Tag Archives: TTC

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.”

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.

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?

 

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.

01 Nov

Halloween in the Universe’s Center

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

1. Even before the crack of dawn, there was a long line at the drive thru at the Tim Hortons on Scott Street. Oy.

2. Dear jogger on Scott Street: Even if you don’t care about breaking the law, show that you take your own safety more seriously than you expect passing motorists to by using the sidewalk instead of the road. Especially when it’s pitch dark outside.

3. After hearing train whistles near Fairview Mall, an area with no railway presence, I spotted this abandoned stocking cap or mitten with the number 5 on it.

Then when I got to Burlington, there was this 642 license plate right in front of me on the platform.

Messages sent, messages received. As I’ve said before, you may understand and you may not.

4. No doubt LCBO will be accused of racism with this edict …

5. On this Halloween day, much to my relief, my bus driver came dressed as … drumroll please … a bus driver.

6. On the QEW, we passed a sign that read, “Work Zone: Drive with Care.” So evidently, it’s OK to drive carelessly if it’s not a work zone.

7. Dear cyclist who got off at Beamsville: Much like the case with the jogger on Scott Street, place a premium on your safety by considering a small investment in a light for your bike. Especially when you plan to use it in the dark on roads without street lights.

8. Dear smoker on the platform at Burlington: Don’t let that big “no smoking” sign you were standing underneath bother you.

9. I think I was only one of three or four people on the platform and on the train who was not preoccupied with his phone. It shouldn’t surprise me at this point, but it still does.

10. As it was an express train, the customer service ambassador kept reminding passengers wishing to travel to stations between Clarkson and Exhibition to detrain at Oakville. This was just after I debused at Burlington and an hour before I would desubway in Toronto.

11. At the opposite end of the car I was in, there was a sign commemorating GO’s 50th anniversary. Why is it that I get the impression that GO was more advanced on their first day than Winnipeg Transit is today? Not that I’m bitter or anything, mind you.

12. Parked in a lot near the Bronte station was a trailer from Arnold Bros. Transport. As I’ve said before, the SPRM does follow me around.

13. The person seated next to me on the train should seriously consider upgrading her laptop from Windows 7, which is in the extended support phase. But at least she had the latest version of Office installed.

14. The guy seated across from me had a silly, almost stupid-looking grin on his face all the way to Union Station. But he sure thought he was important. Oh, and he’s an RBC customer. The things you learn about people on public transit.

15. It wasn’t even November and this GO locomotive was already decked out for Christmas:

16. At the washroom in Union Station, I had to wait in line to use a hand dryer. Once again, this is not the Old Country.

17. Traffic and crowds were not a problem on the way to Union, but I was caught off guard by the mass crush of humanity headed for the subway.

18. Dear TTC: Having taken the subway there before, I realize I should have known better, but please consider putting arrows pointing passengers to the proper gate to use after tapping their Presto card. Just like you do at other Presto-enabled stations. When you put a Presto machine between two sets of gates, not everyone is going to know which one to use, particularly in a city that gets as many visitors as Toronto does.

19. This jogger at Queen’s Park did not appear to be in costume. Her attire was just weird.

20. Normally, I would scoff at the prospect of students buying assignments, but today’s professors are so blinded by left-wing ideologies that they’d probably give a passing grade to anything, even if it was directly copied from Coles Notes, as long as it properly conformed to their worldview.

20a. Back in the late 1980s when I was in a class taught by a former NDP MLA, I got a D on an essay in which I disagreed with his left-wing politics. I pretended to agree with him on the next assignment and got a B. Coincidence? You be the judge.

21. Shots along Philosopher’s Walk on the campus of the University of the Center of the Universe. Or would that be Central Universe University?

22. When liberals talk about “everyone” being welcome, they mean everyone who agrees with them. The rest of us can take a hike.

23. Chew on this: 0 out of 8 households seem to have trouble getting a hold of cigarettes or LCBO products. There are some genuinely needy people out there, but far too often, it’s a matter of priorities.

24. The back of the arena that hosted the WHA’s Toronto Toros in their first season after moving from Ottawa.

24a. If you recall, following one season at Varsity Arena and two more at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Toros moved south and became the Birmingham Bulls. As an old Jets fan, I can still hear the “Birmingham stinks!” chant.

