When you commute in this city, almost every day presents a fresh version of hell. Trekking from home to school and back again means having to navigate pretty much every obstacle the public transit experience can throw at you. The best part is it’s never —EVER — anything you can really prepare for. So you just go along with it, giving up precious hours of your life that you know you’ll never — EVER — get back again.
Here’s what I mean.
Brrrng brrring. The alarm clock.
It’s still dark outside. But I have to get up. My home in Richmond Hill is an hour and a half away from Ryerson. That’s on a good day.
There’s no time to sigh, curse or cry, so I throw off my comforter to face another day.
First challenge: my bathroom-hogging sister. We do gymnastics as she tries to avoid burning herself with her hair dryer and I try to dry all of my hair – that’s a lot.
My mother summons me to her room. She feels the need to enlighten me about whatever it is she’s learned from Breakfast Television that day.
Today’s wisdom: “It’s cold outside,” she says.
Mom still isn’t ready to leave. When she can drive me I cut my travel time in half by getting dropped off at the Don Mills subway station. No luck today.
I run out the door to catch the Viva bus — Richmond Hill’s always-not-always efficient bus system. Coffee mug in hand, I try not to slip on the ice. I fail. I mean, I fail to not slip on the ice. Meaning, I slip on the ice. It’s too freaking early for this. I stop to check my coat. Luckily, the coffee missed my jacket.
Living across the street from the bus stop is convenient, but the convenience is cancelled out by the non-functioning traffic light. It’s a long wait to cross this frenzied section of Yonge Street.
The bus pulls up across the street. It may be just a few tantalizing meters from me, but across the lanes of traffic, I wait powerless and motionless. I curse at the shivering people stepping onto the bus.
The bus pulls away. I watch. I die a small death. No one notices.
I look up at the orange light standard box. The little white man signals me to cross. I sense his sarcasm.
I get a ticket and check the time. The next bus is due in 15 minutes. In January, it seems like 15 hours.
I do some mental math: I only have an hour and 40 minutes to get to school.
My mother was right. It’s cold outside.
The bus is here! And seven seconds later, I’m on it, reading my book.
It’s a good thing I didn’t apply to be an editor or join any extracurricular groups that would require me to attend early meetings. If I had taken on a different position at The Ryersonian, I’d have to be at school for 9:30 every morning, which would mean leaving the house at least 30 minutes earlier than I already do, with no leeway for missed buses or spilled coffee. .
The bus driver honks his horn. Turns out, there’s been an accident on Yonge Street.
I daydream for a moment about a bus with wings flying to Finch subway station.
I try to read but my attention-seeking phone fusses and sighs. It’s almost 9 o’clock and I’m not even at Finch yet. Shit.
I’m at Finch. It’s a miracle, I may just make it to school on time.
I’m feeling good. I bounce down the stairs with a skip in my step and a song in my heart. The quick-to-arrive subway train greets me warmly, with wide-open doors and my pick of any seat on the car.
I settle in and pull out my book again. The TTC soundtrack launches. “Bing, bing, bing.” This can’t be good.
“Passengers, we are experiencing a delay at St. Clair station due to a medical emergency on a train. All trains will stay at their station until further notice.” Ah, excellent.
I’m 20 minutes behind schedule. Did I mention I have a super-important, do-or-die interview happening at 10:15?
Is it socially acceptable to cry on public transit?
I review the day so far, and all the advance operational planning and preparation I had done for it: a) I woke up and didn’t hit Snooze; b) I was outside, on time for the bus; iii) This one for bonus points: I gave myself extra time for the traffic light that rarely works, and when it does, remains stuck on red for the entire morning rush hour.
It’s official. I’m tired. I’m sticky from coffee. The worst? I’M LATE.
Next time? I’m sleeping at school.