Tag Archives: GO Transit

02 Aug

Planet Hamilton

Observations and a few pictures from yesterday’s tour of Hamilton in honor of the fourth anniversary of my defection from the SPRM and move to St. Catharines:

1. On the GO bus was a fat middle-aged guy wearing a golf shirt that might have fit him in high school. Barely. The tightly stretched shirt failed to cover much of his belly and he needed a bra for the boobs some women would pay big money for.

2. Dear GO Transit: I realize everyone else was going the same speed, but the red lines through the construction zones on the QEW are indicators that drivers are supposed to slow down, not speed up.

3. Seated across the aisle from me on the GO bus was a woman with a nose ring that looked like metal snot.

4. On the occasion of the anniversary of my defection from the SPRM, I spotted a Bison Transport truck on the QEW in both directions. As I’ve said before, the SPRM does keep following me around.

5. At Stoney Creek, the HSR driver kindly stopped and waited for those of us transferring from the GO bus. Once again, this is not the Old Country, where the driver would have floored it as soon as we got to the front door, then bragged about it back at the garage.

6. On the way downtown, there was only one stroller and one walker, but it was a completely different story on the way back. On that trip, there was one wheelchair, two strollers and one walker already on board when I got on with two more strollers getting on later. In fact, there was so little room left on the bus that the driver was unable to take on either of the two strollers waiting at a stop in front of a bar.

7. Spotted in a shelter along the way downtown was a scruffy old bum using a bunch of crumpled-up plastic bags from No Frills as a cushion.

8. Spotted on a Hamilton Cab was the slogan, “Powered by pride.” Does it only take gay gas?

9. A bum catching a few winks in the median on York Boulevard:

10. The number of smokers I spotted on the day led me to believe there’s an inverse relationship between economic well-being and likelihood of smoking. In other words, those who can least afford to smoke do. And then anti-poverty advocates cry about the social determinants of health.

11. As a cyclist who regularly puts on more than 2,000 miles per year on two wheels, I appreciate efforts to make cities more cyclist-friendly. But in the first shot, having the lane on the left side of the one-way street is counter-intuitive since drivers normally expect cyclists to be on the right. Same for the second shot, showing a two-way cycle track on Bay Street, which is one way for cars. This can lead to a situation where a driver is not expecting a cyclist who is traveling in the opposite direction of car traffic.

12. Walking the streets downtown, I get the feeling the annual Hamilton Fringe Festival starts on January 1 and ends on December 31.

13. Um, whatever.

14. As opposed to unregistered condominiums?

15. While at the A & W eating lunch, an older woman seated across from me with enough lipstick to dam the mighty Mississippi thought she needed more.

16. Also at the A & W, someone came up to the counter and simply said she wanted “something with beef.” After the clerk managed to coerce more specifics out of her, she ended up ordering so much beef that she needed a bag to carry it all out in. It was beef, by the way, that she really didn’t need.

17. Lay down the law …

18. I saw many oddities on the day, but the sight of this Hamilton police officer on horseback on James Street was perhaps the most unexpected of them:

19. If only these artist-run centers were also artist-funded:

20. To heck with any humans in the building, just worry about the dog:

21. How else can you explain popular support for the NDP?

22. On the day, I spotted two Muslim women driving. How nice of their husbands to permit such a thing.

23. Seated across from me on the Barton bus headed back to Stoney Creek was a guy with a Q-Ray bracelet, advertising himself as a sucker easily separated from his money.

24. HSR revenues would increase dramatically if they charged by the pound instead of a flat rate per person.

25. I feel the pain of the cyclist whose bike is at the far right end of the rack.

26. I don’t think this is exactly how they teach you to park in driving school:

 

15 Jul

An Interesting Day on Public Transit

Observations and a few pictures from an interesting day riding public transit to and from Pearson Airport:

1. Walking through the Fairview Mall parking lot at 6:30 am on my way to the GO stop, I spotted a couple of salty looking dudes, one of whom was toting a six-pack. It was either left over from a wild night or they were getting an early start. My guess was the latter.

2. Despite only having a couple of minutes to spare before the bus left, one passenger so desperately hooked on his smokes dug out a cigarette to squeeze in a few last puffs while waiting near the door. That guy needed professional help.

3. One woman on board was wearing knee-high leather boots. Did I mention that we’re sweltering in the middle of a heat wave? ‘Tis more important to be fashionable than to be comfortable, in the opinion of some.

4. At Nash and Barton, a man and his daughter were madly running across the parking lot trying to catch the bus. And the driver waited for them. Once again, this is not the Old Country, where the Winnipeg Transit driver would have taken great pleasure in leaving them in his dust, then bragging about it to his buddies back at the garage.

5. While I was in line at the counter at the Burlington GO station, the woman in front of me was regaling the only agent on duty with a long story about something that happened on the bus. Until the guy behind me yelled, “We’ve got a train to catch!” I felt like applauding.

6. Standing on the platform at Burlington was a heavyweight puffing away on a cigarette and complaining about how her (expletive) asthma is acting up. My heart bleeds.

6a. No doubt this is where our mayor would say I need to be more compassionate. I am compassionate. But don’t expect me to care more about your health than you do.

7. Dear Ms. Sweetness and Light who was our customer service ambassador on the Union-bound Lakeshore West train: The stop after Bronte is Oakville, not Clarkson.

7a. I hope ridding GO trains of the useless customer service ambassadors and replacing them with automated stop readouts and announcements will be among the efficiencies our new premier will find. Heck, even the antiquated STO, a system that makes Winnipeg Transit look radically advanced, has managed to implement such things on some of their buses.

8. Seated across the aisle from me on said LSW train was a woman with three kids in tow, each under the age of 10 and each with a tablet likely better than mine. Why do children under 10 years of age need a tablet?

9. Like, listening to all the chatter around me on the way there and back, I am, like, even more convinced that the most used word in the, like, English language is “like.”

10. At the Clarkson stop, a woman seated in the quad in front of me got up to go to the end of the car and dump something in the garbage, leaving her purse unattended on the seat. And it was still there when she got back. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

11. Leaving the Long Branch stop, someone got on the intercom and said, “OK, here we go again. When the train is approaching, stay well back of the yellow line. It’s not a good idea to be doing exercises on the yellow line.” If only I could have seen what that Darwin Award candidate was up to. But in any event, here’s another case for allowing the law of natural selection to run its course.

12. Spotted on the #2 subway line was someone with a sketch book drawing a portrait. Even on a weekend, there certainly are enough interesting characters to use as subjects.

13. At the end of the car I was in was a lever to pull to stop the train in the event of an emergency. Can you just imagine how often that would lever would be pulled if there was such a thing in Winnipeg?

14. On the packed Airport Rocket bus that took me from the Kipling station to Terminal 1, I was one of two token Caucasians on board. Yet governments continue to justify discriminating against me because of my skin color.

15. This charging station that costs $6.49 to use was right across from a free charging station with multiple plugs. I could only surmise that this was an IQ test.

16. With all the blubber on display at Pearson, airlines should be able to charge for overweight people just like they do for overweight baggage. Same goes for VIA Rail.

16a. Some of that blubber was on a security guard who waddled by. What exactly would he be able to do if there was a problem?

17. Outside near the ALT hotel where the terminal link train ends was this sign directing motorists to a cell phone lot. Is this a place to park your cell phone?

18. Staff at Pearson actually wear a mask in addition to gloves when taking out the garbage, unlike a former workplace of mine where staff dug into trash cans with their bare hands.

19. There were so many disciples of Mohammed at the international arrivals in Terminal 3 that, if I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was in the Riyadh airport instead of Pearson.

20. Walking through the terminal, I spotted a woman in her late 30s with hot pink hair. Grow up. You’re not 18 anymore.

21. Given how Pearson was my landing point after my defection from the SPRM nearly four years ago, it kind of feels like Ellis Island would to those who came across the ocean to start a new life in North America so many years earlier.

22. The low-floor chairs in Terminal 1 were comfortable enough, but awfully difficult to get out of.

23. On the return trip, a noisy family was busy snapping photos of themselves on the subway. I know Niagara Falls is a popular spot for selfies, but the subway?

24. I support bikes being allowed in subway cars, but there should be a designated area to store them safely in the event of a sudden stop. In Buffalo, bikes are required to be in the special wheelchair section and in Minneapolis, there are special racks in every car to stand them up in.

25. Upon my arrival in this part of the world, everything seemed so overwhelming, but today, I move around like a local.

26. On the crowded #1 line was a guy with his feet up on the handicapped seating. He’s lucky someone didn’t decide to just sit down on them. Not that I know of any such experiences personally.