25. Shouldn’t this be code red?

26. Give him a call …

27. Outside the Royal Ontario Museum:

28. No, this shot was not taken in Winnipeg, the discount capital of the Western world …

29. The only difference between a regular piece of art and an “objet d’art” is the 50-100% premium in price.

30. Given how Halloween has seemingly become a national holiday, I was surprised that this was about as radical as things got as far as costumes and decorations were concerned:

31. Shots around the Yorkville area:

32. In case you have a dirty Canada Goose on your hands …

33. I don’t think I want to get my hair cut there:

34. Spotted at Yorkville Center was a couple who were fawning over a poodle as if it was a newborn baby.

35. I used the washroom at Yorkville Center, where again, people were washing their hands after doing their business. As I’ve said before, this is not the Old Country.

36. Near the Yorkville Center, I passed by a Ferrari and Maserati dealership, open by appointment only, strategically placed in the middle of the high rent district.

36a. If you recall, back in 2003, Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers wrecked his Ferrari in a single-vehicle accident that claimed the life of his passenger and teammate, Dan Snyder.

36b. How many of you remember that Heatley’s father played in the WHA?

37. Better than an old street …

38. It wasn’t bitterly cold by any means, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be riding around in the open-air top deck:

39. I guess those packages don’t move …

40. Obesity has evidently become such a problem in our society that the Shoppers Drug Mart in Hudson Bay Center had a “Weight Management” aisle.

41. Perhaps this is commonplace elsewhere in the world, but this is the first time I’ve seen an intersection like this one at Bloor and Yonge where pedestrians can cross diagonally.

42. Though I didn’t stop to investigate further, there was someone on Yonge Street looking to pocket a little extra cash by running a less-than-legal spinning-wheel gaming operation. No doubt, police will be on to him quickly. After all, the government hates competition.

43. Heard over the crowds at Yonge-Dundas Square was a mentally challenged gentleman who yelled, “Why do you make noise jeery freaks jerks?”

44. Many were lining up inside Eaton Center for a chance to win a Google Home Mini. Whatever that is.

44a. Even if it was something valuable, with Google partnering with their Silicon Valley allies in censoring any political views to the right of Lenin, you probably had to show a Liberal Party membership card to get an entry form.

45. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were out in full force all along Yonge Street. At one display, they had their literature available in Arabic. If that doesn’t scream desperation, I don’t know what does.

46. Before seeing it advertised on an overhead display, I didn’t know Toronto had an annual celebration of Iranian cinema. I also didn’t know that they were allowed to make movies in Iran other than government newsreels preaching hatred of Western culture.

47. At right is one satisfied customer …

48. In a province that blankets its roads in salt every winter, even when it’s not needed, this just screamed “Ontario”:

49. I get the feeling the Leafs and Raptors won’t take kindly to having their flags flown at this establishment. Call it a hunch.

50. And best of lucks in your new location …

51. I spotted this “DropBike” left out on the sidewalk. Apparently it’s a service where you can unlock one of their bikes using a QR code generated from their app and leave it at designated locations around the city when you’re done with it.

51a. You will never see such a service in the Old Country. Trust me.

52. Farther down Yonge, I spotted a bum sleeping on the sidewalk using the front wheel of his bike as a cushion. A bike that looked to be in better shape than mine.

53. At the NHL Hall of Political Correctness, caps from the North Stars, Whalers or Nordiques were readily available, but they had nothing from the Thrashers.

54. Outside their store at the Tim Hortons was this display featuring the (real) Jets:

Of particular note was the replica AVCO Cup, the Hawerchuk jersey and those old ticket stubs, all still fondly remembered by yours truly.

54a. On my list of ideas for future books is a memoir featuring the Jets’ final season.

55. Nearby was a display of pucks, two of which were from the WHA Jets:

56. While waiting at Union Station for the Lakeshore West train, I spotted this dude doing his exercises out on the floor:

57. You don’t need to have an M.D. after your name to know that the obese woman I spotted hobbling along on a cane would be able to get around a lot easier by dumping a few pounds.

58. I’m proud of the fact that I don’t get the rings seemingly normal people stick in their noses.

59. It couldn’t have been possible for the 20-something woman I spotted with dyed blond and blue hair to get more makeup and lipstick on her face without it falling off.

60. The two women on the platform standing near me might as well have been holding a big neon sign with “TOURISTS” on it. Act like you’ve been there before.

61. There was a “medical emergency” which delayed the train by 13 minutes, but to their credit, GO arranged for the #12 bus to hold at Burlington for those of us wanting to catch it. Once again, this isn’t the Old Country, where a Winnipeg Transit driver would have taken great pleasure in taking off just as the people who were running after the bus got within a few feet of the door. Spoken from a great deal of personal experience in that regard.

