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2005 04 04
Transit Stories - Token and Taboo
imageIt’s not that I disbelieve my son exactly, but by the same token, it was pretty hard to imagine that the Toronto Transit Commission’s drivers can be quite as malevolent as he often described them to me.

He would tell me about bus drivers simply deciding not to stop at all to pick up a gaggle of kids his age—he’s fifteen—and go sailing on past instead, leaving them shivering in the winter twilight. He would tell me about drivers closing streetcar doors in their faces, leaving them nonplussed at the curb. He would tell me about getting into a bus and, once in, being told to get off again. And not because he was being unruly or obstreperous, but just because he was a kid. A male kid.

He has told me about how, while trying to transfer from a bus to a streetcar or vice-versa, how he’d walk across the intersection, making for the streetcar, only to watch helplessly as the driver of the streetcar, after shooting him a smug and icily demonic look, would then pull slowly and perversely away—see you around, ya little bastard!

I know my kid, and I know that while he can rise to almost sublime heights of righteous indignation, he is entirely innocent of bouts of paranoia.

The truth of his tales of transit woe was forcefully driven home to me one freezing night last winter while we waited forlornly for a Bathurst Street car heading south from College Street. The car came too, after what seemed a frigid eternity. It came looming and scraping through the night, blazing with warmth like an ocean liner underway. The car slowed down—thinking back it was this slowing down, this pause, this mechanical intake of breath, that seemed so ugly—and we stepped forward, eager and grateful for the comfort, indeed the rescue it seemed to proffer.

And then the driver looked directly into our eyes, acknowledged our presence and our desires and our need (there was an interchange of consciousnesses, you could feel it, the way you could feel the snow settling on your nose and forehead), and directly picked up speed again, leaving us to the blackness of the cold.

I watched the streetcar’s taillights disappearing into the night, listened to its attenuating clank and clatter until there was nothing but silence and snow. I looked at my son in disbelief.

“You see”, Dad?” he told me. “I don’t make these things up.”

I almost wished he did.

The next week it was announced that there would be a rise in the price of the fares.
[email this story] Posted by Gary Michael Dault on 04/04 at 09:14 AM

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