Tag Archives: GO

25 Nov

Black Friday in Hamilton

Pictures and observations from yesterday’s outing to Hamilton:

1. Given the extreme cold temperature of +2C when I left the house, I could certainly understand why the woman I passed by on Scott Street was wearing heavy, fur-lined boots that came halfway up to her knees. Even though there wasn’t a single flake of snow on the ground, you can never be too prepared. Same goes for the woman who got on the GO bus who had a woolen lining in her boots.

2. Did you lose this mitten?

3. Another cat owner who expects the general public to care more about his/her cat than he/she does:

4. Someone driving a van flagged down the GO bus on South Service Road as it was leaving the Beamsville stop and the driver actually stopped and waited as the passenger scurried around to the front door. Once again, this is not the Old Country, where stories of drivers taking off just as frantic passengers running after the bus reach the stop remain commonplace.

5. With a little time on his hands at Grimsby, the driver got off and hastily got in a few puffs of his cigarette before getting back on the road. Someone who is that desperate for a puff has a serious problem.

6. There are circus clowns who don’t apply as much lipstick as the teenager who boarded at Grimsby and got off with me at Nash and Barton. Sadly, it was a sight I would see twice more during the day. There should be something on the label stating that it’s not meant to be applied a tube at a time.

7. Said teenager, evidently annoyed that she was kept waiting for a few minutes for the Barton bus, kept checking the schedule posted on the pole. Experienced HSR riders know that the Barton bus comes often enough. You don’t need to check the schedule.

8. Evidently the GO bus driver is not alone in being desperate for a puff.

9. After boarding the Barton bus, three people came running after it as it was about to take off. And the driver waited. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

10. I couldn’t believe that the HSR buses had the very non-politically-correct “Merry Christmas” flashing on the display.

11. As expected, the trip on the Barton bus was again an experience to behold. It didn’t take long for the first stroller, followed right behind by another, and the number of walkers and carts that had come and gone on the way downtown must have reached double figures.

12. A hair stylist at Gage had the sign “Your welcome without an appointment” in the window. Apparently grammar wasn’t you’re best subject.

13. Back-A-Da-Bus-O-Phobia is a problem in Hamilton, but not nearly the way it is in the Old Country.

14. Only a veteran of Winnipeg Transit like me can still marvel as how the rear doors on HSR buses open automatically, even though it has been more than three years post-defection.

15. Plastered on the after-hours return slot at the library on Barton was “Library Book Return.” What else would the book return be for?

16. I’ve smelled worse, but the guy who sat next to me on the Barton bus needed a bath a few days ago.

17. After using the washroom at Jackson Square, I still appreciate how most people in this part of the world wash their hands after doing their business. On my return trip, there was even a lineup to use the sinks.

18. The #25 bus I took to Lime Ridge Mall was packed, as were others I spotted during the day. Though it wasn’t the reason for my trip, Black Friday evidently remains quite popular. Go figure.

19. I think only someone born in Southern Ontario can understand the logic behind dumping so much salt in a parking lot on a day when it never got below freezing and when there isn’t a single flake of snow on the ground.

20. Someone didn’t play his cards right.

21. The Bill Friday Lawfield Arena, named for the legendary referee who was most noted for his work in the WHA. I still remember the game when Friday pulled a mirror out of his back pocket to check to see that every strand of his slicked-back hair was in place. No doubt he had a lucrative endorsement deal from Brylcreem, which was all the rage at the time.

22. Finally, some people are starting to come to their senses.

23. Back at Hamilton’s largest mall, there was one place with a sign saying “50% off entire store” out front. But what if I don’t want the entire store?

24. Crowds were so thick that there was a half-hour wait to get into the Disney store, a similar wait to get into a jewelry store and the lineup at the Tim Hortons in the food court was 20-30 deep.

25. Spotted in the crowds was a woman with shamrock-green hair. It was Black Friday, not St. Patrick’s Day.

26. Walking north on Upper Wentworth, I spotted a woman madly shivering in the “cold” as she was waiting for an approaching bus. Tip of the day: Do up your jacket.

27. As I’ve heard it said recently, $15/hour is great. If you have a job. Which many minimum-wage earners won’t once this “fair” wage becomes law.

28. More political uncorrectness:

29. Shots of lower town while walking down the mountain at Arkledun Avenue:

30. Spotted on the way down was a Hamilton Cab with the slogan “Powered by diversity” plastered on the door. Can’t we even get in a cab these days without getting a left-wing political lecture?

