People Watching: The subway route (part II)


As I got off the bus, a friendly Starbucks store greeted me. I have always wanted to visit it but have never been able to. It seems unique somehow, with its wooden panels. It has a  fancy coffee house feel to it. It’s not a cookie cutter Starbucks, like all the others. I guess I will never really know because whenever I walk across it, I am in a hurry to catch the next subway.

I walked past the Starbucks, and down the road to the subway station. 3/5 people that passed me by were smoking. Right outside the door too! Like they had all planned to congregate outside the subway station in a joint effort to create a curtain of smoke meant to welcome the morning commuters. I took a deep breath before I got too close, held my breath as I walked (sprinted) past them and took in a deep breath again once I was at a safe distance. I wondered if smoking to them was what drinking coffee with 2 shots of espresso every morning is to me. A necessary ritual.

As I tapped my Presto (damn it, the money still hadn’t been credited to my card. No one got to doing it yet. Why was I up before the rest of the world? Oh right… the knee) and climbed up the stairs to catch the next train.. I watched its door close. It slowly pulled away from the station. I made my way into the other train that was now standing at the platform on the opposite side. Such are the perks of catching a train from the station at the end of the subway line.

The train was very empty when I sat down and I momentarily spread out over two seats like an eagle. I quickly regained my posture as people joined me. As I was passively people watching, I heard a loud crash. I saw an indian woman pick up the pieces of a cell phone. She started with the battery, then the battery cover and finally the phone. She was with what looked like her husband. He seemed agitated, as he looked towards the subway impatiently. The doors began to signal that the train’s departure was drawing dangerously close. As the doors shut the indian couple out, I saw the woman hand over the phone to teenage african american girl who waltzed down the stairs with barely any concern on her face for the phone. 

Just before the doors closed however, another indian guy made it in and sat down in the row next to mine. While I could tell he was out of breath, he also looked dazed and confused. That look of bewilderment took a while to fade off his face. Eventually I did’t notice his presence.

When the train stopped at the next station, a lot of people got on. I noticed that no one took the vacant seat next to mine. I figured I must be sitting on the edge of my seat, spilling onto the other. It was the only position in which my leg felt comfortable. I began to wonder how long it would be before someone decided to sit next to me despite my blatant disregard for the “sharing is caring” mantra. A couple of stations in and the subway was really filling up. I wondered why no one had bothered to push me back over to my seat and claim the seat next to mine. I looked over and realized my red umbrella, which matched perfectly with the colour of the seats was the reason for my lonesome ride. While my close proximity to the seat had somehow blurred the umbrella into nothingness in my peripheral vision, people entering the train looking for seats could clearly see it.

I quickly removed the umbrella on the seat and was soon joined by a student in a baby pink tracksuit. What was she thinking? Where could she possibly be going dressed like that? Another flashback to my past reared its head. While I hadn’t been bold enough to try baby pink, I had once worn a light purple tracksuit to university. Dressed head to toe in the same colour. Light purple jammies and a sweatshirt to match. I quivered in disgust as the image of my younger (and clearly fashion impaired) self flashed before my eyes. I had no right to judge this chick. I had been in her (track) shoes once.

Snatching my attention away from all her baby pink-ness, I looked around me and noticed how many people were taking a nap during their morning commute. I had only ever travelled on the subway in the evenings. When my fellow commuters were hopped up on coffee and the emotions that had snowballed throughout the day into giant “feelings” they needed to vent. The subway was a completely different world in the morning. It was peaceful and devoid of chaotic energies. People were giving off a peaceful vibe that was creating a soothing atmosphere.

We soon passed by the Old Mill station which is my favourite because the walls of the station are made of glass and decorated with cut out silhouettes of birds. The shadows of these imaginary birds made me happy and reminded me of my little kiwi (who I will blog about extensively in the future) at home.