62. One guy got on and asked the driver, “Have I ever been on the bus with you?” and “Do you know where I like to get off?” Sure he does. I’m sure he knows each and every passenger by name.

63. I noticed a sign on the QEW for the Organized Crime Winery. Funny, I didn’t know the Clintons were in the wine business.

64. During the day, the rainbow-colored bench at Beamsville was replaced with a regular wooden one. I can just hear the liberals crying “Homophobia!”

65. I didn’t know what the obese woman in the drive thru at the Tim Hortons on Scott Street was about to order, but trust me, she didn’t need it.

03 Sep

Touring Danforth Village

Yesterday, I made another excursion to the universe’s center, this time making a tour of Danforth Village on the east end of the city. “The Danny,” as they euphemistically call it.

The trip would get off to a bad start as the #12 bus left Fairview Mall almost 20 minutes behind schedule. The bus we had appeared to be a last-minute substitute as it pulled off the QEW from the eastbound direction and was completely empty when I boarded. The regular bus that was supposed to arrive from the Falls probably broke down, but there was no official explanation provided from the driver.

En route to Burlington, I spotted a black pickup truck from the Great State of New York with “Smith & Wesson” plastered over his back window. Even though I am fully supportive of law-abiding citizens possessing firearms, displaying such a motto so proudly when crossing an international border might not be the best thing to do. But to each his own.

Despite the lengthy delay, we still managed to make it to Burlington in time to catch the scheduled Lakeshore West train. Much more noteworthy, however, was that the driver pulled into south loop at the newly opened station, the one they had been working on for so many years. As I said to someone while waiting on the platform, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to live long enough to see it completed.

Inside, the ticket office was actually open and more importantly, so were the washrooms. Indoor washrooms. I don’t have to use the Burlington Outhouse ever again.

Up on the platform, I was not the only Center-of-the-Universe-bound traveler on this day, though most had other plans, including the popular CNE, located just a few steps from the Exhibition stop.

On board, I took a seat across from a couple of young heavyweightettes and, like, listened to their chatter, like, all the way to, like, Toronto. As the train pulled out of Burlington, they, like, first talked about how, like, hard it was to, like, not eat all their, like, snacks right away. Like, from the looks of them, they could do without the snacks.

One of them then shared the details of how she and her sister were both delivered by c-section. Born in 1984, she was a planned pregnancy, but her sister wasn’t. The other one then mentioned something about needing to pay Lisa $650 and bragged how she got a free $60 ticket to a convention she was attending. Or should I say, it was, like, for free.

Ms. C-Section then talked about the possibility of, like, being sent somewhere to help them with, like, public speaking. Like, I need help on public speaking from her like I need a free trip to North Korea. But as she said, if she goes, it will be super fun and there will be 50 million things she will want to buy. She will just have to be adult about it.

This just in. She needs to try harder.

After they got off at Union Station, I just filed that experience under Chapter 641 of “The things you learn about people on public transit.” Perhaps one day to make it into print. You never know.

I stayed on the train and got off at the Danforth station to begin my tour. You can check the album I posted on Facebook for many of the pictures, but there were other scenes that caught my eye as well.

A creative name for a dog groomer.

Up to 80% off a mattress. But only one mattress.

Pick up a cheap “camisol.”

It’s important to care for your pharmacy. They need love too.

If you want to drive a contract around.

I could only shake my head at this sight. Have we sunk so low that there’s a demand for a take-out window at Tim Hortons?

Funny, but I don’t think this stroller was taken by mistake. Call it a hunch. Maybe it’s that crusty old Winnipegger in me.

We delivery for you.

Someone’s got to explain this one to me.

A couple of hours later, I caught the #2 subway line at the Broadview station. The connecting station to the #1 line is called the “Bloor-Yonge” station, but they only announced it as the “Yonge” station and, unlike what they do on the #1 line, they didn’t announce that it was a connecting station. A significant faux pas in my opinion, especially given the number of tourists the universe’s center attracts. Nonetheless, I knew enough to get off there and caught the southbound #1 line back to Union.

I thought I had just missed a scheduled Lakeshore West train back to Burlington, but as luck would have it, it was delayed, so that gave me a chance to make it up onto the platform in more than enough time to catch it. The platform itself was packed, as was the train when it finally arrived, but it almost completely emptied at the Exhibition stop. One of these years, I should consider a visit to the CNE.