31. This convenience store across from Gore Park isn’t quite so convenient anymore:

32. The tree going up in Gore Park:

33. Two guys sitting in Gore Park shooting the breeze:

34. Spotted in Jackson Square was a restaurant serving sausage and spinach soup. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

35. Also spotted in Jackson Square was a store claiming to have the right to inspect bags and empty pockets upon request. Good luck with that. But in any event, I have the right to take my business elsewhere. Which I did.

36. Take a load off your feet.

37. More salt.

38. The return trip on the Barton bus had the requisite two strollers and another large collection of walkers and carts.

39. A teenager got on at St. Matthews with a pierced tongue. Ewww.

40. A woman sitting across the aisle looked at me strangely as I was taking notes. Was it because I was taking notes or because I was using a notepad instead of a cell phone like 99% of the Western world would do?

41. I took note when a woman got on wearing a hoodie with “Prince Edward Island” emblazoned across the front. For those who are unaware, Charlottetown came in second in the relocation derby.

42. After getting to Nash and Barton, I was promptly approached by a creepy guy asking me if I had a quarter to spare. Which I didn’t. At least not for him. He claimed to be 75 cents short for bus fare, which made his supposed need for a quarter look even less credible, yet he had plenty of money for smokes and the cell phone he was jabbering away on while going through three of his cigarettes during the long wait for the GO bus. Fear not for 25-Cent Dude, however, as he bummed a dollar off of one of the cashiers inside the Wholesale Club grocery store.

43. Giving 25-Cent Dude some competition was an older guy standing on the sidewalk holding out a Tim Hortons cup with a pre-printed sign hanging around his neck approaching cars on their way out of the lot.

44. Seated in front of me on the GO bus was a woman so obese that she was taking up one and a half seats. Somehow I don’t think she paid a 50% premium on her fare.

45. The GO bus driver wasn’t wearing a name tag, but I could tell that his name was Leadfoot. Between Stoney Creek and Grimsby, he was in the third lane from the right passing semi-trailers.

46. 25-Cent Dude got off at Beamsville, where he unlocked his bike and proceeded west on the wrong side of South Service Road.

47. Dear crossing guard at Geneva Street: It was not necessary for you to blow that accursed whistle in my ear. Same goes for the crossing guard at Vine Street.

48. I know they do it for everyone, but do I look like someone so young that I need help crossing the street? I mean, I was in elementary school when the Jets were in the WHA.

49. The cyclist who passed me on Scott Street needs to lube his chain. It was that obvious.

50. Passing me on the sidewalk on Scott Street was someone in plaid pants wearing his house slippers whose head was completely shaven save for several randomly scattered clumps of hair.

51. As opposed to stale Ontario trees …

23 Nov

An Uneventful GO Meeting

Takeaways from the disappointing meeting on the proposed GO train service to Niagara held at the downtown library last night:

1. I arrived before 6:00 and was far from the first one through the doors. People in this part of the world are, if nothing else, early birds.

2. The Metrolinx employees, including the presenter, acted as if they were sent from on high to save us unwashed masses out here in the boonies. Next time, try some humility.

3. Metrolinx staff evidently do have a policy of looking out for their own. Case in point was one poor staffer being harangued by Big Bearded Guy who was mercifully rescued by one of his colleagues, ostensibly to answer a question for another attendee.

3a. Big Bearded Guy sure did look lost after the target of his monologue was snatched from his grasp.

4. One of the slides of the virtually useless presentation dealt with “tree and vegetation mitigation.” I think they meant tree and vegetation impact mitigation.

5. There were lots of questions from the standing-room-only crowd, yet virtually no answers. Worse yet, when someone asked a question regarding the train station, the designated expert from Metrolinx assigned to give the non-answer admitted he hadn’t even been to the station. Forgive me if I don’t quite understand why they even came out and held the meeting.

6. Among the more noteworthy questions still waiting for an answer was whether or not the new line will be a feeder route to Burlington or will run directly to Union Station in the universe’s center.

7. There seemed to be a lot support for putting the station near 406 and Glendale, yet the current Western Hill location has evidently been set in stone.

8. They didn’t even seem to know how many parking spaces would be available at the station, nor the fact that Ridley College and the former TRW owned adjacent properties that could be used for that purpose.

9. When there was someone with a comment, it wouldn’t have hurt the Metrolinx staff to take note of it themselves instead of brusquely telling us to fill out a comment card.