27. Seated across from me in that subway car was a big shot who was bragging about her “special skills.” Like how to paint your toenails a lavender color?

28. Also in the same subway car was someone with a T-shirt with “Quebec Canada” written on it. Well, which is it, Quebec or Canada?

29. Pigeons foraging for food near the McDonald’s in Union Station:

30. Seated across from me on the Burlington-bound LSW train was a 20-something millennial with her newly purchased espresso machine who began munching on a plate of sushi. Then when I pulled out my notepad, she got up and moved to a different car. A snarky writer with pen in hand is indeed dangerous.

31. In addition to the sushi, an older woman was munching on a greenish wrap and a guy in the quad in front of me was trying to shove a loaded six-inch sub down his throat. It was more visual proof that people really don’t care what and how much they eat.

32. Walking through the parking lot at the Oakville stop was a guy with a T-shirt with “This guy needs a beer” printed on it. Methinks he also needs AA.

33. The ride home on the #12 bus was made a lot more pleasant thanks to GO finally deciding to offer the express bus to the Falls which siphoned off much of the riff-raff.

34. The couple seated in the first two rows of the upper level spent much of the ride passing huge homemade muffins back and forth. Each seemed to take a bite or two, then pass them back across the aisle.

35. A luxurious motor home on the QEW had a “Roughing It” sticker on the back. And I suppose they think staying in a five-star hotel is also “roughing it.”

30 Jun

Visiting Queen’s Park on Kathleen Wynne Freedom Day

Observations and pictures from my voyage to and from Queen’s Park on the occasion of Kathleen Wynne Freedom Day:

1. Waiting for the bus at Fairview Mall watching everyone busy with their phones, I couldn’t help but reflect back upon a bygone era when cell phones were a luxury that only the big shots had.

2. A quintessential Canadian bus:

3. When I had last taken the bus 10 days ago, they were resurfacing large sections of North Service Road between Vineland and Beamsville, but when I went by yesterday, I noticed the work had already been completed. In the Old Country, such a project would have taken two summers.

4. The A & W in Grimsby had a sign outside promoting their new Cod Fish Burgers. As opposed to their Cod Beef Burgers?

5. At the Nash and Barton stop, I laughed when I saw several Falls-bound travelers flashing their HSR transfers as if that was going to do them any good on the GO bus. Tip: You need a Presto card for that.

6. As our bus was approaching the Burlington GO station, a Burlington Transit bus whose driver was wearing a white top with black polka dots passed by, marking the first time I’ve ever seen a driver on any transit system out of uniform. Casual Friday at Burlington Transit perhaps?

7. Only a short time after it had finally opened, the Tim Hortons at the Burlington GO station has apparently disappeared:

7a. If it, in fact, has gone under, it marks the second Tim Hortons location I’ve seen in this part of the world to have bit the dust, the other being at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge. Contrary to popular belief, maybe a Tim Hortons franchise isn’t a license to print money after all.

8. If there’s anyone headed for Wrong Code, your bus is waiting at Burlington:

9. Spotted on the platform waiting for the Lakeshore West train was a guy busy on an IBM ThinkPad that he was delicately balancing against a wall and on his knee. Give it a rest!

10. The guy seated in the quad on the opposite side of the aisle at least had the decency to take off his shoes before putting his feet up on the seat in front of him. Unlike the guy I saw on the train on the way back.

11. The best seats in town:

12. Before heading to Queen’s Park, for some off-color humor, I took a stroll through the Church-Wellesley district, where seemingly everything is adorned in gay-themed rainbow colors.

Gay Pepsi.

Gay nurses.

Gay crosswalks.

Gay flags.

Toronto’s only gay-owned pharmacy.

Gay beer at a gay beer store.

Parking for gays only.

Gay funnel cake.

A gay bank.

And finally, a gay bum.

Enough already!

13. While walking through said neighborhood, I spotted a Muslim woman walking into an apartment just off Church. Hmmm. As I understand it, Islam isn’t exactly compatible with homosexuality. In fact, don’t Muslim countries hang gays?

14. Did you just assume the repair person’s gender?

15. I’ll keep an eye out for those flying procedures …

16. At Queen’s Park, I spent nearly two hours on the grounds mostly waiting for our new premier, The Honorable Doug Ford, to address the masses who had come from all across our great province to hear him speak and repeat his oath of office.

Save for one protester, the crowd was mostly tame. There were cheers when someone yelled “Trudeau Sucks” after the playing of O Canada, and seeing the scowls on the faces of the “journalists” from the fake news media was easily worth the fare in getting there.

I was squished in among a group of reformed ex-NDPers who had worked on Ford’s campaign, and several people before and after the ceremony remarked on my “Make Speech Free Again” hat, the same one Ford himself commented on when I saw him here in St. Catharines.

Although the common folk were kept at considerable distance, it was important to be there and I was glad to have represented St. Catharines on the important and historic occasion of Kathleen Wynne Freedom Day. It was representation we sure didn’t get from our local PC candidate, who did an outstanding job of deep-sixing a free ride to Queen’s Park by sitting on her behind. Honestly, I got the feeling that Doug Ford did more campaigning in St. Catharines than Sandie Bellows did. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

16a. Dear Andrew Scheer: When you come to St. Catharines today, in addition to raising funds and drumming up support, you need to seriously work on getting a credible candidate to run here for the upcoming federal election. Don’t be afraid of parachuting someone in. And please tell the local EDA that you will not approve the nomination of either Mat Siscoe or Sandie Bellows.

17. I think the cart is full …

18. Inside Eaton Center, I stopped at a Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some badly needed liquid refreshment. The small size of the drink I chose was $2.79 and the large size was $1.99. Shrug.

19. Bikes chained to the scaffolding right next to the sign asking people not to chain bikes to the scaffolding.

20. On Bay Street, I spotted a guy hauling a loudspeaker on a two-wheeler with music blasting so loudly I could hear it from a block away. Why? Isn’t there enough noise and commotion in downtown Toronto?

21. While on the Lakeshore West train on the return trip, I listened as the guy in the quad in front of me was helping his buddy at the other end of the line interpret the directions on his GPS. Driving tip: If you’re lost on a busy freeway and can’t figure out what to do when your GPS tells you to bear right, for the love of Pete™, get off at the next exit and ask someone for help before you get yourself and/or others killed. Better yet, consider turning in your driver’s license.

22. Not everyone was as lucky as I was to get a seat on the Niagara-bound bus as GO chose the day before the long weekend not to offer an additional express bus to the Falls, the way they usually do for most of the summer. As a result, I was treated to several noisy, screaming children and someone who elected to forego the use of her headphones as she was listening to music.

Mixed in among all that, I listened as someone ran down Brantford and explained how he wanted to set up a blacksmithing business in St. Catharines and a boyfriend-girlfriend couple seated in front of me were having quite the spat. I heard so many F-bombs from them that, for a moment there, I thought I was back in the Old Country.

29 May

Back to the Universe’s Center

Highlights and pictures from yesterday’s tour of the universe’s center:

1. Free cane:

2. Why would a street hockey tournament in Brantford be advertising on St. Catharines Transit? I know people in this part of the world think nothing of long commutes, but a one-hour drive just to play street hockey seems like a bit much.

3. Spotted on the QEW were trucks from Bison Transport and Winnipeg Motor Express. As I’ve said before, the SPRM does follow me around.

4. The pickup truck the bus was following while crossing the Burlington Skyway had a bumper sticker which read, “I used to care, but now I take a pill for that.”

5. Our GO bus driver sure didn’t let those solid white lines he crossed at the North Shore Boulevard exit cramp his style at all. Fortunately, however, traffic was moving slow enough so that it wasn’t a problem as he moved out of an exit-only lane far too late.

6. If the Lakeshore West train I was on had to stop suddenly, there were a couple of sleep-deprived women with their heads leaning against the window who would have been in for one heck of a jolt.

6a. Everyone else in my car had their heads buried in their phones. Except for me.

7. Under the heading of Something I Didn’t Need to See: A woman standing in the aisle nearby had an ass big enough to damn the might Mississippi. As my father would say, she needs to buy her dresses at Ontario Tent and Awning.

8. Again, under the heading of Something I Didn’t Need to See: A young couple seated across from me on the #1 TTC subway line were feeling each other up and the guy had his hands in his girlfriend’s crotch. As my mother would say, get a room!