My eyes were then drawn to a handsome young man who was either a teenager or in his early twenties. The reason he had caught my attention was because he had the darkest circles under his eyes that I had seen in a while. Perhaps he should have joined the people around him in a morning nap. However he seemed tense. Too tense to sleep. He had the “I will behave but not because I want to” look on his face. The one kids have when they are being asked to do something they don’t want to. I also call this the “five more minutes” look you have before you get out of bed. That feeling of helplessness when the alarm goes off signalling the beginning of your day and you start to bargain with this inanimate object for 5 more minutes of sleep.

In order to find his source of discomfort, I studied his surroundings and determined that he was travelling with his mother (maybe? I never got a chance to see the woman’s face in its entirety).  I saw his mom tell him to do something. Let me be very clear. I didn’t hear her. I knew. From the expression on his face. It went from “five more minutes” to “do i have to!?”. It was funny to watch. I bet I make that face quite often.

I tore my eyes away from his now chaotic world and focused on the posters around me. I noticed that the advertisements inside the subway belonged to local Toronto based businesses. As I looked outside at the platforms however, their advertisements were owned by national/ international companies. I wondered why.

Before I could figure it out, a passing thought caught my attention. The subway ride this morning seemed so much more relaxing than my daily GO train ride. Yet the GO train cost more than double compared to the subway.  I felt agitated, stressed and tensed during the morning commute via GO. Was it the underground system that made the difference? Was it the people?

I was pondering over the thought, very interested in solving the mystery when I noticed a girl enter the subway and pull out her headphones. It reminded me of my very own headphones lying on my lap waiting for me to plug them in ever since I took them out at the first station. This also reminded me of the the girl in the purple hoodie on the bus this morning. As I switched on my shuffle, I heard the shuffle man (automated voice) inform me in his authoritative tone that my battery was running low.

At some point the subway car started smelling like poo. I missed the draft from the bus.

As my station grew nearer, I grew sleepier. What woke me up was watching a guy slide by the train’s window as the subway stopped at one of the stations. Yes. Slide. I assumed he was riding a skateboard. While my guess was probably accurate, watching him slide by still seemed fascinating, something like a magician’s trick.

In order to keep myself awake, I promised myself I would seek out one other interesting person to write about. This is when I saw elastic band man. A middle aged dark skinned man, with an extremely long beard, dressed in an over sized black leather jacket, baggy jeans and bright white loafers, who sat a few seats away with his head hung low. He seemed to be flirting with the idea of a nap but at the same time resisting it with all his strength. While I could have seen past his odd dressing sense, I could not look past the fact that he had an elastic band tied around his forefinger and middle finger. I wondered why he didn’t just take it off. I then started imagining the answers to my own question. What if he used it as a reminder. Perhaps to remind him of something important? Maybe it would remind him to send an email when he got to work. I soon discovered a flaw in my idea. His clothes didn’t seem work appropriate. While the idea could still be salvaged, I decided to pursue another. Perhaps the band wasn’t for work. Was he trying to get rid of a nasty habit? Whenever the temptation to smoke arose, wrapping around him like a snake, willing him to give in, he would snap himself (literally) back to the reasons for giving up smoking in the first place. For his daughter? His wife? His family?

Knowing that I had created an imaginary family for a guy I barely knew, I figured I must be getting really sleepy. The good news was that I was almost at my station. So I stood up and thanked the heavens when the subway lady (automated female voice) announced that the next station at which the train would stop, would be mine.

As I got off the subway, now dreaming of the coffee I would be buying at a Tim Horton’s location right outside the subway station, I saw the handsome boy, whose world I had quietly invaded earlier, walking in front of me. I smiled to myself as I apologized to him in my imagination for being so inconsiderate. I later found him in line, in front of me, at Tim Hortons. However, I wasn’t concerned. I had seen a dog chained to a bike rack outside the coffee joint. It was raining. What unholy bastard would do this! Well I guess, ill save that thought for another day.


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