10. Fear not, the GO bus service is not going to be eliminated.

11. The humpback bridge on St. Paul Street near the station is scheduled for replacement, yet the planning still hasn’t gone past the environmental assessment phase. Someone mentioned that regional chair Alan Caslin was quoted as saying that the bridge won’t be replaced until after the trains start rolling. Oy.

02 Aug

Commemorating an Anniversary

Observations from a day trip to and from Pearson Airport commemorating the three-year anniversary of our defection from the SPRM:

1. I shouldn’t have been surprised to see an SPRM plate upon arrival at Fairview Mall to catch the #12 GO bus. But I was.

For the record, that same car also was there after getting back. Again, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

1a. I spotted two trucks from Bison Transport on the way to Burlington. That place does have a way of following me around.

2. Also waiting at Fairview was a middle-aged dude with an emerging beer belly who was madly puffing away on a cigarette. Rather than use the wheels on his suitcases, he opted to borrow a shopping cart from one of the stores in the mall to haul his luggage around.

3. Now an experienced veteran of the GO bus, I’ve got the prerecorded line they play when opening the door down pat. Thank you for pre-purchasing your fare. For customers using Presto, please have your card ready to tap on. Thank you for traveling with GO Transit.

4. A couple seated in the upper level who I later learned were headed to Quebec City had dragged their suitcases up the steep, narrow staircase. As did a couple on the return trip. I do not understand the apparent fascination with hauling heavy luggage around the bus when storage facilities are provided right by the door, and upon request, in the locked rear compartment.

5. A scruffy punk in his 20s who got on at Fairview was sporting a T-shirt with “Turkey Bowl” on it and was slurping his coffee so loudly the bus driver below him must have been able to hear it.

6. At Grimsby, I spotted a plate with the last three digits of 642. I would also spot a 642 plate parked at Port Credit as well as locomotive 642 at Union Station. I knew I was not alone on this trip. You may understand. You may not.

7. Boarding at Grimsby was a smoker who put his expertise in speed-puffing to good use to squeeze every last bit out of his cigarette before getting on.

8. Also at Grimsby was someone waiting to go to St. Catharines. Despite the fact that the bus was clearly signed, “Burlington Carpool,” he figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask if the bus was going to St. Catharines. Sure, buddy, we’ll just turn the bus around and make a special trip back to Fairview. Because it’s you.

9. Leaving Grimsby, I spotted a sign for “fresh fruit from the farm.” Where else besides a grocery store would you expect to get fresh fruit from? A car wash?

10. I didn’t know there was more than one stop at Fairview Street and Maple Avenue.

11. The construction of the new Burlington GO station remains a puzzling and lone exception to the otherwise speedy pace at which things get done in this part of the world. I swear they’re working on a one-screw-per-day rule.

11a. What do you suppose we’ll see first? Year-round train service to Niagara, the completion of the new Burlington GO station or Halley’s Comet? My money’s on the comet.

12. On the Union-bound Lakeshore West train, the customer service ambassador’s disdain for her job could not have been more obvious. I didn’t think it was possible to say “final call for the doors” any faster and less clearly than she did.

13. On said Lakeshore West train, I had the pleasure of being entertained by a teenage princess who, like, couldn’t stop, like, saying “like.” Including the part where she gave us the details of, like, her proposed trip to, like, Florida. But, like, she didn’t have much, like, money. Like, what a shame.

13a. It was the same way on the return trip on both the train and the bus. The next time someone tells you that the most used word in the English language is “the,” don’t believe it. Like, it’s just got to be “like.”

14. Another case of failed train etiquette:

14a. Not to defend it, but it beats the obnoxious bums, beer bottles and condom wrappers regularly found on Winnipeg Transit.

15. I also had the pleasure of watching the infantile doodlings of a fellow passenger seated in front of me. What people will do to mindlessly pass the time.

16. Walking through Union Station to catch the UP Express train, I couldn’t help but wonder why they didn’t call the new service the Pearson-Union Express instead. PU Express has such a classier ring to it.

17. A hard, wooden bench isn’t exactly my idea of “comfort.”

17a. This would have constituted high-end, luxury seating at the previous incarnation of Manitoba Taxpayers Stadium, where you couldn’t even be assured of getting a back on your seat.

