Wednesday: Subway etiquette
Every morning, right before I go into my office building (by the regular door, NOT the revolving door. And yes, I choose to ignore the sign that says “Please use the revolving door. Help us conserve heat” on the grounds that a) the building keeps its lights on all night, so let’s not get all uppity about ME wasting power and b) I have an irrational fear of revolving doors and it’s just better for everyone if I’m not shrieking and panicking first thing in the morning. Sorry for the long sidebar), I get a copy of The Metro, a kind of local paper from this poor guy who stands by the subway entrance every morning looking like he’s DYING from the cold, I mean like he’s in PAIN. They must pay him a lot to do this, because I know there’s no way in hell I would pass out newspapers in this weather for less than like a gazillion dollars and all the wine I could drink. The Metro focuses mostly on downtown Toronto events and features writers who are not quite at the national level, but it’s still interesting and has good recipes on Thursdays. On Wednesday, there was an article about “subway etiquette”. It wasn’t anything earth-shattering, pretty common-sense stuff like “Let people off the car before you enter” and “Be aware of your surroundings as not to hit people with your shopping bags”. After reading through the article, it occurred to me that the author had obviously NEVER BEEN on the subway, because if this is all she thinks is needed to make the subway a pleasant experience for everyone, she’s living in a fantasyland. The same fantasyland where the downtown corridor DOESN’T smell like urine and garbage and people DON’T bark at you on the escalator in College Park. (I told a colleague about being barked at, and she said, “Oh that guy. He’s barked at me before” like it was a perfectly normal thing to do.)
At any rate, after reading The Metro’s tips for subway travellers, I decide to put together my own list of do’s and don’ts for Riding The Rocket. That’s not a euphemism for other “downtown activities”, it’s the cute slogan that the Toronto Transit Commission uses to encourage people to use public transit.
1) Don’t spit in the recycling bins on the platform. The other day, I was waiting for the subway, standing near the containers for recycling, paper, and litter, when a well-dressed woman crossed in front of me and spat into the recycling bin. All I could think was “Whuh?” Like, it literally made me inarticulate in my own head. Ken has this obsession with washing empty cans and jars in the dishwasher, and I always tell him it’s a waste of time because the recycling people will just wash everything when they get it anyway. I made that up to bug him, but now I really hope it’s true. If you really have to spit in public, like if there’s absolutely NO F*CKING WAY you can help it, at least use the litter bin. That sh*t’s just going to the dump, not reappearing as a yogurt container or a juicebox with someone’s expectorant imbedded in it.
2) Don’t talk to yourself. People get scared when you do that, especially if you’re having an obviously angry and animated conversation with someone imaginary, or with the cigarette packet in your front pocket. Your own personal narrative needs to stay in your own personal head. Or bring a puppet with you so that people will think you’re a ventriloquist; a whole new career might be waiting.
3) No dancing to invisible music. I’ve actually seen this more than once. The first time, it was a woman (I think) in what seemed to be a full burqa with nothing visible except her eyes. Then suddenly, she started doing this crazy dance up the aisle towards the door and waited there for another three stops, just jiving away. She might have had earphones on under her headcovering, but based on her behaviour, I was like “I don’t think she’s really Muslim…” Then there are the guys who play air-guitar, who drum on the seats, or just randomly sing along to whatever the alien chip in their tooth is broadcasting. It’s like unintentional busking where NO ONE wants to give you money—they just want you to get off the subway.
4) Don’t laugh when the subway turns into “Inception”. This isn’t so much an etiquette tip, but just a reminder for myself. The Toronto subway has these new cars that swivel so they can follow the tracks more smoothly. They’re white inside with red seats, very futuristic, and when they start going around the corner, they bend. If you’re sitting in the middle, all of a sudden the cars ahead and behind you will swing away and kind of disappear, just like things were all weird and bendy in the movie “Inception”. When the curve turns into a straightaway again, the cars all swing back into a straight line. It’s quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and every time it happens, I grin maniacally to myself. I can’t help it. And people either look at me strangely, or kind of nod and smile back, like they get it too. Here’s a picture of what it looks like; although it’s hard to tell, the next car has swung away. I’ve also included a picture of a squirrel who looks the same way I look EVERY TIME IT HAPPENS. No wonder I get weird looks.
