Subway Games

I have been living in the city for a couple of months now, and I feel like I’ve adapted very well. I’m a duck to water. I love the pace of the city. There’s always something happening, someone to meet up with, new events and friends around every corner.

There’s also a lot of shit that you need to get used to, such as not being able to get to whatever your preferred grocery store is. We used to love going to Loblaws but now we’re in Metro hell every sunday. There’s also the city stink on really hot days. Mmmm, sewage filling your nostrils as you try to enjoy a nice stroll in the sunshine. Crazy crackheads eating a jar of Nutella with their fingers right beside you in a restaurant. That really happened by the way, saw it with my own eyes.

There’s also the matter of the subway. I take the subway to and from work everyday, and for the most part I quite enjoy it. It’s so much better than the fucking Go Train. I will take the subway over the fucking Go Train any day. Delays seem to be a routine thing for the subway, but the longest I’ve been held up so far is 15 minutes. You also have to get used to the sardine sensation when taking the subway during rush hour. You literally cram you way onto the train and have people touching or brushing up against you on all sides. It’s a sweaty, cramped, awkward mess. And people are ruthless! They don’t make any attempt to play nice when they think they might miss out on a spot on the train. I’ve had ladies mow me down with strollers, dudes basically use me for piggyback rides onto the train, and bitches stiletto stomp me on a rough turn then have the gall to act like it’s my fault they can’t balance themselves. I’ve also seen people do horrible things to each other in order to snag a recently freed up seat. It basically a jungle.

You really do see it all on the morning and evening commute. But this is my life now for the foreseeable future, so I’ve gotta make the best of it. I see people rocking their iPods, readers, magazines etc. to make the commute less boring. I have another strategy for making the commute fun…

I play my own little subway games. With a vivid imagination and a plethora of people surrounding me I’m all set. Let the people be my amusement and entertainment! I can’t control who gets on the same car as me or how they will comport themselves, but I can control my perception of them. Here are some of my favourite subway games to play:

Life Story

This one is easy enough, all I do is observe someone who captures my interest and then concoct an elaborate life story for them. The life story is rich with drama and emotion, uncontrollable circumstance and choices. I like to imagine what kind of childhood they had and how it has shaped who they are today. For instance, the dude in his late 20’s suited up all sharp and shit with designer duds. Privileged upbringing, nuclear family, beautiful arm-candy girlfriend right? Wrong. Instead, I see that dude suffering from uncontrollable pyromania! He set his little sister’s dollhouse on fire when he was 8, then when he was 15 burnt his math teacher’s house to the ground and had to do him some juvie or something. He’s gotten his life back on track, finished school and got a sweet gig downtown where nobody suspects the fire monster that lurks within. Just wait til he gets denied that big promotion he’s been working for, burn baby burn! See, I just made my way through 5 stops before I even knew it!

Which Animal?

Again, this game relies heavily on me observing someone with a particular look and deciding on what sort of animal they would be. There’s a woman cackling obnoxiously to her friend at 8:30am and despite what she may think, the rest of us don’t find her laugh to be particularly enchanting or bewitching. It’s just fucking annoying. That girl is definitely a hyena. There’s a chubby, sleepy 40-something taking up almost two whole seats, that guy is a hippo fo sho. A lanky, toothy, sly looking motherfucker with a backpack full of shrooms, he’s a ferret. I don’t really know if he’s got shrooms in his backpack, it’s just part of his image I guess.

What Station?

This one I’m not very experienced in yet, but I like to think that in a couple of years when I’ve ridden the rails from end to end countless times, I’ll have better judgement. But I like to size someone up and decide what stop they’re getting off at. It’s also hard because my commute isn’t from one end to another, it’s a good chunk of the Yonge line but not the whole thing. But there are certain neighbourhoods in Toronto that correspond with subway stations and I like to guess what station I think a person is going to, especially on the evening commute. That’s the most likely time that people are heading home, so it’s a little easier. For example, my neighbourhood Yonge and Eglinton is often called Young and Eligible by my co-workers because it’s heavily populated with yuppies. So it’s usually safe to assume that young, shiny, polished, designer clad men and women are headed that way. There’s also the Finchers. People who are commuting into the city everyday and connect to buses at Finch station. They can’t stand their surroundings. You just know that the subway is the worst part of their day, they hate crowds, and they change into comfortable shoes at the end of the day.