18. I was so happy to hear that Dr. J. didn’t find anything troubling with the guy who boarded the UP Express train at the Bloor station. But the entire car didn’t need to know the particulars of his visit to the dentist. Nor did we need to know about his upcoming travel plans to China.

18a. I don’t think I was the only one cheering when he got off at the Weston station.

19. It’s nice that they provide moving sidewalks at Pearson, but I don’t understand why people who want to walk get on them. I swear for every five people using the moving sidewalk, three of them were walking.

20. As I did in my last trip to Pearson, I took the link train to Terminal 3 and back, but this time, I recorded it on video.

21. I stopped for lunch at Subway at Terminal 3, where the people behind the counter had less command of the English language than the crew who served me in Gatineau last year.

22. Dear Frans Von Houten: Whoever you are, there’s someone walking the halls of Terminal 3 looking for you.

23. A shot of the Niagara Airbus counter. Where it all began.

24. There were far too many people in Union Station who looked like they’ve been featured on People of Walmart. Maybe soon there will be a People of Union Station website.

24a. Among the People of Union Station was a woman wearing a T-shirt a couple of sizes too small showing off the results of a surgical procedure. It must have been tough for the surgeon to implant so much silicone or saline, depending what it is they use these days.

24b. That sighting reminded me of the time when I heard basketball announcer Chip Caray say “There’s a Dow Corning nightmare” when the camera focused on a scantily-clad cheerleader.

24c. Also among the People of Union Station was someone covered in tattoos from head to toe. I don’t get it and I’m proud of that.

25. Visiting the washroom prior to boarding the train back to Burlington, I noticed everyone was washing their hands after doing their business. I continue to appreciate living in a part of the world where this is the norm, not the exception. Just like I continue to appreciate living in a part of the world where police have to remind homeowners to lock their doors before going to bed at night.

26. The internal IP address and MAC address of the display screen up at platform 9 was not something travelers, even techies like me, particularly needed to know. But the wizards at GO evidently thought otherwise.

27. I’m not sure why those screws were sticking up from the roof covering the staircase leading up to the platform, but it’s got to be one heck of a deterrent for anyone who gets the brain wave of crawling up there to wave good-bye to departing train passengers.

28. Mixed in among the “likes” from a teenage princess seated a few rows away from me were, “me and her went somewhere,” and “it’s like every five minutes, she goes ‘I’m lost.’”

29. On the train, someone came around for a fare inspection, followed behind by a constable to write a ticket in case there was anyone who had not paid. Which there wasn’t, at least in my car.

After they left, I couldn’t help but recall the words of a friend from Winnipeg who remarked how surprised he was that so many people actually paid on the train. It again made me happy to be living in a part of the world where paying fare under the honor system is the norm rather than the exception. Not that Winnipeg will ever get anything close to the equivalent of the GO train.

30. Spotted at the Bronte station was a bike whose owner had dropped the lock on the ground rather than using it to lock up the bike. But both the bike and the lock were probably still there when the owner came back for them, unlike what would happen in some other parts of the world.

31. If a prospective thief can manage to cut his way through the thick metal poles holding up this sign at the Burlington GO station, that puny little cable sure isn’t going to stand in his way.

32. Spotted at the Burlington GO station was a young mother pushing a stroller who couldn’t have been much older than 14. Oy.

33. To the three people who asked me for tourist information at the Burlington GO station, you’re welcome.

34. The driver of the car the GO bus was following turned on her signal lights after taking the exit to the QEW. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.

35. According to the British guy seated behind me on the GO bus, there’s also a town called Grimsby in the UK, but it’s a “total turdhole.” At least from what I was able to gather in between “likes.” Like, that got to be really annoying.

36. Why do people make a special effort to go up top and park themselves in the front row just so they can snooze through the entire hour-long ride? Like, I don’t get it.

37. Spotted on the back of a van we were following: Rules of the Car: 1. Get in. 2. Shut up. 3. Hold on.

38. After getting off at Stoney Creek, a kid who got off ran down the street as if he had a 2×4 rammed up his backside.

39. As we made our way through a heavy rainstorm, the British guy said, “The only thing that would make this trip more Canadian is some bears.” I can understand bears, sort of, but since when has rain become quintessentially Canadian?

39a. Traveling through said rainstorm, I couldn’t help but recall Environment Canada’s forecast of 40% chance of showers. How those people can justify their jobs is beyond me.

40. Some rubby-dub got on at Grimsby who looked like he hadn’t either shaved or bathed in the past couple of weeks. He was wearing a cap with “I Don’t Care” written on it and I didn’t doubt it for a second.

