Tag Archives: public transit is a blessing and a curse

A Minute of My Time

1. If you’re handing me a sample of food, you can take a minute of my time.
1 a. Unless it’s yogurt. I have no time for yogurt. Not a minute. Not a second.

2. I won’t take the free paper from you, but I will say good morning, and no thank you, and sing Jesus Christ Post to myself in your honour every day because your outstretched arms remind me of crucifixion.

3. You’re on the phone and you want to talk about how I can give you money for something. I am not interested in giving you money, or listening to you.
3 a. My computer doesn’t run Windows.
3 b. I stopped doing phone surveys a long time ago.
3 c. I am not the deadbeat who owes you and your client money, even though my name is similar to his.

4. I will tell you what time it is. I will give you directions, if I can. I will take a picture of you and your friends holding up your fingers, flashing peace signs. I will help you cross the street if you are a person who needs help crossing the street. I will take your arm and lead you to the bus stop if you can’t see. I have a minute of my time for these things.

5. I do not want to talk about children who need sponsorship, the planet’s woes, or how I can send relief to war-torn countries by giving you my credit card number. Not because I don’t care about these things. I care deeply. But I want to get where I am going and you are standing between me and my destination.

The giving part of my brain is actually quite large — maybe the size of Texas in a brain the size of America — but when you ask me for things when I’m on my way somewhere, especially on my way home from work, that giving part of my brain is inaccessible. The more you try to appeal to it, with your cocked head and persuasive stories, your pleading voice, the less likely — in fact, the less able — I am to change my mind.

Your utterly worthwhile charities support people in need, which people I would gladly give a minute of my time to, were they the ones standing in front of me. But it’s not them between me and my train home, it’s you. It’s you I have to stare past and ignore, day after day, or I’m afraid I will start hating you and the giving part of my brain will shrink and then I’ll be less compassionate than I am now.

I’m sorry. Not today.

Five Things I Learned Today

1. The place I have always referred to as “Langley” (a suburb I dunno, 40 minutes East of Vancouver on the highway? On a Sunday?) is plural. I saw a sign today on the Skytrain that said something about funding transit to “Surrey and The Langleys.” This is one of those municipal things that no one really needed to consult me about, being as I live not in Langley, but I still somehow feel unsettled. How did I not know there are mutiple Langleys? So I looked it up and it sounds like there is a Township of Langley (formerly Fort Langley) and the City of Langely (much bigger). Well let’s support them both, I say! Because everyone should have access to public transit. Significant access. Not just a bus now and then.

2. My co-worker, the hummingbird one, informed me there is an amusement park in Pennsylvania called Hershey Park. She and her husband are going there for a week. Because of the chocolate. And the roller coasters.

3. I bought a nice little (relative term) pair of black flats the other day. Finally, some black flats to wear to the office. How happy I was. Today I wore them and it turns out my feet are spoiled for shoes with support. My legs, hips, all the etceteras, sore. I am adding them to the drawer of shoes I have at work that I only wear in the office and couldn’t possibly wear during my commute, because of all the standing and walking.

Yes, I have a desk drawer that contains five pairs of shoes. Another drawer full of crackers. My overhead shelf is full of scarves and gummy candy. I would say I have achieved office worker status.

4. These three dudes, in old jeans and work boots on the train home today told each other — and the rest of us! — in increasingly boisterous and loutish language and at very high volume how much money they were making, how much EI they were collecting, and what they were getting from [some guy] under the table. One man’s insistence that he still had to pay his $1,000 a month in child support so he wasn’t exactly rolling in dough fell on deaf ears as the other two bragged louder and louder about their amazing cashflow. Then they decided to get off the train for a smoke and called two friends who lived near the station (Morgan the Whoregan and another guy who was referred to as “you scar-faced fuck”, quite affectionately) to meet them on the street for a smoke. Then they went away.

5. I am reading a book that at first reminded me of my own fiction writing, in a good way. This was pleasing. Then the book started to annoy me and I realized it also reminded me of my own fiction writing in a bad way. Not so pleasing. So I have learned that while reading great books is bad for your self-esteem but good for your writing skills because you want to up your game, reading not-great books is good for your self-esteem and also good for your writing skills because you want to write better than that and also correct the obvious errors your alternate-universe-writer-self has been making.

The Amazing Flying Train

We don’t call our Rapid Transit System the “subway” or the “tube” or the “metro”. It is mostly above ground and so, we call it the SKYTRAIN.

The first few weeks I commuted to work were a blur of exhaustion and relief. This workplace is the psychological opposite of my previous workplace and almost every day I still thank my lucky stars for that. It helped my adjustment that the weather was good for those first weeks. It dark at first, and then sunny and bright. I would stand by the window of the train and watch as we flew from New Westminster through Burnaby through Vancouver to downtown. In twenty-five minutes we fly in our big steel bird over kilometres of car-clogged streets.

The traffic on various bridges, the ladybug cars with sparkling headlights, the mountains in the distance with old neighbourhoods in the foreground, the patios and streets we flew over, the sunrises starting pink and getting pinker. It was like taking a magic carpet to work.