9. Someone was having fun with this sign at Christie Pits Park:

10. Assorted characters at Christie Pits Park:

You won’t likely get much sound from the video, but I could hear the woman in the wheelchair from a block away as she was twirling around and filming herself before catching sight of me filming her and retreating across Bloor Street.

11. Click here for scenes in and around Koreatown.

12. No camera can capture the horrible smells coming from the various eateries around there. But I did capture the sight of what looked to be a cucumber perched inside an abandoned plate of mushy red guck. Koreatown in a microcosm.

13. Is this where people air their dirty laundry?

14. Along Bloor, I passed by someone wearing a T-shirt with some small printing on top, then “Read Something Else” in a much larger font written below. Shortly thereafter, a cyclist passed me wearing a T-shirt with “Come up to my room” written on it. It’s almost scary to think how many people earn their living coming up with slogans and messages to put on clothing.

15. The local Communist Party candidate was sharing space with a fortune teller. You can’t make stuff like this up.

16. Once again, someone stopped me on the street asking for directions and, despite not being a local, I was able to point him in the right direction.

17. Why on Earth would anyone care enough to go into such a place, let alone pay $14 for the privilege?

18. Is it any coincidence that the sign on the right is in NDP orange?

19. Shots from Philosopher’s Walk on the UCU campus:

20. Spotted this Liberal bus parked at Queen’s Park. No doubt they’re packing up and getting ready to leave. As Doug Ford says, the party’s over.

21. Oh yes, please enlighten me on this Liberal “compassion” that has put more than 300,000 Ontarians out of work, jacked up the provincial debt to record levels and made life so unaffordable for low-income families that many have to choose between heating and eating.

22. Obligatory shot of the Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square:

23. With temperatures breaking the 30-degree mark, I think this guy might have found it a bit warm in that jacket:

24. With those warm temperatures, I took the opportunity to explore the underground walkway system. Unlike a certain other part of the world, there were no beggars or bums like this one caught on video in Winnipeg Square taking a dump in a planter:

25. Spotted in front of Union Station was someone offering her half-eaten relish-filled hot dog to a beggar. Rather than accept the gift, however, the beggar began asking where she got it before turning away to try and solicit funds from another passer-by. Picky beggars these days, aren’t they?

26. On the Burlington-bound Lakeshore West train, I listened as a young Muslim woman of Somali origin moaned and groaned about how some friend of hers expects her to know everything and talked about the proper ways to prank someone. Then as she prepared to disembark at Port Credit, she complained bitterly about how complicated her life was because she had a phone plan with no data before leaving her partially-finished Tim Hortons beverage on the seat.

27. The guy in a suit seated across from her also left a complimentary beverage behind. Folks, this is GO, not Winnipeg Transit.

28. Every car in the lot at the Bronte station had one of these blue reminders of the proper way to vote in the upcoming provincial election:

29. I think I was the only one who boarded the #12 GO bus back to St. Catharines without any luggage. Tourist season is indeed back.

30. Among those tourists were a number from Quebec who were seated around me. Across the aisle was someone who was on the phone the entire way to St. Catharines and often put it on speakerphone so that half the bus could listen in on both ends of her conversation. I hope she is made to feel just as welcome in our country and I was when I visited hers.

12 May

Retour à l’Outaouais

Highlights and lowlights from my third train trip in as many years to Ottawa, where I spent much of the time on the wrong side of the Rivière des Outaouais:

1. Watching the driver on the #12 GO bus shaking his leg all the way to Burlington reminded me of a slightly mentally challenged former colleague many years ago who used to do the same thing at his desk for hours on end. Thankfully, our driver did not exhibit any other tendencies that would lead me to question his stability.

2. At the Beamsville stop, the rainbow bench was still AWOL and the reward sign posted for its return was also gone, but there was a big, heaping pile of garbage in the bin that badly needed emptying.

3. If the shoes fit …

4. Someone walked through the Burlington station then boarded a Falls-bound bus with his unleashed dog following along. Since when is this allowed?

5. In the washroom at the Burlington station, rather than simply unzip his fly, one guy opted to pull his pants down to his knees before doing his business at the urinal. As a long-lost friend once said, “no visuals please.”

6. As we passed the Willowbook train yard on the Lakeshore West train, there was a sign that read, “Caution: Watch for trains.” Better to remove the sign and let the law of natural selection run its course, if you ask me.

7. While waiting at Union Station, I was accosted by someone looking for spare change for a coffee. After I declined to donate to his favorite charity, he turned to a nearby sucker who gave him a quarter.

8. Oatmeal was on the menu at The Bagel House, but it was only available during the week. I guess the designated oatmeal guy doesn’t work weekends. It is, after all, a complex dish that requires years of culinary training to prepare properly.

9. There was a flighty young woman running after a train whose boobs were flopping so hard that she undoubtedly had bruises all around her rib cage by the time she got to the platform. Tip of the day: Invest in a bra.

10. Seated nearby in the York Concourse was a guy with a big beer belly stretched out and breathing heavily. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was about to give birth.

11. Signage in Union Station is already being changed to reflect the new name of the former ACC:

12. Good to know that on Sunday, my train was indeed a Sunday departure:

13. Some kid with a hockey stick in hand was skating through the VIA concourse on roller skates. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like an odd place to look for a pickup game.

14. Call me ultra-picky, but I think it’s best to check the spelling before carving it in stone …

15. Among those boarding the Ottawa-bound train was someone who looked to be Kim Jong-un’s pudgy teenage son.

16. Aboard the VIA train, I recognized one of the service attendants I had on last year’s trip. What made him stand out was that he was pleasant. Because with VIA, it’s not an adventure, it’s a job.

17. Rolling through Oshawa, I spotted a cyclist riding on the left side of the white line despite having a wide bike lane. It reminded me of the times back in the Old Country when, while returning from Birds Hill Park along a very busy PTH 59, I would regularly see cyclists who preferred to go elbow-to-elbow with cars and big rigs speeding along at 60+ mph rather than use the paved shoulder that was just as wide if not wider than a car lane. No doubt those were the same yahoos who complained the loudest about not getting respect on the road.

18. Nearby in my car, three people paid for their “food” by credit card. What was noteworthy was that rather than employ some sort of electronic system, the service attendant had to rub the card against carbon paper with his thumb. Now that’s really old-fashioned. At least in the stores, they had a device with a swipe handle.

19. Among those paying with a credit card was a fat guy across the aisle who rang up a big $5 purchase for a Coke and bag of Doritos that he enjoyed thoroughly. Don’t people carry any cash these days? Especially when traveling.

20. Our car was pretty quiet except for a foursome of 20-somethings who, like, couldn’t open their, like, mouths, without, like, saying like. Like, give it a rest.

21. After the first pass, the second and subsequent food cart runs were done with lightning speed and any passengers looking to buy anything could be forgiven for blinking their eyes and missing the guy as he sped by. Once again, it’s glaringly obvious that VIA personnel care little about serving customers and trying to make a little extra money for their employer. All they care about is fulfilling the terms of their union contract to the letter and the faster they fulfilled that obligation, the better.

22. When they made a garbage run, I tossed my empty Tetra Pak into the black bag. That was apparently a major no-no as the service attendant angrily tore it out of the plastic bag I had wrapped it in, crushed it and tossed it into the white one his colleague behind him was holding. Well, excuuuuse me! No doubt, I’ll probably get a few points deducted off my VIA Préférence account for that egregious transgression.

22a. At least they were wearing gloves, unlike the case at a previous employer when they would come around and empty garbage cans with their bare hands. Once, they even fished out a bloody snot rag of mine out of the bin.

23. When going through Brockville, I spotted the Broadway Dance Academy. On Park Street.

24. On the platform at the Fallowfield station, a woman lit up while talking to her friend who had her two young kids in tow. How incredibly considerate.

25. Upon leaving the train station, I was aghast to see so many cabs waiting. If every single passenger on the train had taken a cab, I think there still would have been some left over waiting for a fare.

26. Dear City of Ottawa: Please assign someone the task of washing the windows in the pedestrian walkway over the 417 linking the train station to the ballpark and convention center.

27. En route to the Ottawa Train Yards Wal-Mart to pick up some food for the next few days, I was approached by a Caucasian woman in her late 40s. After first asking me if I spoke English, not a given in that part of the world on either side of the Rivière des Outaouais, she proceeded to give me a long sob story about how her sister was stranded at nearby St. Laurent Center with her newborn and wanted to know if I could give her bus fare. Which I declined to do.