From there, it was a relatively quiet ride back to Burlington, where I was able to get the connecting #12 bus a short while later. While in line waiting, I laughed as someone came around asking if this was where she could catch the #12 bus as she was standing right underneath a huge sign to that effect. Duh.

After the bus came, I went up top only to find a bunch of noisy families yelling and screaming. Luckily, when the driver announced that an express bus to the Falls had pulled up, it caused an exodus of biblical proportions, and I don’t think I was the only one silently applauding. Good riddance.

Unfortunately, the riff-raff was soon replaced by a couple of millennials who, like, spent the next hour and a half spewing, like, their favorite word. Which they like. A lot. It all started with one of them, some kind of a middle manager at his workplace, lamenting how, like, casual Friday has become, like, a (manure) show. His companion talked about how, like, your performance should be graded on, like, your work.

On and on this went. It, like, needs to happen this year. Like, for example, she, like, she coached her colleague. But not, like, directly.

Behind me was an older couple who was also getting into the act after hauling their luggage up the stairs, also a phenomenon that continues unabated. The woman talked about how she wanted to make, like, nachos on sweet potatoes.

As the bus inched along in the holiday weekend traffic, there was at last some relief with some long periods of silence, briefly interrupted only be the incoherent ramblings of a mentally challenged man sitting a few rows behind me. All that I could make out was something about a strip club in Scarborough.

There was an interesting sighting at the Vineland exit, where a car had pulled off onto the shoulder. A few feet away in the middle of the tall grass was a father watching his young son take a leak. Sometimes the call of nature comes when you’re stuck in traffic and there’s nothing you can do about it, but there was a service station only a hundred feet away and Tim Hortons just on the opposite side of the QEW, as the signs on the highway clearly indicated. But why use a regular toilet when you can take a whizz in the full view of several thousand people driving by.

Not long after watching the kid fertilize the grass, our bus took the Lake Street exit and turned into Fairview Mall, where there was an older gentleman in a motorized wheelchair. He was not on the sidewalk, where he should have been, but in the left turning lane at an extremely busy intersection. If it’s not illegal, it should be, but in any event, you have to wonder about people who care so little about their own safety.

It was another interesting sight and, in a sense, a fitting way to wrap up an eventful day.

19 Feb

Return to Pearson Airport

Yesterday, I made another voyage to the universe’s center, this time making a return trip to Pearson Airport, the place I first touched down as a new Ontario resident following my momentous defection from the SPRM more than two and a half years ago.

Bright and early, as always, I boarded the #12 bus at Fairview Mall for the all too familiar trek to Burlington. It turned out to be a perfect time to go, since there were so few people on the bus and traffic was so light on the QEW. At least on the way there.


The dungeon leading to track 3.


It would go up to +15 on this day, yet they still apparently needed the proverbial ton of salt. You can never, it seems, put down enough salt in this part of the world. Sometimes I wonder why the salt trucks aren’t out in the middle of July.


As the Lakeshore West train was pulling up to the platform, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw a 20-something woman shivering as if it was -45, like they had in the Old Country this winter. These people just don’t know how lucky they are not to have suffered through such bitter cold. And on two wheels, like I have.


Aboard the train was this highly offensive ad from CBC Radio. It wasn’t the ad specifically, but the fact that it came from one of the world’s leading purveyors of left-wing political propaganda. I certainly hope GO reconsiders and refuses to accept advertising from such revulsive sources.


From Union Station, following a short break, I made for the subway station.


The entrance to the subway station.

Union, like all the other stations in the system, now accepts PRESTO cards, but for those who don’t have one or haven’t heard of PRESTO, you can pay with cash at the booth.


Waiting for the subway.


Minutes later, the subway came, and I got off to change to the #2 line at the St. George station. For the benefit of those who haven’t taken the subway and need to transfer to a different line, there is always an announcement to that effect when approaching a connecting station.


From there, I proceeded down the escalator, where the #2 was waiting for me. Yes, there are multiple levels underground. I know of at least one reader who is bothered by that concept.


Aboard the #2 line, I made myself comfortable as it made its way westward toward the Kipling station, the western terminus of the line.


Back up at street level, there were platforms for many bus routes, including one for the 192 Airport Rocket, an express route to Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport. There was even a bus waiting, but first, I took off on foot to get some highway pictures of 427 a short distance away.

During my hour-long diversion, I managed to avoid getting accosted by some Jehovah’s Witnesses who were canvassing the area around Bloor Street and got some excellent shots, soon to appear on a website near you.

