16 Dec

A Special Saturday in the Universe’s Center

Highlights of yesterday’s bus/train voyage to and from the Center of the Universe:

0. The occasion for my trip was to commemorate the 11th anniversary of the passing my dear friend Carli Ward, who, though she likely never saw much of Toronto, did like trains.

1. Despite leaving the house in complete darkness at 6 am, there was a surprising number of people out and about as I made my way to Fairview Mall to catch the bus. Among them were a scruffy old woman puffing up a storm as her dog was taking her for a walk and another guy who was singing as he was strutting down the sidewalk. Yet that did not translate into a higher-than-normal crowd on the bus or the train. Quite the contrary, the bus was nearly empty and, for most of the train ride, there was only one other person in the car I was in.

2. The number of carts left around the stop at Fairview Mall proved convenient as more than one passenger used them as trays for their orders from the nearby Tim Hortons.

2a. I’m still shocked that the McDonald’s in Fairview Mall is gone and even more shocked that the closure didn’t make front-page news.

3. A woman who got on at Beamsville with her male companion asked the driver, “You take debit, right?” No, they don’t, nor do they on any of the 14 transit systems I’ve been on over the past decade. The two of them then spent the next few minutes scrounging up enough cash for their trip to the universe’s center.

4. At last, the City of Hamilton has finally fixed the worst section of Kenora Avenue, whose divots felt as deep as the Grand Canyon as the GO bus made the annoying and convoluted loop to approach the Nash and Barton stop.

5. History was made as, for the first time since taking the #12 GO bus, no one got on at Nash and Barton.

6. Just leave your used apple core on the seat:

7. Raoul was here:

8. I prefer dead tables, myself. You never know what those live ones will do.

9. The purpose of this block of wood dangling from those wires near the Long Branch stop remains unclear:

10. One of the overhead messages on the Gardiner read, “That text or call could end it all.”

11. Scenes near the Great Hall in Union Station:

12. Scenes in Union Station’s new food court, located on the lower level in the York concourse. The new eateries include full-service Tim Hortons and McDonald’s locations in addition to Pizza Pizza, sushi, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Sicilian and Thai restaurants. There was also a “Get Loaded” restaurant featuring loaded perogies and Roywoods Union, which advertised itself as “Home of the Jerks.” Perhaps their head office is located in Winnipeg.

13. Better than gifts from Mars, I suppose.

14. Just drop your pants and leave them on the street.

15. Dead bird in the middle of the road:

16. Assorted street urchins:

17. A couple of interesting scenes around Queen Street West:

18. I think the writer had too many “spirits” in his system …

19. This was a sight that couldn’t help but make me remember the late, great Ken “Friar” Nicolson, the former voice of the Jets:

20. A rat with its tail on fire?

21. Walking past Osgoode Hall around 10:30 am, I spotted a scruffy bum in his early 30s cracking open a beer. Perhaps he was getting an early start or getting in one last brew before passing out.

22. This woman was one of two at Nathan Phillips Square standing in a stationary pose with her hands above her head, looking down and, I’m guessing, meditating and honoring whatever or whoever “Falun Dafa” is.

23. Other scenes at Nathan Phillips Square:

24. Near the skating rink, “Babsocks,” socks bearing the image of Leafs coach Mike Babcock, were being promoted. At the Leafs store in what is now Scotiabank Arena, they retail for $22.99. Whether or not that is a good value is left as an exercise for the reader.

25. A couple of shots of Darryl Sittler’s likeness at Legends Row:

26. Passing the McDonald’s in Eaton Center, I noticed a wide-bodied fatso waddling up to the kiosk. Rule of thumb: when you’re wider than the kiosk, you don’t need McDonald’s.

27. At the A & W in Eaton Center, a bum began accosting those of us in line, asking to buy him a burger because he was 50 cents short. When I turned away and ignored him, he said, “Don’t insult me, just say no.” Later, while eating, another bum was making the rounds asking for money, but he didn’t stop at my table. Sometimes it pays to appear unapproachable.

27a. I’m beginning to seriously dislike A & W’s practice of asking for a name on each order. I much prefer the system used by McDonald’s, where they give you a number.

27b. The aforementioned practice brings back memories of Radio Shack, where you couldn’t pick up something as trivial as a pair of AA batteries without getting asked for your name, address and life expectancy. It was a major reason why I avoided that place like the plague.

28. Not surprisingly, there were long lines at the Tim Hortons and A & W, but elsewhere, the Mediterranean place and Mucho Burrito weren’t exactly having to beat customers off with a stick. The Thai place that had the “strap on the feed bag” feel to it, however, also had long lines.

29. A young woman in her early 20s passed by wearing far too much makeup and neon red eye shadow. And to think she spent a lot of time and effort to make herself look sillier than a circus clown.

30. The woman in her mid-30s seated two tables away from me had a very contemplative look on her face as she pulled a piece of meat drenched in some weird sauce from the end of her chopsticks into her mouth. Among her thoughts may have been, “Whose pet was this?”

31. In the urinal I used in the washroom was a toothbrush and on the ground nearby was an open tube of Crest toothpaste. Methinks someone learned the hard way that standing over a urinal to brush your teeth wasn’t necessarily a good idea.

31a. That sight reminded me of the night at the Meridian Center when I spotted someone putting in eye drops while standing at the urinal right after doing his business. Then he went to wash his hands.

32. I couldn’t help but laugh when passing the Microsoft store in Eaton Center, where they had this “Give wonder” display. If you really want some wonder with your computing experience, join me in dumping Windows in favor of Linux Mint. I installed it side-by-side with Windows on an older laptop nearly three months ago and haven’t looked back.

33. Rather than go up to street level, I used the underground walkway to get from Eaton Center to Union Station. It reminded me very much of the elaborate skyway system in downtown Minneapolis, but a first-time visitor needs to pay close attention to the maps provided at the entrance to each building.

33a. I know it wasn’t a workday, but I was still shocked that so many shops in the walkway were closed, especially so close to Christmas. Eaton Center was the only major mall that was open.

34. While waiting for the Lakeshore West train at Union Station, the only other person besides me who wasn’t engrossed with his/her phone was a bum who had a foot-long growth on his straggly beard that was probably providing a good home to some multilegged critters.

35. By the time we got to Clarkson, the customer service ambassador on that Lakeshore West train began sounding like someone who got as much sleep as I did the previous night as the announcement of “the doors are closing” became “drsrclsn” the rest of the way. We didn’t even get the customary “GO is pleased to provide bus connections to Stoney Creek, Grimsby, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls” when pulling into Burlington.

36. There weren’t many on the Burlington-bound bus I took in the morning, but the same could not be said for the return trip, where most of the passengers had plenty of luggage in tow. Luggage that kept spilling out into the aisle. This was a case where the driver should have insisted upon putting the luggage in the rear storage compartment.

37. Passing through Grimsby, I saw a driver from the Great State of New York who had a half an eye on the road and the other one and a half eyes on his female companion in the passenger’s seat. Distracted driving isn’t just limited to texting.