Angry and grumbling, rather than go back to St. Laurent Center where her sister and the newborn allegedly were, she proceeded to follow me toward Wal-Mart, not bothering to hit up the next guy who passed by on the sidewalk. I kept a careful eye on her and when I turned off on a side street, she kept going.

I had to hand it to her, though, as it was a pretty creative line. These days, the beggars really are getting better at their craft. But if they devoted half as much energy into earning money as they did in trying to con people on on the street, they wouldn’t need to resort to such things.

28. Inside the Wal-Mart, there were so many disciples of Mohammed that I wondered if I was in the Ottawa Train Yards or the Tehran Train Yards.

29. Also inside the Wal-Mart, I spotted a fat woman with a tub of Haagen-Dazs in her cart. Cause and effect.

30. Shots of the Cancer Survivors Park taken on the way back to the hotel:

31. The hotel finally got the hint and stopped leaving copies of the National Post outside the door of every room each morning.

32. While eating breakfast on Monday morning, one of the staffers came by and was surprised that I was sitting in her usual spot where she stops for a break. Funny, I wasn’t aware it was reserved seating. For a moment, I thought I was at our photo club, where everyone seems to have an unofficial assigned seat.

33. Unlike the case last year, the STO buses I took on this trip were of modern vintage with automated stop announcements complete with an LED display near the front. My driver on Tuesday morning even said “merci” after I tapped my Presto card. History was indeed made on this trip.

34. Another one for the history books came when someone boarded at Rideau Center on Monday morning and began speaking to the driver in the Canadian language and again committed that heinous infraction before getting off at les Promenades station. No doubt, la Sûreté will soon be issuing warrants for their arrest.

35. Soon after getting off at Station de la Cité, I spotted a teenage girl headed for the nearby Cégep wearing a short skirt that barely covered her backside yet also wearing a thick fur-lined parka. An odd combination if I’ve ever seen one.

36. Clever little display outside a bike shop:

37. As I got closer to Boulevard Gréber, I got an awfully foul look from a heavy-set guy in his late 50s who passed me on the sidewalk. It is a look I would get again later in the day along the Lac Leamy trail from someone who did a severe double-take after looking at my “Make Speech Free Again” hat. It was probably the combination of the message and the fact that it was written in the Canadian language, something that could have gotten me tossed in the same jail cell as the aforementioned passenger and STO driver.

38. I heard a “rumeur” …

39. There’s nothing “routine” about a dish that looks like a cow with diarrhea unloaded on a plate of fries.

40. La Ville de Gatineau thinks it makes perfect sense to do street cleaning on a busy roadway during the Monday morning rush hour. I would wager that the majority of its residents disagree.

41. Near the A-50 interchange at Boulevard la Vérendrye, I spotted this orange chair on the ground. Perhaps it was left over from the $9.50 ice level seating at the Winnipeg Arena.

42. Walking down Rue du Barry, I was approached by a Jehovah’s Witness who handed me a pamphlet and said something in Quebecese. Yes, they have them all over the place. Even in Quebec.

43. Also on Rue du Barry, I saw someone on a mobility scooter eschewing the sidewalk and going on the road. Normally, I strongly disapprove of that practice as we spend oodles of money making ramps on sidewalks. But in this case, I couldn’t blame him given the deplorable condition of the sidewalk. Just as I noted last year, given how much money that country sucks out of Canada and the extent to which they tax themselves, what on Earth do they spend it on?

44. When I went to the washroom at les Promenades and again later at les Galeries de Hull, I had a surprisingly hard time deciphering the gender of the silhouettes. Just put the text in there and I’ll figure it out.

45. The level of courtesy on the Canadian side was certainly nothing to write home about, but it was much worse on the Quebec side. Several times on my travels, I stopped to let cars pass and not a single one waved to thank me. I even held the door open for someone at les Promenades and didn’t even get a grudging “merci” out of it. Even Toronto looks really good by comparison and it made me appreciate St. Catharines so much more.

46. A couple of shots at Station de la Gappe, one of the Rapibus stations I passed on my travels:

47. While stopped at this little park off Rue Jacques-Cartier where, oddly, a Canadian flag was flying, I saw an older woman walk across the road without looking, forcing a cyclist with the right of way to stop to avoid hitting her. Then two guys in scooters went by side-by-side, taking up both lanes on the two-way bike path. Once again, the lack of consideration was palpable.

48. Shots of a tour boat docked near the Pont Lady-Aberdeen that spans the Gatineau River:

49. A three-way stop sign in Quebec:

50. Scenes along the Lac Leamy trail:

51. At the very busy intersection of Boulevard du Casino and Boulevard de la Carrière, an older guy on a bike was going the wrong way and didn’t budge as a big rig was trying to make a difficult turn to avoid turning him into compost. Bienvenue au Québec!

52. As I’ve said before, the SPRM just keeps following me around:

53. Even in Quebecese, I can spot misspellings such as this “burreau”:

54. I shudder to think of how much I paid for this “art”:

55. Approaching the Macdonald-Cartier International Bridge, I noticed this sign instructing cyclists to walk their bikes across. It is a regulation I haven’t seen obeyed during any of my crossings of that bridge.

56. Though I remain satisfied with the hotel, I was unable to use the safety lock in the room and this thread on the carpet was there throughout my stay. Given that they only spend about three and a half seconds vacuuming each room, I suspect that it’s probably still there.

57. As I noticed last year, the sidewalk on Wellington seems to be a speedway for cyclists and anyone waiting for a bus at the busy stop right in front of the Parliament buildings needs to keep their head on a swivel.

58. On Tuesday morning, when someone got off the #33 STO bus I was on, he said “thank you” to the driver. There are times I wish I had that kind of nerve.

59. Some artwork on the grounds outside Cégep Gabrielle-Roy:

60. An NDP supporter who needs to work on his spray-painting skills:

61. Approaching Saint-Raymond from Cité-des-Jeunes, I started hearing a bunch of sirens, then I looked to my left and saw the billows of smoke coming from this car on fire:

62. In my return trip to les Galeries de Hull, I stopped into one store that sold books and novelties. All the books inside the store were in Quebecese and anyone wanting a book in the Canadian language was forced to go to a special section by the entrance, almost as if they didn’t want the rest of the store polluted with such vile material.

Just imagine if anyone tried such a thing on the Canadian side. I can just hear the cries from the perpetually aggrieved Quebecers who would complain bitterly about being stigmatized and excluded.

63. English training is allowed in Quebec?

64. Crossing Saint-Joseph at Rue Amherst after getting a walk sign, a cyclist coming the wrong way down Saint-Joseph blew off the red light and would have run into me if I did not stop. He didn’t apologize or as much as turn his head and instead kept going down the street. Bienvenue au Québec!

65. At the A-50 interchange at Boulevard des Allumettières, this bum was approaching cars stopped at the red light presumably looking for donations to his favorite charity:

66. Near Place du Centre was a man and a woman standing in the middle of the sidewalk busily chatting away. When I passed them for the second time, I made no effort to avoid the woman’s bag that she was swinging out. If you want to act like jerks, expect to be treated accordingly.

67. I noticed these cleverly designed bike racks outside Place du Centre, which are good for areas with limited space. Standing your bike up, you hook up your front wheel near the top and lock the frame to the pole.

68. Shot of Gatineau city hall:

69. On the Alexandra Bridge going back to Canada, the pathway was chock full of cyclists and joggers going on both sides of me. It’s much less congested on the other bridges and if I should make a return visit, I’ll make a point of avoiding it.

70. Shot of the Parliament buildings from the overlook on the Canadian side of the Alexandra Bridge:

71. While going through Byward Market, I spotted a “Diversity Barbershop.” As they say in Texas, El Paso. The last thing I want is a left-wing political lecture while getting my hair cut.

Also spotted in the area was an “Upward Dog Yoga Center.” Yoga for dogs?

72. Speaking of dogs, I saw very few of them in my travels on both sides of the border. That’s about the only good thing I can say about the area.

73. On the bus ride back to the hotel, one woman got on and asked the driver for some directions. Once satisfied she was headed in the right direction, rather than take a seat on the largely empty bus, she opted to stand right by the door and obstruct the narrow passageway. Many people getting on and off over the next half hour were forced to squeeze past her, including one who obviously had some problems with her leg, yet this jerk would not budge, even after the driver told her that her stop was not coming for quite a while.

Farther down Vanier, she then pulled out a piece of paper showing the driver where she needed to go. We were then made to wait while the driver called into dispatch for directions and then draw her a map pointing the way.