41. Someone painted the bench at the Beamsville stop in rainbow colors. Enough already! I don’t care if you marry a goat. But as a good friend often says, stop shoving it down my throat!

42. Spotted on a van near Fairview Mall: If you choke a smurf, does it turn blue?

04 Jun

An Odd Day on the Train

Thoughts, observations and pictures from my journey to and from Mississauga yesterday:

1. I spotted this pile of dirt with “DIG” painted on it. I know I bring too much with me on these trips, but sadly, a shovel wasn’t among what I had packed. Maybe next time.

2. It was nice that, even in early June, I needed a light jacket. It sure beats the blazing heat we had last summer and what they’ve got in the Old Country right now.

3. While waiting for the GO bus at Fairview Mall, two other passengers and I were watching an older guy pushing a grocery cart going through some nearby dumpsters. One of the others said he knew the dumpster-diver, who apparently lives in an $800,000 house in the North End, and recently spotted him eating some scraps he had found. “There’s got to be something wrong with him,” he said, and I didn’t disagree with his observation.

For the benefit of loyal readers from the SPRM, a North End address is a highly desirable location here in St. Catharines. In the degenerate capital of the SPRM, if you added up the value of every house in the North End, I doubt the total would come to $800,000.

4. Approaching the Burlington GO station, I spotted this cyclist on Fairview Street:

I do have a fondness for stuffed animals, but I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to mount one on top of my helmet. But to each his own.

5. While in line at the Burlington Outhouse before catching the 9:07 train, I listened as two Burlington Transit drivers exchanged stories as they answered the call of nature. One of them spoke about an incident when a passenger complained because he “was driving so slow that it was giving her a headache.” As he explained to the distressed passenger, he was just keeping to schedule, rather than racing ahead to the end of his route. Like what I often encountered on Winnipeg Transit. Drivers there would also make a habit of lollygagging around when significantly behind schedule.

6. Construction at the new GO station in Burlington continues to move along at a glacially slow pace. With any luck, it will open sometime within the next couple of decades. When it will be long since obsolete and due for a refit. You have to wonder if they hired contractors from the SPRM.

7. While heading north along Hurontario Street, I spotted someone running like hell trying to catch the MiWay bus I was on. To the driver’s credit, he stopped and waited for her, and did so again for another passenger a few blocks later. Unlike what normally happens on Winnipeg Transit, where drivers wait until such a person reaches the front door before taking off. I’ve seen it happen so often that I think it must be a like a badge of honor for them.

8. Rather than thanking the driver for waiting for her, the second passenger was bellyaching that he didn’t pick her up at the stop she was waiting at, conveniently overlooking the fact that it was an express bus and wasn’t supposed to stop there, as the signage clearly indicated. But then again, it requires some effort to read signs. Effort few seem willing to expend.

9. MiWay makes the eighth different transit agency where I’ve been able to use my Presto card, yet I still can’t use it here in Niagara. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

9a. If Regional Chair Alan Caslin is so hot to expedite the proposed GO train service to Niagara for the benefit of the 50 or so people who may or may not come here for the Canada Summer Games in 2021, why is he also not trying equally hard to expedite the ability to use Presto on Niagara transit systems?

10. The scene outside Entrance 4 at Square One, named “Hazel’s Walk” in honor of the former Mississauga mayor:

11. Scenes in and around Mississauga Celebration Square:

12. Well, this is the Center of the Universe …

13. A, B and C must have been taken:

14. Almost as soon as I took my seat on the #19 bus to take me back to the Port Credit GO station, I was approached by a woman going up and down the aisle asking everyone for “a little bit of change so she can buy some shoes.” Kudos to my fellow passengers who also refused her advances.

For the record, she hardly looked impoverished. I should instead have been asking her for some spare change.

15. For those who need to travel along Hurontario Street, it’s worthwhile to plan your trip to catch the #103 express bus instead of the “milk run” bus I was on. The light should have come on when a stop wasn’t requested rather than when someone rang the bell.

15a. Note to mothers with children: The bus is not a playground. Keep your children with you. For their benefit and ours.

16. I was surprised that, on all three of my three MiWay trips, less than half the passengers paid with Presto.

17. I was equally surprised that I was one of only a handful who thanked the driver on their way out.

18. On the return trip to Burlington, I spotted an empty beer can on the GO train, the first such can I’ve seen on public transit since my defection from the SPRM more than 34 months ago.