There was a morning, a Friday, when the worm turned. I left the house a bit later thinking I’d have a more relaxing morning and was punished with the most godawfully terrible ride to work. I spent my ride smushed against the doors by offensively oblivious people, forced to think about what my nose was inhaling, what heinous bacteria were at that moment colonizing my sinuses. Since that day my commute has lost some of its gleam; maybe because I am more awake, or it’s just no longer new. I more often find myself weary and impatient with the people who don’t clear the aisles, who insist on taking up more than their share of space, who clog the doors, who block my view.

Sometimes, like on my way home today, I feel like a cow in a trailer being towed behind a pickup truck from one corral to the next. I have to remind myself to peek around the corners of the people that surround me so I can catch a glimpse of the outside world through the window. I think, “Sky train. Train in the sky. Sky train. Higher than any cow has ever been.” It springboards a bit of wonder back into my day.


I have ten minutes before it’s time for Saint Aardvark and I to continue watching LOST the series, for the second time. It is a semi-rare overlap of interests for us, LOST, and a welcome chance for us to watch the same television at the same time. Left to my own devices I’ll watch Friday Night Lights or The Killing or for a while there, Nashville, but he’s not into those shows, and I’m not into Noah or Ye Old Timey Black & White Picture Show* or SpaceJunk.*

*Not real titles.

It’s Sunday, March 1st. Can a month come in like a lion or lamb but not in a weather way, just in a what-kind-of-day-is-this-holy-hell way? Weather-wise it was bright and sunny and cold this morning, turning to colder and cloudy this afternoon, and now it’s drizzling in a very chilly fashion.

Other-wise, it was a fine morning with a lot of lounging around, then some chores (laundry for me; taking down garbage and recycling and EWWWW COMPOST for the children) while SA got the grocery list fulfiled at Superstore. Then we all went to Costco because it has been months since we went to Costco. Months! I haven’t gone so long between Costco trips in I don’t know how long. This, of course, is because I am working at a full time job and even though I walk past a Costco every day on my way to and from work, I rarely stop to purchase items because how does one carry a flat of Nanaimo bars and toilet paper on one’s back on the skytrain at rush hour? When you figure it out, let me know.

I did go to the Costco near my work on my birthday, as it turned out, because I was at work and had no lunch and my co-worker reminded me I could get a hot dog at Costco, so that was my big 4-1 treat. Hot dog and iced tea.

No, it was fine. I had something delicious later, I think. I don’t remember.

Anyway, the last time before THAT was in November. I remember specifically because I decided it would be my last Costco trip until after Christmas. Who likes Costco at Christmas, raise your hand!

After Christmas we got by without Costco, until recently when the coffee stores in our basement started to look a little scarce, so today was the day. We had to go.

At the checkout, with our $250 worth of goods, SA’s debit card failed, and then so did mine because they draw from our joint bank account. The cards expired, as it turns out, on February 28th, and someone at the bank dropped the ball and forgot to mail out the new cards. Whoops!

“You can pay Mastercard,” said the helpful cashier with the diamond Chanel earrings — I couldn’t look away from those earrings.
“Nope. Visa?” I said.
“Nope. Personal cheque?” she countered.
“Nope,” I answered.

After some conferring, we decided I’d go home and get a cheque, then come back, which would be cutting time close; I had my writer’s group — via transit, downtown — to get to for 2:00 pm, and the kids had their weekly sketching class at 1:00 pm. It was noon. Then one of the customer service people came over and said, “You can sign up for a Mastercard right now, if you want,” which is usually the kind of thing I say no to at stores, but in this case, well, we needed all that coffee, so there we were, applying and being approved for Costco Mastercards WHILE WE WAITED.

“Thank you for being patient,” I said to the kids.
“That’s okay,” said Arlo. “I am hoping you’ll buy me an ice cream afterward.”

But I didn’t. Instead, I made him go to art class, despite his heartfelt protestations that he doesn’t have enough time to do anything. I agree.

I hitched a ride to Metrotown and then hopped on a train, which sat at the station for fifteen minutes due to a broken train at another station. The doors of the train stayed open, so people kept getting on, and getting on, and getting on. I told myself I was lucky I’d got on when I did; I got a seat, after all, and if you have to wait for fifteen minutes on an immobile train, at least be sitting.

The novelty of the skytrain has almost worn off for me now that I take it every day. But I never do get a seat, so the seat novelty was still, well, novel.

Eventually we left, probably due to the old guy sitting in front of me who kept horking up loogies and sniffing loudly and then muttering “what’s the problem.” After I got off I tossed my whole body into the vat of boiling water they keep at every skytrain station*, to get the people germs off, and then went to a very happy and productive writing group meeting.


Upon my return home, I found the family already watching Arlo’s choice for movie night, The Guardians of the Galaxy, a film which made no sense whatsoever. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. No sense. I had read reviews that said as much but you know, sometimes the Internet is uneccesarily cruel? Not in this case.

All the more reason to cleanse the cinematographical palate with the greatness that is LOST. And a toast to March second, may it be slightly more reasonable than the first.