An Ode to the TTC

To the TTC, with love…

 

Red seats, blue seats, yellow emergency strips.

 

Ding, dang, dong.

 

“Change here for Line Two.”

 

Subway screams and streetcar sighs. Buses that lurch and horns that blare.

 

Tokens, passes, Presto, POP – Proof of Payment, not Coke, but also, Coke, probably, hopefully, spilled on the seat.

 

Rush hour – packed like sardines, packed like pickles – too close to strangers. I can. Feel. Your. Breath. Sweaty handrails in summer, salt and sand in winter.

 

Delays. Delays. Delays.

 

Scheduled upgrades.

 

Delays. Delays. Delays.

 

Shuttle buses. Northbound. Southbound. East. West. Why does the Bloor line get all the old trains?

 

Buskers with talent – maybe I won’t rush past today.

 

Yellow. Green. Nobody rides Blue, and Purple is only for IKEA.

 

“Oh, did you hear? Someone jumped.”

 

“Fuck! I’m gonna be late!”

 

“Also, that’s sad. RIP.”

 

“Have you been on the new streetcars yet?”

 

“No, but they look really cool.”

 

“Ya know, we have the best transit system in North America.”

 

“Oh ya?”

 

Delays. Delays. Delays.

 

“Bad service, is what it is. Expensive and bad and unreliable. I’m writing a letter. And they call this city the best, that’s the funny part. Imagine if I was a tourist, would I be impressed?”

 

“Oh my god, excuse me, sir, your bag. Your bag! It’s hitting everyone!”

 

“They should privatize it.”

 

Stop. Go. Stop. Go. Stop. Go.

 

“Okay, I’ll write my letter. I’ve written them before. They know who I am.”

 

Characters, all of them. Pure, raw characters.

 

The tall homeless man with the short dreadlocks who wanders up and down the cars.

 

The racist woman with the overstuffed shopping cart who mumbles her anger.

 

The mother with a double stroller on the bus on a Friday afternoon.

 

Schoolboys swinging from the bars.

 

The canoodling couple, not a care in the world.

 

The old man with the unsteady cane – please don’t fall – independent to the last.

 

The travellers who brave the subway trek with the world’s biggest suitcase plus duffel bags.

 

The women who need a seat for their purse.

 

School trips – four flustered teachers and 20 six-year-olds – having the time of their life – the six-year-olds, not the teachers. The teachers need a drink.

 

Commuters in Halloween costumes.

 

Commuters in costumes not on Halloween.

 

Spiderman on a non-October day, leaping and swinging down the entire train.

 

The woman with no shame who, after what must have been a long night, spread her knees from her blue subway seat and let the vomit pour, then proceeded to spit, just once, dripping with class, to close the show.

 

Crying babies. Yelling men. Women with headphones and books.

 

The wide-eyed addict with the wild blonde hair and the wider-eyed white rabbit she frantically strokes.

 

The spinster with the annoyed fat cat in a carrier, howling the whole ride home.

 

The woman with the turquoise scarf and the ferret who’s allowed to run freely.

 

The guy with the ponytail and the sneakers doing a one-man karate show, southbound.

 

The man with the black hat calling people the devil. He says they need Jesus.

 

The cops who look important and angry. The cops who look nice.

 

The Bay Street guys with their expensive suits and empty conversations.

 

The makeup girls with impractical heels and impractical nails.

 

The college students. So many college students.

 

Manspreaders.

 

The starving artists. The successful artists. The hipsters with bow ties and non-prescription glasses.

 

The newspaper readers.

 

The guys who blare rap from their phones because they haven’t heard of headsets yet.

 

The Subway Jacker? Is he real? Is he myth?

 

“He’s real,” your friend says with a shudder.

 

The driver who gives you a lift even though you’re out of tokens and out of cash.

 

The attendant who spends five minutes giving you directions, without getting mad.

 

The woman who helps you lift your stroller up the stairs at King.

 

The man who gives up his seat on the 52.

 

Characters, all of them. Pure, raw characters.

 

Every language you can imagine, spoken all at once.

 

Loudspeaker announcements no one can hear.

 

Vomit. Always vomit. And coffee. Spilled coffee, everywhere.

 

Suspicious newspapers left on seats – what dangers lurk beneath?

 

Feet. Feet on walls. Feet on seats. Feet on everything.

 

Free rides on New Year’s Eve.

 

In winter, one lone glove.

 

An institution we love to hate, but don’t dis it if you don’t live here. Only we can hate our transit system – and we do it oh so well.

 

“Fuck the TTC!” We say, and the woman with the blue hair and the piercings nods and says, “Right? Fuck the fuckin’ TTC.” And the guy with the sunglasses and the backpack and the earphones nods solemnly in agreement and gives you a high five. The quiet woman with the glasses and the novel laughs to herself at your outburst because she knows she’s felt the same before. Your anger ripples through the crowd of disgruntled commuters, picking up strength from everyone it touches as it rolls like a tumbleweed picking up dust. They all agree: “Fuck the TTC!”

 

But those buses and streetcars and trains never take it personally. They just keep welcoming you back on board with their grunts and their shrieks and their rumbling sighs and they get you where you need to go, for better or for worse, every time.

 

TTC. Toronto’s True Charm.

 

You don’t realize how much you love this city till you leave it. And then you come back and you realize you know Union like the back of your hand. And you stop at Museum just to appreciate its design. You get off at Eglinton and see how much has changed. You go back down to Bloor and see that nothing has.

 

The driver on the 501 blasts his horn for 20 seconds and yells at a car that didn’t stop.

 

A drunk guy staggers on board and starts complaining about life, and you realize:

 

You are home.

 

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About sarahmunn