Look, I get being a tourist. But when I go to a different city, I do my homework. Just like she should have done. It’s not fair to jump on public transit and expect the driver to be your personal travel concierge. Next time, if you don’t know where you’re going, hail a cab.

74. While eating breakfast on Wednesday morning before leaving to catch the train, three guys in suits came into the dining room with stethoscopes around their necks. No, the food wasn’t so bad that they felt they might have needed them. They were just showing off.

75. Parking fail at the VIA station:

76. At the VIA station, it wasn’t until past 8:15 that they began allowing passengers to board for the 8:25 Toronto-bound train. So rushed was the process that people were still walking through the car and getting settled when the train took off. Note to VIA staff, try allowing for a little extra time instead of walking around chatting with yourselves.

77. At the back of the car was a group of young boys from Fern Hill School, a private school in Ottawa only about a block off the #9 bus that I’ve since become very familiar with.

78. Over the next four hours, I would learn a lot about the big-shot federal government employee in front of me who was traveling with her annoying and very restless daughter. Ms. Big Shot spent the first two hours reading and replying to emails regarding CCS policy documents and gaps and unclear points in legislation. She then made sure to ask for a receipt after ordering a sandwich and drink, no doubt so she could get me to cover the $9.75 cost.

Once we got past Kingston, she began to check real estate listings and did some searches as to where to live in Victoria. Her next target was a furniture store in France, where she had her eye on an easy chair for 100 euros.

While perusing furniture, her daughter was busy chomping on chips half a bag at a time, which sounded like she was crushing boulders, all while listening to music on her high-quality Bose headphones. Nothing but the best for the daughter of a government employee.

79. Across the aisle was a fat woman who ordered a ham croissant she hardly needed for $7.50 and was reading a book on how to present yourself on social media. As I would later learn, she was going to Toronto for five days for a convention.

80. I listened as Pierre, our service attendant, explained to another passenger that he had been with VIA for 12 years. He said that though they didn’t have a good reputation when he first started with them, today, they’ve got the best in the industry. Sorry, Pierre, you and your colleagues still have a lot of work to do.

Interestingly, he bore a striking resemblance to Dale Hunter, the ex-Quebec Nordique and current coach of the London Knights.

81. Nearby on the Burlington-bound Lakeshore West train was this salty looking dude hauling a couple of well-worn suitcases in a baby stroller:

Rather than take a seat, he was leaning against a pole, using a rolled-up sweater as a cushion. Later, the pole became too uncomfortable for him, so he went to lean up against a wall. Then he dug out and began eating some pistachios from a bag he got at 30% off, being at least considerate enough to pick up a shell that fell on the ground.

Before he got off at Port Credit, I noticed some brown stains on the back of his shorts as he was playing with his troublesome right ankle.

82. I know the sign at the bottom is meant to indicate hailing a cab, but it’s much too similar to a Nazi salute.

83. On the #12 GO bus back to St. Catharines, they had installed a new floor-to-ceiling luggage rack just behind the wheelchair seating on the first level. Given the amount of luggage I’ve seen on Falls-bound buses over the busy summer months, it was long overdue.

20 Apr

Three Days on the Road

Observations from a busy three days on the road earlier this week:

1. The rainbow-colored bench at the Beamsville stop is again AWOL and someone isn’t too happy about it. Posted inside the new shelter is a sign “Wanted: Safe return of rainbow bench. Reward.” I’ll say this for the LGBT community, they are determined.

2. Also spotted at Beamsville was a truck from Industrial Commercial Environmental with the big letters ICE plastered on the side. Taking that truck over the river would undoubtedly send illegals scattering like rats.

3. Facing the QEW in Stoney Creek is an office for Manpower, a company that obviously has not fully embraced gender inclusivity.

4. Call it a hunch, but I get the feeling this student driver still has some learning to do:

5. The Tim Hortons at the Burlington GO station is now officially open, capping off an epic five-year construction cycle that had to have involved Manitoba contractors.

6. Spotted on the UP Express train to Pearson was the Toronto Equine Hospital. Couldn’t they just call it a horsepital?

7. On the Lakeshore West train was a new automated announcement, “Friendly reminder: Keep your feet off the seats. The person sitting there after you will appreciate it.”

8. Parking fail:

9. Seated across the aisle from me on Tuesday’s bus ride to Burlington was a heavyweight who was badly hooked on his smokes. Soon after taking his seat, his snoring was loud enough to wake up the dead, but he managed to wake up in enough time to crack open a Pepsi before his stop at Stoney Creek, where he again lit up within seconds of his feet hitting the pavement.

10. The sign at the Dixie Mall in Mississauga pointing hungry customers away from the food court:

11. Proficiency in the English language is obviously not a requirement for anyone working at the Tim Hortons in Markham where I had my lunch. I had an easier time understanding the clerk at the Subway in Gatineau and I’m anything but fluent in Quebecese.

12. The Kennedy Square mall in Brampton had a distinct odor that suggested it was an exterminator’s preferred client. Maybe even his only client.

13. But domestic objects are OK.

14. It cause me inconvenience none …

15. And so is you …

16. Dress “royaley” …

17. Especially on Tuesday, I lost count of the number of trucks I saw from the SPRM. The most popular carrier was Bison Transport, whose offices were only a ten-minute bike ride away from my last house there.

18. Inside the King City ONRoute. Sure beats those Manitoba rest areas that have nothing more than a rickety old outhouse.

19. At the snow-covered Barrie waterfront:

20. As Yosemite Sam once said, ya better say your prayers, ya flea-bitten varmint … I’m-a-gonna blow ya to smithereenies!

21. This reminds me of the burrito place I spotted in Toronto’s East Chinatown recently …

22. At the Port of Collingwood:

23. It’s nice to know they have a special theater for the LGBT community in Collingwood …

24. A tribute to Shania’s twin?

25. View from the basilica in downtown Guelph:

26. In Elmira, I found Dan Snyder’s grave and got a shot of the Woolwich Memorial Center, which houses the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena. Both shots will be used in a future book on the history of the Atlanta Thrashers, the team that, as a former Manitoba taxpayer, I was forced to purchase for Mark Chipman.

 

19 Mar

Return to the Universe’s Center – East Chinatown, Riverdale Farm

Pictures and observations from my most recent tour of the universe’s center:

0. Foremost among the reasons for my visit yesterday was the late Carli Ward’s 36th birthday. Given how she loved trains and taking pictures, it was a perfect way to commemorate the occasion.

1. Not surprisingly, given that it was a Sunday, I pretty much had the bus to myself on the way to Burlington. Though only five of us got on in St. Catharines, two got on at the Beamsville stop, which is two more than the number that normally board there, even during the week. More unusual was that, on the way back, a woman asked the driver if he was stopping at Beamsville. I suppose it’s becoming a case of build it and they will come.

2. Believe it or not, they actually put up a shelter at Nash and Barton. With a bench inside, no less. Heavens to Murgatroyd, what’s this world coming to?

2a. Could an official park and ride at Fairview Mall be next? Nah.

3. In the shelter on Barton Street was an ad promoting the final month of a frog display at the Royal Botanical Gardens, saying it was a “ribbeting experience.” That’s something I would have been proud to come up with.

4. Even more rare than a passenger boarding at Beamsville was someone requesting a stop at Fairview Street and Maple Avenue. When the passenger wasn’t waiting by the door when the driver pulled up to the curb, for some reason he got all huffy and yelled out “Who’s getting off?” as the woman was coming down the stairs, something he should have been able to see from the camera. Who peed in his Corn Flakes?

5. If you were the driver of an SUV with the license plate BSAX 672, consider yourself very fortunate that you didn’t end up with a double-decker GO bus up your backside. Make a note to yourself: royally cutting off a speeding bus is not a terribly good idea.

6. Not only is the new Burlington GO station fully functional, but there’s even a Tim Hortons there now.

Though it wasn’t open in the morning nor in the afternoon on the way back, it did appear to at least be ready to open.

7. Had there been someone in a wheelchair looking to board the train at Burlington, he or she would have been out of luck as the train stopped at a point where neither door of the designated accessibility coach opened on the ramp.

8. Inside the car I was in was an ad from Air Transat promoting flights to London. With the egregious human rights abuses taking place in the UK where its fascist government is jailing its own citizens for speaking out against the invasion of their country by Middle Eastern migrants, why on Earth would anyone want to go there? Not to mention the fact that anyone with political leanings to the right of Lenin wouldn’t even be allowed in the country.

