Today I opened up the Globe and there was a big picture of a northern winter in Iqaluit complete with someone dressed up in a bunch of dead animals. That kind of winter is pretty. The crazy bleakness, the blue grey skies, the way the trees hold the snow. Pretty.
In Toronto it is pretty for a few moments. The snow falls and it looks like Gingerbread Land. This year with the ice storm, we had a few beautiful days of these exquisite tree ice sculptures. More exquisite and beautiful if you weren’t looking for a hotel to spend Christmas in, but beautiful nonetheless.
Eventually, winter gets ugly. The cars get to the snow and turn it brown and soggy. The trees shake their snow and just look like brittle arms. The sky turns the same colour as the ground – sort of yellow/white – and you start to get used to not seeing the sun peek out for days and days.
I take the subway into work, and despite the shambles that is public transportation in Toronto – I prefer it to driving in rush hour and parking on a two-storey snow bank. However, there is still plenty of room for improvement so I decided to make a little list of nice suggestions that I think could ameliorate any subway ride.
1. Toothbrushing Stations: I don’t know how this will work, but I think it is a shit hot idea. Most subway riders seem to omit this crucial morning routine. I don’t want to smell what you ate last night for dinner. All that bad breath makes people cranky and uncooperative. I think a cute little booth by the ticket agent would solve a lot of problems.
2. Listening to Someone Else’s Music: It is like a rule, unless a person is in your home (and even then), she doesn’t want to listen to your music. Even if you listen to the same music that I do, I don’t want to hear it on the subway. Maybe you need better earphones or to have your hearing checked – I’m not sure – but that could be another little service public transportation provides. The people who come on the subway without headphones and the volume turned up on their iPhones – need to return to nursery school before they can make decisions for themselves again. Even my three-year old knows I don’t want to listen to the Octonauts.
3. Stand Up! Once when I was a teenager, I was riding the subway with friends in Rome. The train was packed and we were sitting down. My friend told me not to look up because then you would have to give up your seat. Even at that point, I knew that was kind-of wrong. Later, again as a teenager, I rode a bus in New York City. When we walked in an 80-year old woman shot up and offered us her seat. The rest of the ride was like musical chairs. Every time someone would walk on the bus, the passengers would all stand up and offer their seats, my friend and I included. I always thought that New Yorkers were supposed to be pushy, driven assholes – but I learned I was wrong about New Yorkers, and the real truth is teenagers should never be allowed to sit down because they are lazy and selfish unless a bunch of seniors teach them otherwise. So, here is my suggestion: One 80 year-old per car. Job: Offering her seat to anyone over 15 and under 30. Three weeks and the whole rude not-giving-the-seat-up thing will be a distant memory.
4. Slippers: I think the subway experience could be so much better in the winter if you weren’t schlepping through slush on the cars. I love the idea of wearing cozy slippers on the subway instead of my boots. Bonus: I wouldn’t have to bug my son not to stand on the seats. Also, less clean up! I suppose while we are making a no outdoor shoe policy on the subway, we should say no MacDonald’s either.
5. Good Subway Newspaper: Would it be so hard? I feel my IQ lowering when I read them. And I say this as someone who has been published in one. There are a million great writers out there who would work for mere ducats, the advertising dollars are clearly there with a captive audience. Those newspapers make me feel bad for the trees, and that shouldn’t be your first thought when you see a newspaper. Maybe they need more Haley-O.
6. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: For the record I think that was a sad and disappointing policy in the US military, but I think in terms of subway delays – it works. In Toronto, we have to hear about every screw that needed to be tightened therefore causing a five second delay. Learning about a delay makes everyone antsy. If I am stuck in a subway tunnel, I’m stuck in a subway tunnel. But if I hear that we are delayed until further notice because some teenager didn’t give up his seat and someone freaked out and pressed the passenger assistance alarm (true story) it is just going to panic me. Don’t tell me about it, just fix it.
Okay, your turn. Subway suggestions?