Sunday, May 24, 2009

Riding the Rocket

I have not been entirely truthful. I do not live in Toronto - at least not in the sense that many do live in Toronto. That is to say, I live there full-time, meaning that for two-thirds of the year my postal code has an M at the front of it. Unfortunately, I am in that dreaded one-third period where my mail is relegated to L-class - I am in "Greater Toronto" (AKA Lesser Toronto) and could not be more upset about it.

My only link to the city during this dreadful time is one and a half hours of public transit. The hour is spent on the clean and shiny yet inefficient York Region VIVA system. The half is spent on the TTC subway's "Yellow Line" which I'm sure is familiar to most.

I hear many grumblings about the TTC, but I am an ardent fan. Perhaps this is the suburban girl in me marvelling at a system that continuously provides service at all hours of the day, but I think my metro-closeted upbringing could equally harm my opinion of the Toronto Transit Commission.

For one, never have I met employees so surly as I have in the tunnel. I try my hardest to be extra-chipper for them (although it could be people like me that eventually push them over the edge). This surliness is exacerbated by the moustaches sported by all male Commission employees over thirty-five, something that I am now positive is part of the uniform. Once, expecting the woman at the ticket booth to be a real rager, I didn't realize that she was letting me through for free. We had a little laugh and I darted off towards Victoria Park, my first journey with an unbroken twenty still flat in my wallet.

Public transit in Toronto also offers that excellent feeling of rider comraderie. I spent an entire trip - Union to Finch - jabbering with the person behind me about what would happen if the train broke down. I feel as though that conversation was more candid, fun, and honest than many of the ones I've forced myself through with certain coworkers or classmates. Even if you can't find someone to talk to, you can always eavesdrop - the train is a forum for all of life's most painful decisions and hilarious party stories.

For those who say that the subway is depressing, I argue that the long periods of time spent in the dark make those short journeys through the light (like riding past Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Davisville, or the short-but-sweet leafiness of Rosedale) all the more wonderful. And some of the most interesting, concerning and beautiful advertisements that I've seen have been exclusive to the subway. Though some (*coughMarkKingwellcough*) seem to think that these advertisements are a corporate invasion of our public space, I prefer to acknowledge them as welcome changes every month or so, and furthermore to thank them for keeping the price under three dollars (unlike VIVA, which in its four short years of operation has risen to $3.25 a ride).

Lastly, being underground means that, for a brief period, we are free from daily cellphonery. I cherish that half hour where, when listening to a conversation or having your own, it happens the way it's supposed to - face-to-face.

P.S. One thing I will mention that I despise about the TTC - it's new website. It went from a barely navigable HTML shitshow with an adorable chime everytime you hit the mainpage to a sleek, sophisticated layout with dropdown menus. I've spent so much time mastering the old website that the intuitiveness of the new design does nothing except piss me off. I know that the Commission has been into innovation lately - such as the proposed light-rail service actually getting implemented. Furthermore, Commissioner Adam Giambrone has proven himself to be one of the technorati - not only with facebook and twitter accounts but also by pioneering a new way to email.

Innovate all you like, TTC. Just leave my website alone.

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