For those who are unaware, such sightings are commonplace on Winnipeg Transit. As are graffiti, mass quantities of assorted garbage, vomit and bums passed out on seats. All things I don’t miss and have come not to expect.

19. On the #12 bus back to St. Catharines, I was seated immediately behind a father with his two children who spent the entire time badmouthing their mother. His first task was to make sure to tell them that their mother doesn’t really want them, she just wants the $1,000/month she collects from him for having them, then he not so subtly instructed them to spy on her. “If your mom messes up again, I can get you back with me.”

He went on to tell them how their mother tried to get him back, but not because she really wanted him, she just wanted to use him. Then he told them that the only reason she takes the kids out to play is just to show the lawyer that she does indeed play sports with them. Finally, he said that their mother is lazy and lying to them in regard to getting vaccinated. The latter point made one of the kids start crying.

Even if every single word he had to say about the mother was true, it was unspeakably cruel to say such things to his kids.

19a. It is no wonder why the presenter at a recent writing seminar I was at explained how he got much of his material from public transit.

20. Fittingly, the Essence of Ontario was proudly on display just past the Burlington Skyway:

For the uninformed, that’s salt. White gold, as a good friend of mine recently called it.

21. After getting off the bus in St. Catharines, there was a big scene in the Fairview Mall parking lot where a police car was in attendance. It turned out someone left their dog in a car with the windows closed.

Look, I know I’m not a dog person, but was this really a police-worthy event? Couldn’t the rent-a-cop talking with the officers have simply had the car owner paged?

22. I didn’t know there was a market for having the air painted:

23. Get your Kraft Dinner for less than a cent. Whether or not that is still too much to charge for it is left for the reader as an exercise.

 

29 Jun

Thoughts on Niagara GO

Yesterday, I was among the handful of non-politicians present as our MPP, Jim Bradley, and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca made the “historic” announcement that GO train service will be coming to Niagara.

That was the good news.

The bad news?

St. Catharines and Niagara Falls won’t be seeing the trains until 2023. That’s seven years from now.

Yawn.

Despite the massive letdown, in an understatement of epic proportions, that leaves plenty of time for our local elected officials to lay out the necessary groundwork to make this new service a win instead of a setback.

First, there must be vastly improved transit service to the St. Catharines train station from both St. Catharines Transit and Niagara Region Transit. As things stand, it would probably take me longer to get to the train station than it does for the GO bus to take me from Fairview Mall to Burlington.

In a recent chat with the Standard, I posed the question to Mayor Sendzik as to when we could expect such plans to be announced if the much-anticipated GO service came. All I got was a politician’s non-answer. This is the time when the planning needs to get done, not two years after the trains start rolling.

Secondly, a full Presto rollout throughout the region’s many transit systems should be considered a must, along with a discounted co-fare for those coming from or transferring to the GO service. This is commonplace throughout the GTHA and it should be no different here.

Finally, lift the restrictions on taking bicycles on the train during peak times. I know this is more of a personal issue, but cycling is a lot more popular in this part of the world than it was in the SPRM. It is not just a much more accepted mode of transportation with the locals, but people come from all over the world to explore the region on two wheels. They can bring their bikes on the bus today and it should be no less permissible when the train comes, regardless of the time of day or day of the week.

You want to play with the big boys? Act like it.

There’s lots of time to get this right.

No excuses.

18 May

Voyage Under the Center of the Universe

Yesterday, I made another trip to Toronto, spending the bulk of the day in the universe’s center.

I left the house bright and early and walked to Fairview Mall to catch the #12 GO bus. Waiting nearby at the bus stop was a scruffy character madly gorging himself on a large box of Sugar Crisp as if someone was about to take it away from him.


Just can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp!

Just after St. Catharines’ answer to the Sugar Bear got to the bottom of the box, the bus pulled up and I joined about 15-20 others in getting on board.

01_traffic
Traffic was moving slowly as we got past Burlington Street in Hamilton, but we eventually made it to the Burlington GO station, where I joined most of the others in heading to the platform to wait for the train.

While waiting, I spotted someone standing close by who had her eyes closed and was gently nodding her head up and down. No, she was not wearing headphones.