I then returned to the Kipling station and caught the Airport Rocket bus. All TTC buses now accept PRESTO and, like many OC Transpo buses in Ottawa, you can even board in the rear if you are paying with PRESTO. Being at the Kipling station, however, you can’t even get to the platform without paying, so it was all academic.

As the name of the route suggested, after putting on his seat belt, the driver then rocketed north on 427 before meandering around the airport until reaching ground level at Terminal 1.


While there, I toured around at got some pictures. When flying to and from the universe’s center in the past, I had only been in Terminal 3, so this part of the adventure was all new.


Of note in this shot was the booth for the Peel Regional Police. For those who are not aware, Pearson Airport is actually located in Mississauga, not Toronto.

Next, I followed the signs to the link train, a free service which takes passengers to and from Terminal 3 and the attached Sheraton Hotel.


There are two sets of tracks and seats inside each car for the short trip between terminals. As shown in the first shot, the arrival times are pegged to the second.


Inside Terminal 3, I toured around before stopping for a break, not coincidentally, by the Niagara Airbus check-in desk by Door C.


There, I could not help but think back to the 2013 trip when I came St. Catharines for the first time to investigate the possibility of relocating to the city. It was in front of this desk where I sat wondering lay in store and whether or not this dream would ever become reality. As loyal readers are well aware, less than a year later, it did.

Following the break, I returned to Terminal 1 via the link train, then took the much-heralded UP Express train back to Union. At $9 for PRESTO users, it is a little more pricey than the $3 subway fare, but it gets you back to Union in only 25 minutes, and without having to change subway lines.


Inside, there are special luggage storage areas, plugs and complimentary Wi-Fi. There are even pull-down trays, just like on an airplane. Regrettably, announcements are made in Canadian and Quebecese and, unlike the case on GO trains, staff come around to verify tickets. In the case of PRESTO users, they scan your card to check that you did indeed tap on before you boarded.


Leaving Terminal 1.


Once at Union, simply follow the signs to guide you through the maze. In addition to the walkway to catch a GO train, VIA train or TTC subway line, there is also a walkway to the Toronto Convention Center.

Before returning home, I needed to visit a couple of places, so I exited via Front Street, where I spotted a pair of homeless people sitting on the sidewalk holding a sign that read, “Homeless and hungry, any little bit helps.” They didn’t have money for food, but they did have money for cigarettes. But, as someone once said to me, I just don’t understand the real issues behind poverty.

Moving on, I returned to Union and caught what was a crowded Lakeshore West train back to Burlington in enough time to catch the 2:54 #12 bus back to St. Catharines.


As you can see, I was certainly not the only one waiting for the bus. Maybe one of these days, GO will increase the frequency of this route. Though our mayor seems convinced otherwise, I’m not sure the daily train service to Niagara will become reality any time soon.

Decompressing after a long day, what was probably the most humorous part of the trip began when a retired steelworker with a faint odor of alcohol on his breath got on at Stoney Creek and sat next to me. We began talking and when I told him I was originally from Winnipeg, he began talking about his relatives in Chilliwack, BC, almost as if I was supposed to know them. As I’ve observed more than once since moving here, “out West” is just some small place on the fringe of the Earth where everyone more or less knows each other. In many respects, people from Southern Ontario are like Americans, whose only knowledge of Canada consists of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and assume every Canadian lives in or near one of those three cities.

It got even funnier when I was mentioning the bitter cold in Winnipeg, which he began to equate with the climate in Chilliwack. Of course Winnipeg and Chilliwack have the same climate. Didn’t you know that? I’ll take this opportunity to pause and allow you to finish laughing hysterically before proceeding.

As we got closer to St. Catharines, as part of his life story, he mentioned that his father has “Altheimer’s.” Well, whatever that is. I hope it’s nothing like Alzheimer’s.

That conversation certainly proved to be the perfect way to cap off what was an interesting little mini-holiday.

18 May

Voyage Under the Center of the Universe

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

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


Just can’t get enough of that Sugar Crisp!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22_401_wb_victoriapark
Crossing the 401, the world’s busiest highway, I continued south to Lawrence, west across the DVP to Don Mills Road, then south to Eglinton, where I again proceeded west.

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

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

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

43_rebelad
Across the street, not by coincidence, is a nice, big “in your face” billboard from The Rebel aimed squarely at Canada’s most unpopular premier. Of course, that distinction used to belong to Greasy Greg Selinger until he and his gang were unceremoniously thrown out of office. I posted this picture on Twitter today and it is quickly making the rounds in Twitterverse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it didn’t.

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

Great. GO suddenly turns into Rapid Transit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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