Learning to get about

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rural - Francesca rural - Francesca's picture
Learning to get about

This is very tongue in cheek, but based in the reality of determined dread.


I haven’t ridden a public coach bus since my son was an infant.  Previous to that, I’d ridden a coach twice.  My son is 22.

 Other than taking Owen Sound City transit once, to go to an event that I taxied home from, I don’t ride city transit.  I have to use my car for work, and if I don’t need my car, I can walk to the office faster than the transit can get me there.

 In 2004-5 I dated a guy who was a law student at U of T and when I visited him, we did the TTC around town.  But I had no idea where I was going, Ian dolled out the token seconds before we needed it.

 I think he liked my naivety, found it charming.  The one time I started a multi-person conversation on the subway, he refused to participate.  But being a facilitator, I found it fascinating.  Ian just shook his head, and lectured me later on “talking to people on the subway”.  I told him I’d talk to whomever I wanted.

 Jon, a friend of mine who grew up in Toronto, laughs when I tell him I’m heading to the city for a few days.  He assures me I can’t blend in; I smile too much, make eye contact and talk to strangers.

 So when Jon proposed I bus to Toronto to meet up with him for the last a couple of days, of his vacation, I panicked.

 But I made a plan.  My son also now lives in Toronto and I wanted to spend Thursday with him and Jon would pick me up Friday morning and we’d go off on our adventure.

 But that would mean getting on a bus here in Owen Sound spending 4 hours, or more, it is winter, and then navigating the subway, with a change in direction to get to The Beaches, and then onto a bus to get to my son’s place.

 That’s an awful lot of transit for me.

 The TTC website is pretty helpful, but it’s not as interactive as I’d like.  I think I’m looking for something between a GPS and personal escort.

 My son offered to meet me at the Greyhound station, but by now, the laughter is ringing hollow, and I need to do this, on my own.

 I realized that I don’t go out and about in Toronto, when I’m there for work, because I don’t know how to get around.  I need to learn.  Avoidance is boring.

 So I’m about to do this on my own.

 You may laugh, and think this is the most self indulgent whine you’ve read in a while, but you come up here and I’ll plunk you on the Bruce Trail and see how you manage, what with the bears and rattlesnakes.

 Jon tells me part of my unease, is that I’m a “nobody” in Toronto, while up here I believe my own publicity.  Just because I can walk through the mall (there is only one) and Santa calls to me by my name, doesn’t mean I’m a prima donna.  Just because people approach me in stores to thank more for my latest printed rant doesn’t mean I don’t like going outside my comfort zone.  Just because my last boyfriend would take me into his small town grocery store just to see how many people would stop and talk to me, doesn’t mean I think I’m important.

 Just because the same boyfriend was thrilled to go to Canada’s Wonderland – because no one will know you there, and on one trip we bumped into a friend of my daughters and the second time my chiropractor…..

 Just because Jon got pulled over 10 minutes going out on our first dinner together only to have the officer lean in, greet me by name, and let him off with a warning, doesn’t mean I can’t cope in a city of strangers.

 So Toronto be warned.  A perky, determined rural activist is descending upon the city Thursday because it’s better to face your fears, than to surround yourself with known comfort.


This is interesting.  I'm not sure why your boyfriend at the time lectured you about striking up conversations on transit with strangers.  Lots of people do that all the time.  I see it every day, and I take transit twice a day.

And Torontonians smile, too.  A lot.  Even at strangers.  And we make eye contact, too. 

Maybe Jon should look up once in a while.  He might notice people all over the place in Toronto, smiling, making eye contact.  Almost like, you know, human beings. 


P.S. Hope you're enjoying yourself here!  Send me an e-mail if you have time to meet up!  michelle AT rabble DOT ca. :)

rural - Francesca rural - Francesca's picture

It was so funny.

The ride down was quiet, with a brief excitement over a Sun Halo that was stunning. A circular rainbow around the sun.

Arriving downtown I ended up getting on at the St Patrick subway station instead of Dundas. Which put me on the wrong side of the loop.

I then was listening for the Younge station announcement. Which naturally never came.

So when I finally figured it out - looked at the map doh!

I hopped off the northbound and got back on a southbound.

No big deal, get off at St. George and on to an East bound train.

All of a sudden we stop in the tunnel.

Major announcement. Nothing is going into St George. This train is going to Spadina and everyone is getting off.

No announcement on whether the west - east trains are running.

The guy two seats away pitches a fit. On how everything in Canada is broken, no one speaks English (guy had a heavy Italian accent so I was ammused at his irony). I asked him if this happens often and and he looks at me like I'm nuts so I explain I'm from "out of town". Yes it happens lots, and he doesn't know why back in Italy everyone says to come to Canada. Then went on to tell me about standing in line at the grocery store for an hour and a half while the person in front of him had to have every item price checked. Clearly this man was having a bad day.

I mmade it ti Warden just as Karly (son's girlfriend) tells me I should have gotten off at Victoria Park. Opps

Oh well

Get on the 69 bus. Hurry hurry need to get off the 69 and on the 12. Driver of the 69 wouldn't give a transfer. Apparently that's weird.

I finally get to my destination

But now I have a clear sense of how the system works.

Michelle - the next time I'm down on business we'll get together. My time on this trip is booked up.

I truly fell confident about the TTC now. Not that I know the system, but that with time, I can navigate.

And to truly demonstrate my ruralness: last night I went into Old Navy for the first time. And tomorrow, we're stopping at Ikea, for the second time, the first was a month ago.

But then I'll take my sunshine an atmospheric phenommena (sorry no spell checker) over chain stores any day.



"You may laugh, and think this is the most self indulgent whine you’ve read in a while, but you come up here and I’ll plunk you on the Bruce Trail and see how you manage, what with the bears and rattlesnakes. "


I can do either, but I don't look upon the Bruce Trail the same way as navagating strange transit systems.   I find the later more intimidating than the rattlesnakes and bears. 

Congrats, Francesca. 

 I almost always had Rebecca West as a guide on Toronto transit, but even with her, I'd always find a way to not be smooth in paying, or with transfers and such.  Funny the subtle nuances that exist in something like that.  

In London, when I get a transfer on a bus, I say "transfer, please", and "Thank You" when I get it from the driver and no one bats an eye.

In Toronto, when you do that, they start looking at your head for surgical scars, and young mothers slowly move their children closer to them.