8a. Once again, can we please stop calling these migrants “refugees”? As I’ve heard it said, if you come here demanding the same culture and ideology you “fled” from, you’re not a refugee.

9. The young punk who got on at Bronte and snoozed most of the way to Union obviously hadn’t bathed or showered in the last couple of weeks. The pungent odor was camouflaged somewhat by the aromatic bag someone brought on board at Clarkson. I’m not sure which one was worse.

10. On the subway, I noticed an ad from an immigration lawyer offering help with getting a visa. These days, why bother going through the legal channels when you can just walk across the border and have the government bend over backwards to shower you with all sorts of free benefits and services those of us who were born here can’t get?

11. On the bus I took after getting off at the College station, I was surprised that the rear doors did not open automatically the way they do on most buses I’ve seen around this part of the world. But at least they did open without a fight, unlike the case in the Old Country.

12. Scenes around East Chinatown. Not to be confused with the regular Chinatown on Spadina.

13. While taking pictures around the area, one guy angrily asked me “You’re not pointing that at me are you?” It’s a camera, not a gun.

14. To say the least, the sight of a Caucasian in this neighborhood stands out like a sore thumb and one that isn’t entirely welcome among the locals.

15. Graffiti, more euphemistically referred to as “street art,” in and around the area:

16. Take a load off:

17. Did you ever think we would need signs like this? What a time to be alive.

18. Noodles must be in short supply, since you only get one with certain dishes. Same with dumplings apparently.

19. If I was looking for a burrito, why would I come to Chinatown?

20. Free deliver for all your furnitures …

21. For those of you with more than one household …

22. It’s somehow fitting to have Jack Layton Way running alongside an old jail, since that’s where all of his political opponents would have ended up had Mr. Chow ever become prime minister.

23. On the way to nearby Riverdale Farm, I couldn’t help but notice this attention-starved joggerette who decided to run on a busy road, eschewing the dedicated trail only a few steps away that follows the Don River. But if she was on the trail, she wouldn’t be noticed. And that’s the whole point with people like this.

24. The poultry at Riverdale Farm weren’t terribly eager to pose for pictures, but I did manage to get a few shots of them, including this one:

25. Also spotted at Riverdale Farm was a kid with a Chipman toque. Oh, if he only knew …

26. I don’t mean to be disrespectful of family or religious traditions, but these red lanterns had the look of those Budweiser goal lights that go off when your favorite team scores. Perhaps here, they light up when someone in the family dies.

27. An interesting inscription on a marker at Necropolis Cemetery …

28. This restaurant wasn’t looking for braves. They wanted a “chief” …

29. Some serious dish-heads in this block. From past experience, the one on the far right and the middle one in on the far left is getting Bell, the two on the middle right are getting Shaw Direct and the others are getting DirecTV, otherwise known as “Dave.”

30. On the street, I passed by a small group of retired postal workers protesting against finance minister Bill Morneau’s proposed Bill C-27. I admit to being unaware of the specifics, but Morneau isn’t the problem. His boss is. And the legion of ignorant Canadians who voted for him.

31. Scenes along Dundas Street:

32. At Yonge-Dundas Square:

33. Spotted on Yonge Street was a woman wearing a skirt split wide open right at the crotch. To borrow a line from a long-lost friend, no visuals please.

34. This restaurant appeared to be awfully popular:

35. Seated nearby at Union Station was a guy shaking his leg for no apparent reason. Kind of like a slightly mentally challenged former colleague of mine used to do while blankly staring at the screen trying to wrap his brain around a relatively simple task.

36. Also seated nearby was a flighty woman with dark red hair down to her waist and wearing a bright, florescent red jacket that screamed “I want attention!”

37. With all the noise and commotion going on, the most important qualification for anyone working at the McDonald’s in Union Station is having a loud, booming voice.

38. The couple seated across the aisle from me on the bus headed back to St. Catharines was all giddy over seeing the Burlington IKEA store. Geez, it’s not that big of a deal. There are four of them in the GTA and a pick-up and order point in St. Catharines.

39. I listened as one Falls-bound woman with an army of kids in tow was giving telephone support for an employee scheduling application. Apparently the entire bus needed to know that “Chicana” will be working a full shift and won’t be getting off until 4:30, replacing “Zara.” Poor Kristen won’t be working her shift because she fell down some stairs and someone named Kristana clocked out at 9:36 the other day despite having left at 9:00. Shame, shame.

40. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

03 Feb

Braving the Extreme Cold in the Universe’s Center

Observations and pictures from yesterday’s visit to the Center of the Universe:

1. En route to Fairview Mall, I spotted a cyclist on Geneva Street with no helmet, no light and apparently no brain. Same goes for the cyclist who boarded the GO bus and got off at Beamsville, though at least the cyclist on Geneva had the benefit of street lights. Out on South Service Road at the Ontario Street exit, all the cyclist had for illumination was the light from the full moon.

2. Being a weekday, I was surprised that there were only a handful of people boarding at Fairview Mall, but then again, GO has increased the frequency of buses in the morning and afternoon peak hours.

3. There was a new message on the display inside the GO bus warning passengers, “Get serious about safety. The bus is bigger than you are.” People who need reminding that a double-decker monstrosity is bigger than they are shouldn’t be allowed out on their own.

4. GO has installed a new shelter at the lightly used Beamsville stop, yet they still don’t have one at the much busier stop at Nash and Barton. Sigh. But at least there’s the nearby Wholesale Club.

5. Dear City of Hamilton: There are holes in Kenora Street so big that a bus or a big rig could lose a wheel in. It doesn’t need patching, it needs to be completely repaved. Yesterday. This is not Winnipeg.

6. I watched as a heavyweight got off at Nash and Barton and waddled across the parking lot trying to catch a Barton bus. In a classic Winnipeg Transit moment, the bus took off just as she got to the stop. Not cool, HSR. You’re better than that.

7. Listening to that heavyweight pant and wheeze as she climbed up the stairs after getting on at Grimsby made me wonder why she didn’t stay down below since she was just getting off at Stoney Creek. It’s not like the bus was packed and there were no available seats.

8. I also noticed how that heavyweight came prepared with a heavy parka, yet didn’t bother to zip it up or put up her hood. No doubt she spent the morning complaining about the cold.

9. Recognizing people on the GO bus from past trips including the aforementioned heavyweight and cyclist in Beamsville made me realize just how much tenure I have acquired in this part of the world. Much to our mayor’s chagrin, I’m sure.

10. Just as the case on the return trip, the GO bus driver greeted each passenger upon boarding and thanked us as we got off. It sure beats the F-you treatment in the Old Country.

11. During the relatively uneventful ride on the express train to Union Station, I was seated opposite a middle-aged woman in a surly disposition who obviously did not get enough sleep last night.

12. The Danish Pastry House is one of a number of trendy eateries that have popped up in Union Station recently. Judging from the Tim Hortons-esque line, it seems to be popular.

13. I just missed a train in the subway and had to wait a whole minute for the next one. First world problems.

14. Can you imagine how often an alarm like this would get “misused” if they dared to install such a thing on Winnipeg Transit buses?

15. Obligatory shot aboard the subway:

16. Not long after having to wait that whole minute for the next train, I had to get off at the St. Clair West station since the one I was on was a rush-hour train and as such, was only going as far as Glencairn. I could have also transferred at Eglinton West or Glencairn itself, but as they advised in the announcement, if you wanted to wait indoors, St. Clair West was the best option.

17. Following the hour-long ride mostly underground, I got off at Vaughan Metropolitan Center, the new station which just opened in December as part of the Line 1 extension project.

Adjacent is a parking lot for subway riders as well as this new bus station still under construction as part of a rapidway being built in the middle of Highway 7. When completed, passengers getting off a York Regional Transit bus will be able to go below and catch the #1 line to downtown Toronto. All while Winnipeg is still farting around with Rapid Transit and more concerned about opening up Portage and Main to pedestrians.

18. Before approaching the Vaughan Metropolitan Center, there was an automated announcement saying that it was the terminal station. Not a big oaf behind the wheel bellowing out “TERMINUS” at the top of his lungs as I encountered last April while riding the STO in Gatineau.

19. Within a minute of getting to street level, I was approached by someone asking for directions to a DriveTest center. Sadly, not having been around there before, I couldn’t help the guy other than to point him the way to the subway station.

20. While getting some shots of the 407 ETR from the overpass at Jane Street, a truck from Bison Transport passed by and was soon followed by a truck from Gardewine. As I’ve said before, the SPRM does keep following me around.

20a. Bonus points for those who know where Manitoba’s 407 is. Or was.