Watching her reminded me of a scene in Slap Shot, when “Killer” Carlson was recanting “One with the universe,” a line from the recordings of the Swami Baha, while his teammates were getting the tar beat out of them by Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken’s Syracuse Bulldogs. If you recall, McCracken was the head coach and chief punk on that Syracuse team, known for his ability to carve out a man’s eye with the flick of a wrist. But I digress.

03_train
The train came shortly enough and we soon began making our way east toward Union Station. As the seats began filling up, I noticed what looked to be a small, semi-permanent gathering place for the homeless right by the tracks. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw three of them seated on plastic chairs tapping away on their cell phones. I’ve heard about texting and driving, but texting and homeless? And again, I’m supposed to feel sorry for them. I’ve worked hard to pay my own way through life and I’ve never had a cell phone.

Closer to Union Station, I spotted a billboard for Krave Gourmet Jerky. How anyone could categorize ground-up testicles and hooves as “gourmet” is beyond me.

Just before pulling into the station, we got another introduction from our “customer service ambassador.” GO runs a fantastic service, but these self-serving introductions that are now coming a rate of twice per trip are growing increasingly annoying.

Following a bathroom break, I then followed the signs for the subway for what would be my first underground rail experience. Having just paid for my GO train ride, I kept my Presto card at hand and used it at the subway entrance to get through the turnstile. TTC is in the process of rolling out Presto throughout their system and not every station is Presto-enabled as yet, but luckily, Union is one of them.

As I would discover later, for those paying cash, you can either purchase a magnetic-striped ticket at the counter or put $3.25 into a machine and get a token smaller than a penny. To get through the non-Presto turnstiles, you swipe your ticket or deposit the pin-size token, assuming you didn’t drop it on your way from the vending machine.

When I got through the turnstile, I was glad I prepared ahead, since the #1 line serving Union Station runs northbound, but in two different directions. You need to know if you’re going north via University Avenue or Yonge Street, but I knew I was going via Yonge, so I quickly hopped aboard the waiting train headed that way. Even if I had missed it, however, they run about every three to four minutes.

04_subway
Seconds after I sat down, the doors closed and we began heading north underneath Yonge Street. Once again, just like on the GO train and buses, the subway cars were clean and the vomit, graffiti, condom wrappers and beer bottles frequently found aboard Winnipeg Transit buses were conspicuously absent.

05_subway
A handy feature was the subway system map above the doors where it not only shows the routes, but an amber light flashes at the next stop, while stops already covered are in green and those to come are in red. When approaching a connecting line, the entire line flashes on the map and a special announcement is made to that effect.

As you would expect, verbal announcements are also made at each stop, telling passengers not only the name of the station, but whether the doors will open on the left or right.

Near every seat is a yellow strip to press in the event of an emergency, and according to the posted signs, misusing it is a $500 fine. I can’t imagine the fun the hoodlums and bums would have it if they put such a thing aboard Winnipeg Transit buses. There, it would be more fitting to put in a yellow strip to press if there wasn’t an emergency.

When passing the College station, I couldn’t help but notice the mural depicting Montreal Canadiens players. Maybe one of these days, Toronto will get its own NHL team.

I got off at the Sheppard-Yonge station, where I had to go up an escalator to transfer to the eastbound #4 line. It was then I realized there are two levels of this underground rail system. All this, while Winnipeg is still farting around with Rapid Transit. But again, I digress.

06_fairview
My subway ride came to an end at the Don Mills station, where I followed the crowd up to street level right by, oddly enough, Fairview Mall. I then proceeded east on Sheppard, stopping for pictures of 404, before turning south on Victoria Park Avenue.

19_universal
This is a shot I couldn’t resist. NBCUniversal just had to have a presence in the Center of the Universe.

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Crossing the 401, the world’s busiest highway, I continued south to Lawrence, west across the DVP to Don Mills Road, then south to Eglinton, where I again proceeded west.

37_raccoonguys
There are a lot of people in Toronto, but also a lot of raccoons, giving rise to new entrepreneurial opportunities.

38_eglintoncrosstown 39_eglintoncrosstown
On Eglinton, there were times when I was getting farther on foot than the cars were on account of the multiple lane closures as GO puts in the Eglinton Crosstown line. More superior transit service, while, again, Winnipeg still farts around with Rapid Transit at great expense with nothing but ridicule to show for it.

41_wynne
Farther down Eglinton, I ran into our esteemed premier’s constituency office.