Okay, so I know this is sounding like I’m pretty much the most judgemental and awful person on the planet, but I don’t do this out of a mean-spirit. I simply try to pass the time on the train in the morning, and mentally escape the nasty armpit stink in my face. I think that I’m very unexpected. I’ve been sized up and judged my whole life, pigeonholed and stereotyped. And I honestly hope that all the people I play my subway games with are unexpected too and would prove me wrong given a 5 minute chat. Sometimes people surprise you, sometimes they turn out to be exactly what you expected… that’s the fun of subway games, what you see in others has a lot to do with what you yourself are bringing to the table.

Hot Hot Harp

It’s a long weekend this week, so lots of good things to take stock of, but there is one thing this week that hands down made my day most of all and has earned a spot in the blog.

I’m working with the Magpie again, which has been truly wonderful. She cites moving to Toronto as the best decision she’s ever made in her life, and since I’ve known her has been incredibly encouraging (if not blatantly overpowering) in her suggestion that I move here too. A most fruitful decision indeed.

Moving to Toronto has been so refreshing and rewarding! There’s always something to do, someplace to be, and  someone to catch up with. One of the best things about it has been getting out during my lunch hour and exploring. At my old job our office was located in an area dominated by other office buildings. There was absolutely nothing worthwhile within walking distance of the office. If you wanted to go get lunch you had to have a car, and sadly I do not. On occasion I would grab lunch out with the other girls, but it was always a scramble to get food and bring it back in time to scarf down quickly at your desk. You weren’t really allowed to take a leisurely lunch.

Now, I can stumble out the office door and there are hundreds of options at my fingertips! I literally cross the street and encounter tons of choices. It’s so wicked! Because I had conditioned myself to work through lunch and not find any enjoyment in it at my old job I had these lingering pangs of guilt about getting out during lunch hour at the new job. A few weeks have gone by and I’ve gotten more used to popping out the door and not feverishly watching each second tick by on my watch, stressing that I’ve got to get back to my desk and not selfishly pilfer company time.

Case in point, this week. Everything is still very new to me, so I get pumped up over the littlest thing. I think it’s been fun for the Magpie because my shiny, wide-eyed, virginal view of the city mirrors back everything about it that she fell in love with too. This week, she decided that we could afford to take our time and head to Kensington market for lunch. We hopped on the street car, sailed through Chinatown (loved it!) and then strolled the streets of the market.

So colourful and wonderful! Amazing treasures to be found! This place is an explorer’s dream come true to be sure.

We had lunch at a place called Grilled Cheese, as you may have guessed serving up delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. Picture it, fluffy texas toast crisped to perfection with a melty, gooey cheddar middle about an inch thick. Golden brown and laden with rippled chips and a crunchy dill pickle, we had found euphoria on the workday lunch hour. We sat outside on a picnic table in the sun chatting and laughing.

After lunch we walked back through the market, and there I beheld the most pleasant sight of all the day’s outing: the hot harpist.

It’s very common to walk the streets and see people playing guitar and singing their dirges for a buck or two from friendly passersby. It is not common to see a gorgeous specimen of a man plucking tenderly at a harp in the noonday sun. That is something remarkable. Naturally I started drooling, what is a girl to do?

The best part about it was as I was gawking and walking, the Magpie was laughing heartily, as is her way. When I asked her what was funny she said “oh that guy behind us was saying to his friends ‘Who knew that the harp was such a good way to get chicks!’ What a Beavis thing to say!”

We had been a bit too leisurely and hastened our pace to get back to the office, but when we got back not a single person seemed to notice or even care that we’d whiled away a solid hour and then some at the market. This was the most glorious moment of all this week: the wonder of exploring the market, feeling the noonday sun on our faces, and oogling the hunky harpist had finally helped me let go of my guilt over enjoying my lunch hour.

I’ve shed the last vestiges of conditioning from my old job. I’m no longer hindered by guilt about living my fucking life. Work can wait for me, I won’t be rushing my lunches anytime soon.