21. After supplementing my collection of highway pictures, I walked along the newly constructed sidewalk leading to the Highway 407 station to catch the #1 line back to downtown Toronto.

In the latter shot, note how the sidewalk ends abruptly, forcing passengers to walk across the grass. This mysterious and Manitoba-esque design faux-pas isn’t an issue for an able-bodied person like me, but I can imagine the trouble anyone in a wheelchair or even someone who walks with a cane would have. There wasn’t even a ramp to allow such people to easily get off the sidewalk and onto the street.

22. Unlike the case in Union Station, the gates at this new station were clearly marked as to which one to use with each Presto card reader and there was no turnstile, just a Plexiglas door that opened after tapping.

23. Waiting at the Highway 407 station:

24. En route back to downtown Toronto, there was an announcement that trains were holding at Yorkdale because of a medical emergency. Minutes later, however, it was taken care of and trains were again moving. In the Old Country, police would have taken great pleasure in using such a circumstance to shut the entire service down for the day. Just because they could.

25. Spotted on the train was an ad saying that two of the three signs of mental illness can’t be seen. Oh, but they can. At the ballot box. After all, look how many Liberals still hold public office.

26. Also spotted on the train were two people using their laptops. No one would dare to do such a thing on a Winnipeg Transit bus for fear of it promptly being stolen, smashed and/or used as a toilet.

27. A guy with a Glad bag slung over his shoulder was going up and down the train asking people for spare change in multiple languages including gibberish. No one gave him anything, but I suppose it’s just because Toronto isn’t a compassionate city, another of the empty phrases our mayor continues to spew ad nauseum.

28. I got a pretty good whack on the knee from the excess blubber of a woman who sat down in front of me.

29. At the Osgoode station where I got off, children were collecting for Toronto’s homeless youth. Again, they didn’t get any donors from those of us who piled off the train. Cue the nauseating “compassionate city” lines from our mayor.

30. Even the rat dog vendors weren’t open in this “extreme cold.” Toronto was under an extreme cold warning even though it was only -11 when I left the house. The standard as to what is considered extreme cold certainly differs greatly from the Old Country, where -40 wind chills are par for the course at this time of year.

31. You think they use enough salt in this part of the world?

32. Scenes from the skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square. It’s a wonder it wasn’t closed because of the “extreme cold.”

33. Or just let the law of natural selection run its course …

34. Several doors, including this one, were closed at the Queen Street entrance at the Eaton Center due to the “extreme cold.” It’s OK to laugh.

35. You know, if there really was a fire, I think that not having this fire hose available would be a little more than an “inconvenience.”

36. On the return trip, I noticed a woman who got off at Port Credit wearing leather boots that went way up past her knees. How people walk in such things is beyond me.

37. An older guy who got on at Clarkson bore a striking resemblance to Carl Bugenhagen, the exorcist in the first two Omen movies played by Leo McKern. As far as I know, he wasn’t carrying a box with daggers inside.

38. While waiting at the Burlington GO station for the #12 bus, I laughed as everyone went charging outside at the first sign of a bus only to realize that it wasn’t the Niagara-bound bus they were looking for. The bus’s destination was clearly labeled and plainly visible from inside the station, but you’ve got to look.

39. Among those waiting at the Burlington GO station was a guy with mental-health issues who was serenading the group with his own special brand of melodic ramblings. Though he continued to entertain us from the back of the bus after getting on, thankfully, he seemed to lose interest near Stoney Creek.

40. I remain grateful for GO’s express bus to the Falls that siphons off much of the riff-raff.

41. Being a weekday, I was surprised that most passengers boarding the #12 bus did not pay with Presto.

42. Our GO bus driver was otherwise very good, but an oncoming car he royally cut off pulling out of the Grimsby station had to swerve to avoid a collision.

43. So when there aren’t high winds on the skyway, it’s OK not to drive carefully?

44. As I’ve said before, you think they use enough salt in this part of the world?

 

17 Jan

Day Trip to Hamilton

Observations and pictures from my day trip to Hamilton yesterday:

1. Sitting across the aisle on the GO bus was the quintessential country bumpkin who looked like he really did just fall off a turnip truck. With a torn coat and toting all his worldly possessions inside two duffel bags, he was certainly well prepared for his journey. Inside a clear plastic pouch bound with an elastic band was a Niagara Falls Transit rider guide and almost as many HSR schedules as you’ll see at the MacNab Transit Terminal. He was particularly interested in the #41 Mohawk and #2 Barton routes. Later, he kept himself busy studying the fine print on the back of his Presto card and had the time to pour himself some coffee out of his thermos before we got to Stoney Creek.

2. Boarding at Fairview Mall was an obese woman with multicolored fingernails pushing a stroller who evidently still felt she needed to eat for two even though she had already long since given birth. Oddly, this would be the only stroller I would spot on the day, despite two subsequent trips on the Barton bus, a route that seemingly features a two-stroller minimum per trip.

3. Though he wasn’t driving unsafely, our driver took the “GO” logo emblazoned on his uniform a little too literally. Among the many semis he passed was one from Lockport, GSNY.

4. Inside the shelter at Nash and Barton was another heavyweight giving the seat one heck of a good stress test, but like a Timex watch, it took a licking but kept on ticking. Kudos to the engineers who designed it.

5. Spotted along the route downtown were signs stating “We fix eyeglass” and “Thousands of item, every day.” There was also a grocery store with an “Aunt Jemina” product on sale. Perhaps it was a knockoff of the more popular Aunt Jemima brand.

6. Also spotted along Barton was “Genuine Bakery.” Gotta watch out for those fake bakeries. Farther west, there was a caterer taking new orders for 2017.

7. At Gage Avenue, the HSR driver stopped and waited for a senior struggling with her cart a half block from the stop as well as someone across the street who wanted to catch the bus. Once again, this is not Winnipeg Transit.

8. Farther west, some dude boarded with cannabis leaf symbols all over his jacket. Who do you suppose he voted for in the most recent federal election?

9. Along the sidewalk was some spaced-out guy marching to the beat of his own drum. A drum that had a hole in it.

10. Just past Hamilton General was a city garbage truck with a big sign on the side stating “Put fruit stickers in the garbage.” Is it really that big of a deal there?

11. More pandering to the privileged, courtesy of CBC, the state propagandist. Your tax dollars at work.

12. The West Harbor GO station, one that those of us in Niagara will be seeing out the window from the proposed trains scheduled to service this part of the world.

13. I couldn’t resist this shot of the sign welcoming people to the North End. From walking around the area, it probably has the same negative connotation in Hamilton as it does in the Old Country, but here in St. Catharines, a North End address carries a premium.

14. Click here for my shots from Bayfront Park.

15. While in Bayfront Park, someone got out of her car ready to walk her two dogs. With the “extreme cold” outside, the dogs didn’t just have little booties on, but full knee-high socks. Oy.

16. I wonder if these guys with tents in the middle of the ice were aware that the forecasted high was -4 C, not much below the freezing mark. This isn’t the Old Country, where a January high above -20 feels like a heat wave.

17. On the way back downtown, I passed some teenagers jabbering away in what appeared to be some Middle Eastern language as they were smoking. Of what little English I heard, their favorite word was one that was four letters long and started with ‘F.’

18. Also en route, I passed by a couple of Tim Hortons locations that were absolutely packed. So much for that “No Timmies Tuesdays” the unionists, with the help of their friends in the left-wing fake news mainstream media, are trying to drum up support for, even in the heart of a big union town like Hamilton. Where, incidentally, Comrade Horwath’s riding happens to be.

19. Lunch was at the A & W a block away from Jackson Square, where they asked for everyone’s name upon ordering. The manager must have once worked at Radio Shack, where they were notorious for that annoying practice.

20. After ringing up my order for the chicken strip combo, the clerk asked “Do you want fries and a root beer?” Um, yeah, that’s what the combo means. Otherwise, I would have just ordered the chicken.

20a. Even with an abnormally high minimum wage, good help remains hard to find.

21. As I was eating, the guy behind the counter was quite amused that someone named Cam always came through the drive-thru around this time with the same order. Given how few people were actually in the restaurant, he might consider being a little more grateful to Cam rather than making fun of him.

22. The only two customers seated there besides me were a hobo and an older gentleman who sat like a stuffed dummy not moving a muscle as he stared blankly at passers-by on King Street.

23. Crossing King Street at Gore Park was a middle-aged guy who was flipping a water bottle in his hand as if he was trying out for Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. From the look on his face, I’m not sure if he or the bottle had a higher IQ.