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Across the street, not by coincidence, is a nice, big “in your face” billboard from The Rebel aimed squarely at Canada’s most unpopular premier. Of course, that distinction used to belong to Greasy Greg Selinger until he and his gang were unceremoniously thrown out of office. I posted this picture on Twitter today and it is quickly making the rounds in Twitterverse.

I was hoping to cover more ground, but growing tired and weary after putting on so many miles on foot, I decided instead to continue west to the Eglinton-Yonge subway station and return to Union. Oddly, one of the more popular stations on the route was not well-signed on street level, but I eventually found it and went below to catch a train.

Sadly, this was not a Presto-enabled station, so I had fork over the cash for a token. It also cost me a little extra, since the fare when paying with Presto is 40 cents cheaper. For those who are not aware, not only is paying with Presto more convenient, but cheaper. Each round trip to Toronto saves approximately $3.00, the TTC and OC Transpo fares are also cheaper with Presto, and the Hamilton Street Railway fare is only 50 cents when transferring from the GO bus. The card itself costs $6.00, but it more than pays for itself, even in the short term.

On board, the southbound train was packed, and I was lucky to get a seat after someone got off at the next stop. As in the northbound direction, the train moved swiftly, and I was soon back at Union.

Before getting on a Lakeshore West train, I wanted to make one last stop at the gift shop of the nearby NHL Hall of Political Correctness, known to most of you as the so-called Hockey Hall of Fame. Just for the heck of it, I wanted to browse around and to see if they had any small trinkets from the late Atlanta Thrashers, and I shouldn’t have been surprised when I didn’t find anything. On my way in, however, I could have sworn that I spotted Craig Ramsay, the last coach of the Thrashers, talking on his cell phone. Now that would have been an interesting encounter.

Following that diversionary trip, I returned to Union, where a Lakeshore West train was minutes from departing, so I went right up to the platform and found an empty seat. The train soon took off and I watched the familiar sights go by while recovering from a long day.

Everything seemed to be going normally until we got to the Oakville station. There, passengers who were disembarking got off, then the rest of us waited for the train to continue on.

But it didn’t.

Minutes later, our customer service ambassador, who again needlessly introduced himself as we were leaving Union, got on the intercom and told us this train was no longer in service because of “an emergency farther west.” He then instructed us to disembark and proceed to the bus loop, where buses would be waiting to take us farther west.

Great. GO suddenly turns into Rapid Transit.

I followed the rest of the crowd to the one waiting bus and was lucky to get on board. With no more room left, the bus took off, leaving countless numbers left to wait for another bus. We then proceeded through stop-and-go rush-hour traffic from station to station along the QEW. It was only on board that I heard from other passengers that there was a fire near the tracks, which forced the temporary closure of the Lakeshore West line.

When we got to Appleby, rather than take us one more stop to the Burlington station, we were told to get off the bus and wait for the next westbound train. No signs were posted as to which track it would be on or when it would be coming, so I just followed the crowd and asked a few people who I recognized from the bus.

Seemingly almost by accident, I ended up in the right place and ended up as part of an interesting conversation with three 20-somethings named Abby, Maria and Constantine.

Though soft-spoken, Maria was by far the most talkative of the three, and we listened as she espoused her theories on government conspiracies. According to her, the government wants to legalize marijuana to keep the people from thinking for themselves, briefly touching on how smoking weed opens up some part of the brain that normally doesn’t get used. I didn’t quite follow her thought process, but then she went on to talk about how the government might have started the fires in Fort McMurray because of the oil.

As Maria was treating us to her pseudoscientific thoughts, Abby grabbed onto the guard rail behind us and started doing some stretching exercises. I was again reminded of a former colleague who used to get up during meetings and go through all sorts of weird gyrations and contorting himself into varied and unimaginable positions. One loyal reader and former colleague will remember and no doubt laugh heartily at this reference.

After claiming to be able to read people’s minds and proudly stating “I am everything,” Maria then started talking about how to save money by peeing in the shower. I listened patiently as she and Abby exchanged their thoughts on this riveting topic. I just know I can use this stuff somewhere in a future writing project and conveniently left the fact that I was a writer with an off-beat sense of humor out of the conversation.

With so much writing fodder in the air, I was almost disappointed when the train showed up. We all got on and, minutes later, we pulled up to the Burlington station. After saying our goodbyes, I got in line for the #12 bus to St. Catharines and an hour later, I was back at Fairview Mall, again having squeezed full value from my travel dollars.

It ended up as a much different kind of adventure than I had planned, but no less interesting and one I won’t soon forget.