used to. To think I even got up on time today. How did this happen? Regardless, this is far too common an occurrence. One day I’ll figure out a schedule that actually works. Or maybe the TTC will? Even if I get the best connection ever, I won’t have time to grab a coffee or a smoke before I hurriedly scurry to my desk when the train doors open. Of course, everything that could be is delayed today. I wish I drove… and that cars were environmentally friendly… and cost no more than a Metropass… and that downtown traffic was in any way reasonable.

Pic via BetterTTC.com (Click to open in new tab)

Getting on the train from anywhere in the “U” is nearly impossible between the hours of 5 and 6pm, particularly on the Yonge line. The King Station northbound platform is packed and mostly everyone is fretting that they’re not going to make it onto the next metallic tube of comfort to anywhere but here. Some readjust their positions in hopes that the doors will open right where they’re standing, clearly guaranteeing themselves a spot. It’s the end of the day, but very few of us seem to realize that we’re no longer on the clock. The rush, the panic of the a.m. isn’t really gone. If anything, it’s more motivated.

Finally, my chance has arrived! Wait, why is everybody shoving? I’m not the type to plough my way in, but seriously, I have to stand my ground here. This stupid kid in front of me won’t take off his backpack and it’s the only thing preventing me from getting on. If this were Tokyo, I’d have been crammed in from behind by one of their Packing Officers. I bet he’d have enjoyed that new angle; bent down to extra stench of crotch level because he couldn’t be bothered to hold that pouch of texts at his feet. Alas, the doors close and my perfect positioning is lost. Not so perfect, I guess.

Standing on the edge of the platform is disconcerting. Why isn’t anyone moving back? Are they planning on knocking me off to guarantee their own spot on the next escape fuselage? I actually have to assert my old position just to feel like I’m not about to get whacked.

Speaking of assertion, I don’t think I’ll ever understand why it’s so hard to get off the train: Whether it’s obnoxious couples in love angling themselves obtrusively inside the car or the ever-too-common crowding outside the doors at any major hub on the subway line. One might think people would realize that for them to get on sooner, they need to make way for those getting off. Where is the etiquette? WHERE’S THE LOGIC?

Day 5

Alright lady, I’m sure that book is amazing, but for the love of god, don’t stand in the middle of the fucking escalator! Walk left, stand right. Simple concept. Designed for the likes of people who can’t pat their head and rub their stomachs at the same time; or in your case, can apparently read a book but have no idea what that yellow instructional sign with four words on it said – or rather, used to say. I’m so glad it’s Friday.

I got “sick” and left work early. Time to get my drink on. My excitement is currently being channeled through earphones. Soon to be deaf, I must revel these moments while I still can. However, I don’t think the middle-aged guy beside me is enjoying my tunes as much as I am. He keeps fiddling with his ear and glancing disapprovingly at me through the periphery. All he has to do is ask and I’ll turn it down. I might not hear him, but… I think I’ll be polite and change from Death From Above to Beirut. Sometimes I wonder if I’m ever going to get flicked in the ear for my lack of audible courtesy. Worse yet, maybe they’ll start enforcing the by-law that states if anyone else can hear your music, you’re in violation of TTC code and I’ll get a ticket.

Day 6

Ow. My head… Where the hell am I? I’d better get home.

This bus is surprisingly packed for a Saturday morning. I’m pleased and surprised to be able to sit without having to ask this dude to move his bag as I wasn’t looking forward to to releasing an earphone to speak with a stranger. This anti-social cocoon I’ve spun for myself is fiercely comfortable. Can you believe people used to talk to each other to pass time on the bus?

A mother with a baby in a stroller and a toddler to the side gets on. She makes it all the way to the middle of the bus (where I am) and no one offers her a seat.

Where’s the etiquette?

About Seamus Gearin

Séamus once found a $100 bill and gave it to the first person who passed by. He's regretted it ever since.