24. Scenes in Gore Park:

25. Etiquette fail on the HSR bus I took back to the Nash and Barton GO stop:

26. This car parked at the Wholesale Club was presumably once a Grand Caravan, but is now a Grand Cara An:

27. On the return trip, there was as much food being consumed on the second level of the GO bus as there was in the food court at Jackson Square.

28. Leaving Fairview Mall on the way home was a guy perched in the median at Geneva Street with a sign, “Broke, will work, anything helps.” But despite being financially destitute, he had plenty of money to feed and care for the big dog he had with him. Priorities.

16 Dec

A Commemorative Trip to the Universe’s Center

Pictures and observations from yesterday’s voyage to and from the universe’s center:

0. The purpose of yesterday’s trip was to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passing of Carli Ward, a dear friend and subject of my second book. As she loved trains, a train trip to Toronto seemed appropriate to mark the occasion.

1. Even before 7:00, the Starbucks on Scott Street was blasting Christmas music on their speakers. If I could hear it from the street, no doubt the people in the nearby apartment blocks could as well. But I’m sure the people outside on the patio appreciated it. A patio that must be wildly popular at this time of year.

2. Waiting at Fairview Mall was a woman wearing a pair of Smurf-blue sweatpants that one would wear around the house. Come as you are.

3. Spotted in the shelter at Fairview. I’d rather see these four-letter words than the ones I used to see with much more frequency in the Old Country. You know, the ones that start with the letter ‘F.’

4. Someone from a group of four with huge piles of luggage in tow asked me if this was there they could catch the bus to Brampton. I replied that the bus was going to Burlington, but she seemed satisfied. Brampton, Burlington, what’s the difference?

5. Boarding just ahead of me was a GO trainee who insisted on holding up the line to give the driver a sob story about showing up two hours late to work yesterday because he missed a bus connection. Something told me the grunt behind the wheel couldn’t have cared less. Save it for your future boss.

6. Some pee-wee hockey player who got on at Fairview stored his huge bag full of hockey equipment in the luggage area by the front door, yet he made the effort to haul his sticks up the narrow stairway to the upper level. I wondered if he was perhaps planning a little pickup game.

7. I could have gotten out and walked faster than the school bus taking the curve on the 406 on-ramp. Yet on so many other occasions, I’ve seen lead-footed school bus drivers go like crazy. There does not seem to be a happy medium with them.

8. Even at that early hour, the parking lot at the Tim Hortons in Vineland was nearly packed.

9. LGBT activists can breathe easier now that the rainbow-colored bench at the Beamsville stop is back.

10. Dear delivery truck driver at the Beamsville park and ride: The next time you need to tend to some vitally important texting, try pulling into one of the many empty spots in the lot instead of forcing the GO bus driver to struggle to maneuver around you.

11. Many thanks to the older woman who boarded at Stoney Creek and sat behind me for sharing her cold or flu bug. I’m sorry she was in bed sick with a high fever and had to miss work the previous day, but from her coughing, it sounded like she should have called in sick again.

12. This same woman was trying to console someone she was talking to on the phone who was apparently distressed over a sick loved one. “He’s going to get better, mark these words. I’ll say a prayer,” she said. “And the other cat too.” Sigh.

13. Thumbs down to the Halton Police for not clearing the accident scene at the off-ramp at Fairview Street. The pieces of cracked taillights and fenders that were strewn all over the road no doubt were the cause of some deflated tires.

14. Waiting at the Burlington GO station for the Lakeshore West train, the Brampton/Burlington travelers left their luggage inside the station completely unattended while they went outside to smoke. Priorities.

15. I had the pleasure of waiting on the platform alongside someone with a long and annoying xylophone ringtone on her phone. A phone that went off three times in less than five minutes.

16. You think they use enough salt in this part of the world?

17. Spotted on a parked rail car was the notice, “Hammering on the side will contaminate product.” If that isn’t an open invitation, I don’t know what is.

18. Past the Oakville station, I noticed a sign for “Beaver Rentals.” Just in case you need to rent a beaver.

19. Fittingly, at the Long Branch station, there was a long branch sticking out from a tree that scraped the car on its way by.

20. At Union Station, I made my way to the platform for my first ride in a streetcar.

Passengers enter the station at the same gates as they do for the subway, but instead follow the signs for the streetcar platform.

I took the #510 line, which runs in the middle of Spadina Avenue, with cars passing on either side.

21. Scenes along Queen Street. It wasn’t my primary destination on this day, but I would like to return and spend more time here in a future visit.

22. “Butter Avenue” would indeed be a fitting address for the rising number of heavyweights out there.

23. I doubt these sessions do much for the customers, but they certainly help the psychic reader’s financial problems.

24. Scenes in “Graffiti Alley” just behind Queen Street:

25. I stopped at this A & W for a meal break. Though I did wait for a human to serve me, there was a self-order kiosk available as well. As with other fast-food restaurants, those kiosks will become increasingly popular as a result of unreasonable minimum-wage legislation. As someone put it on Twitter this morning, “I hope someday supporters of minimum wage hikes get to meet some of the folks who’ve lost jobs as a result, so they can look them in the eye and say ‘sorry, it was for the greater good.’”

26. Seated across from me was an overweight woman with Smurf-blue nails who was delightfully savoring her sweet potato fries and burger. See previous comment on “Butter Avenue.”

27. There was a numbered keypad on the door to the washroom along with a sign stating that the code to open it is printed on the bottom of your receipt. But I didn’t get a receipt. Yes, I hate begging for the privilege of using a washroom.

28. Not just a fender-bender, but an engine-bender:

29. Given how Carli was also a big baseball and Blue Jays fan, I made a point of touring the area around the Rogers Center.

29a. I used to be such a rabid baseball fan that I would take the day off work to watch Opening Day. Yet the last time I watched a baseball game for any significant length of time was when I was sitting next to Carli in Grace Hospice one evening back in the summer of 2007 when the Blue Jays were hosting the Dodgers.

30. Funny, I was looking for the line for past event sales …

31. Outside Ripley’s Aquarium. Our photo club is going on an outing there today, but of the many things I would want to do in the universe’s center, visiting the aquarium is just not one of them.

32. I used to think the Falls was the selfie capital of the world until I stumbled upon this sign outside the CN Tower. I had to wait several minutes for the riff-raff to move on before getting this shot.

33. Scenes in the skywalk between the CN Tower and Union Station:

34. The “Union Holiday” display near the Great Hall. Of note is that the dog at right was one of three I spotted inside Union Station on my return trip. Not cool.

35. While waiting for my Lakeshore West train, someone passed by with a box of heart-shaped candies. It’s the Christmas season, not Valentine’s Day.

36. On the platform, someone was digging into a malodorous takeout dish from Thai Express that I could smell from across the tracks. To say the least, it was not exactly a ringing endorsement for the chain.

37. Two people in my car were carrying bags from Uncle Tetsu Japanese Cheesecake. Too many people live to eat rather than eat to live.

38. The woman across the aisle from me on the train had more cords in her bag than I’ve seen at the desks of some server and network techies I’ve worked with.

39. Leaving Union Station, I spotted an interesting billboard from the Government of Canada. Over top of a background of a picture of weed was the caption “Don’t Drive High.” Wouldn’t it just be simpler not to legalize the stuff?

40. I think I see some pavement under all that salt …

40a. I got some strange looks from the guy seated across from me when I took that shot. Perhaps only someone born and raised in this part of the world can fully understand the “need” for such excessive use of sodium chloride.

41. I spotted a car with SPRM plates in the Oakville GO parking lot. As I’ve said before, that place does continue to follow me around.

42. In defiance of the crippling wave of political correctness sweeping the globe, both GO and Oakville Transit buses had “Merry Christmas” flashing on their signs. Maybe there’s still some hope for us yet.

43. They spent five years working on the new Burlington GO station and it still needs work …

44. Seated across the aisle from me on the GO bus was a chatty older couple from St. Catharines. The guy was the classic back-seat driver who kept making comments as “let’s go,” “give him a push,” “easy now” and “OK, smoke ’em” all the way back to Fairview Mall. The woman also interjected her share of commentary, particularly lamenting how slow drivers react to green lights. As we got closer to home, they made a point of talking about their disappointment with the prices at Lakeshore Meats. Like me, they were on a day trip to Toronto as well, but they had gotten up at 4:00, much earlier than I did.

45. Kudos to the GO bus driver on my return trip who exercised great caution on the highway under increasingly worsening conditions.