Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Don't Run For Trains Anymore

So, isn’t this about the tenth inch of snow received in the last week?


Like much of the rest of the Prairies this week Calgary has been socked into a cold front that has seen temperatures falling into the minus twenties. I don’t usually complain about the weather. Being a flatlander I have grown up to understand that the weather we have is a fait accompli. You just have to work around it. Yet, today as I was waiting for the walk light to change at 9th Avenue SW and 11th Street SE in Calgary, for what seemed like forever, the seeds of a complaint were starting to form. The northwest wind was blowing snow around me, and it didn’t seem to matter that I had my back turned toward it, I was cold. Streams of traffic were going by, and I began to wonder if there wasn’t some controller with his finger on the button dictating when the walk light would change who was taking delight in our cold huddled group on the corner.


I was on my way to catch the downtown train that runs through the core. In doing this routine for some time I have observed many people doing the same thing as me. Each approaches the event of riding to work a bit differently. There are those who stare off through the windows lost n in some iPod-filled acre of their existence, deliberately avoiding the gaze of other riders. There are those who can read a book while walking down the street or hitting the exit button on the train without having to re-read a paragraph. There are those who refuse to sit. Instead they crowd near the doors. Perhaps they are afraid of not being able to get off the train.


There is much diversity to be found in the ridership on the C-train. People from Eastern Africa, who have adapted well to our culture, but still find warm days to be cold and wear parkas. There are the Sikhs who come into the downtown from the northeast at the end of the day. They make up the component that clean the office towers. They wear the preferred costume of their homelands, saris and gold jewellery, and tell each other funny stories in Punjabi, and laugh. Remarkable are the old women who we think would want to be at home wit their feet up instead of cleaning. These are just a few of the cultures I have observed.


There are the homeless too. On the really cold days they ride the downtown train that is free so they can stay warm. Several days ago a small group were congregated in the back of the lead car. These few were addicts.

The precursor of their presence was the unpleasant acidic odour of too much booze mixed with other toxins and sweat, and hardly any taken showers.


I walk by the transit newspaper hawkers everyday. One in particular interests me. Everyday, regardless of weather, at the same spot he is there handing out the free tabloid. He talks to himself incessantly. It’s not a mumble. I often wonder what the conversation is about. He has a colleague whose role is “environmental.” His job is to scour the train cars for discarded newspapers. When he is done he takes a seat and nods his head to a rhythm only he understands. Then at the right moment before the train departs the depot, and how he knows when to leave I don’t understand, he gets up and leaves the car.


Lastly, there are people who being a half a block from the terminus run for the trains. I emphasize the plural here. It’s important. I can understand if there is only one train visible, and you’re anxious about being late for work that one would run for the train. But two trains, that baffles me. With two you have a 50-50 chance of arriving at your destination either on time or a little later. I watched a young gal wearing some boutique high heel boot darting across the road, stopping traffic, so she could catch her train. Once again, two trains in, what is the rush. Would it had been worth it had she slipped on some ice and fell, maybe injuring an arm?


I don’t run for trains anymore. Either I am getting lazy or old and lazy. The difference being that my knees complain too long afterward to justify the effort, and thus I am old. In contrast I have time for trains. I will hang back to watch a freight pass in front of me giving me the pleasure of wondering where each come has came from, what’s in it and where is it going. Life is too short to not take notice of life’s delights.


Stay warm.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your essay on the C-train. I have had some of the same thoughts when I occassionally take the bus and C-train to work.