5) Sit the f*ck down. What is wrong with people who INSIST on standing in the middle of the car when there are perfectly good seats available? Try taking the subway at rush hour when half the seats are open, but you can barely get on or off the car for all the people just standing there like idiots. Some of them are reading. If you’re that afraid of coming into contact with another human being that you would hold a book in one hand, hold the bacteria-ridden pole with the other, and try to maintain your balance in a moving vehicle for 5 kilometers, maybe you should just stay home. Me, I prefer to sit whenever I can, because you never know what’s going to happen. See number 6.
6) When you can’t get a seat and your subway car stops dead in the middle of the tracks, and you’re told the delay will be at least an hour and your arthritis is flaring really badly, do what I do—sink to the floor and sit there. At least 5 people will immediately jump up and offer you their seat, and when you struggle to get up, they will band together to lift you and support you. Because we all recognize that if you’re desperate and in enough pain to sit on the disgustingly dirty subway floor, you need some help. The subway might be a hotbed of weirdness at times, but people in Toronto are wonderful in a crisis.
Friday: Don’t take cold pills and drink alcohol.
This actually happened a week ago Friday, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it until now. I’m only telling it today because I think it’s important that people know how easily something like this can happen, and how the cold medication people play down the whole “mixing alcohol with this sh*t” issue. I was really sick last week, and finally resorted to taking a cold and sinus medication containing pseudophenedrine. It was OK in Toronto, where I would take it before bed and then go to sleep, but a week ago Friday, I was on the train, and I was feeling really crappy. I had a glass of wine, and right before I got off, I popped a couple of cold pills. Ken picked me up and we went to visit my aunt, where I had another glass of wine, which I didn’t quite finish. Then we went to Dominos for take-out pizza, and while we were waiting, we went to the pub across the street to have a drink. So not quite three glasses of wine in about two hours. Let me state for the record that I’m usually able to drink as much wine as I want at any time of the day, on the assumption that “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” as my dad likes to say. In fact, it’s 5 o’clock while I’m writing this. Somewhere.
So we picked up the pizza, and then I had to go to the bathroom, so Ken stopped at McDonald’s. That’s the LAST THING I remember until I woke up in bed at around 10 pm. I don’t remember the drive home (thank god Ken was behind the wheel). I don’t remember eating dinner. I CERTAINLY don’t remember the terrible argument I had with T (and we rarely have a wrong word between us), where I ordered Ken out of the room, then irrationally insisted that T make a list of all the furniture he needed for university next year. When he refused, I got furious and told him that he needed to decide now, because “two months is like twenty years when you’re a teenager”, and I don’t even know what that means. I absolutely don’t remember bawling and accusing him of “leaving me forever.” I also don’t remember getting ready for bed. All I know is that I woke up at ten, looked at Ken and said, “What are we doing right now?” Ken just snorted derisively and kept watching TV. I said, “I’m going down to get a glass of wine. Do you want anything?” at which point, he looked and me and said, “I think YOU’VE had enough.” Then he told me what happened. I was totally confused and embarrassed. The package of cold pills didn’t say anything about not drinking alcohol, and even on the internet, it just said that mixing them with alcohol could make you sleepy. Then I read some other anecdotal stories from people who’d had similar experiences with the same cold medication—one guy said he had to go back to the pub the next day and apologize to his mates for being a belligerent assh*le, but he didn’t remember a thing after the second pint. So here’s a warning for you all. You never know how you’re going to react when you mix alcohol and medication, so better safe than sorry—don’t take the medication. (What? Did you really think I was going to say “Don’t drink”?! You know me better than that.)