Tag Archives: Toronto Eaton Center

16 Dec

A Special Saturday in the Universe’s Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Raoul was here:

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

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

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

11. Scenes near the Great Hall in Union Station:

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

13. Better than gifts from Mars, I suppose.

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

15. Dead bird in the middle of the road:

16. Assorted street urchins:

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

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

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

20. A rat with its tail on fire?

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

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

23. Other scenes at Nathan Phillips Square:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 Nov

Fun Times on Public Transit

Observations, a few pictures and even some audio from a day on public transit to and from Pearson Airport:

1. While waiting at Fairview Mall, a mentally challenged guy came into the shelter and began blabbering some marginally intelligible gibberish in my general direction. After telling me that he cleaned his driveway three times yesterday, he turned his head slightly and ejected a half-gallon of snot from his nose before continuing. He apparently likes craft sales and he’ll be volunteering at one of them today, then he finished his bottle of Diet Pepsi before boarding his connecting #309 bus, thus sparing me more of his life story.

2. Among those boarding the #12C bus, surprisingly few paid with Presto, which is most unusual for a weekday.

3. Oddly, despite the wet and sloppy conditions on Friday morning, five bikes were parked at the Beamsville Park and Ride.

4. Among those boarding at Grimsby was a guy wearing a Kenora dinner jacket:

5. The customer service ambassador on the Lakeshore West train must not have slept well as “Final call for the doors” was routinely shortened to “Finlclfrthdrs.”

6. While walking through Eaton Center in Toronto, artificially bubbly clerks from Paragon were madly approaching passers-by and shoving small packets of a smelly substance at them. I did not dare to as much as slow down to investigate as to what the contents may have been. As they say in Texas, El Paso.

7. On the #1 TTC subway line, another mental case was walking up and down entertaining passengers like me with her special vocal talent.

8. On the #2 line, I was seated across the aisle from a young woman engrossed with her laptop who kept tugging on her lip so hard it was remarkable she didn’t peel the skin off.

9. While passing the Jane station, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the former first lady of Ontario, whose wife’s Liberals were so humiliated at the ballot box that they don’t even hold official party status at Queen’s Park anymore.

10. When I got to the Kipling station to transfer to the 192 Airport Rocket bus to take me to Pearson, in its place was the 900 Airport Express. It was only later when I saw this sign at Terminal 1 that I learned of the change as there was nothing posted at Kipling.

Furthermore, the change was not supposed to go into effect until Sunday, yet the buses and all signage at Kipling had already been changed. The “you’re just supposed to know” mantra may pass in St. Catharines, but it doesn’t cut it in Toronto. Two thumbs down to the TTC on this one.

11. Seated near the front of the prematurely marked 900 Airport Express bus was a guy wearing a vintage-model Jets toque. I normally cringe at reminders of the republic I once called home, but I didn’t mind that one.

12. At the international arrivals in Terminal 3, an Asian couple dumped their coats and a few of their belongings next to me while running off to chat with some others. How trusting of them.

13. Aboard the Airport Express bus on the way back to the Kipling station, I spotted someone near the front who was chugging down a can of beer. Judging from the way he was staggering around the station once we got there, it likely wasn’t his first of the day.

14. The same could be said for the bum next to me on the #2 line who reeked of some sort of alcoholic beverage. From the looks of him, he probably just got up off a park bench after passing out the previous night.

15. In front of me in the same car was someone sharing a bubble tea with his girlfriend. I can’t imagine how much they paid for the beverage that looked like watered down cappuccino with rat turds floating at the bottom of the cup.

16. As we made our way east on the #2 line, a fatso took a seat in front of me. In a state of semi-slumber, she apparently thought my knee was a resting place for her arm and enormous blubber that oozed way over the edge of the wide seat.

17. One of the slogans Metrolinx is using on posters around Union Station is “We’re working hard to bring you Rapid Transit.” Trust me, you don’t want to emulate the biggest white-elephant project Winnipeg has ever known.

18. Despite the fact that mid-November is hardly peak tourist season, there was quite the line of people waiting to board the #12 bus at Burlington:

19. Waiting in that line, someone behind me yelled, “Geez, it’s cold.” Yes, the wind picked up a bit in the afternoon, but the temperature was +3. Go spend a few winters in the SPRM, then you’ll find out what cold really is.

20. I suspect the hyperactive smoker who got on at Beamsville and sat down next to me didn’t connect his heavy breathing and shortness of breath with his smoking habit. Then, the instant the bus came to a stop at Fairview Mall, the guy took off like a shot, running down the stairs and off the bus.

21. While walking through Fairview Mall after getting off the bus, a guy who was using the pay phone stopped me and asked, “Hey, buddy, do you know if there’s a bar around here on Geneva Street?”

While I was thinking, he added, “You know, a variety store.”

“But I thought you said a bar?” I replied.

“Yeah, a bar and a variety store.”

Well, there’s an odd combination.

Then he continued.

“It used to be known as something then some other thing.”

Gee, that’s helpful.

So even though I’m good with places and directions, even for places I don’t frequent like bars, I couldn’t help him.

What a shame. My heart bleeds for the poor guy.

Or not.

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?