02. May 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Random · Tags: ,

Concentrated stares…glowers unbroken…

I sat down next to a fellow on the streetcar on my trek home this evening. He was collecting his bag to make his adjacent seat available for the filling streetcar. Keeping his pad/binding of paper close to his bag, face down into it, pen still in hand. He’d stare off into space, then fixate on people standing up to leave.

Unwavering gaze, before he would suddenly break focus and scribble on his paper. Put it back face down. Stare. Occasionally focus on someone else in the forward view. Scribble away briefly. Put it away.

I fear he was taking notes on people…scribbling away random observations about them as they left…or potentially worse…

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It’s interesting how interactions can be so polite or cold in this city at a given time. My neighbourhood is almost consistently cold in nature, but I keep feeling that’s a consequence of me looking more so the foreigner than the native1. However, I continue to run into random warm encounters that are a bit surprising in nature.

The Sunday morning crew at The Stockyards is amazing. A couple rowdy women in their 40s, often the owner, and a couple of younger cooks that do their work just right. It’s great to listen to them just interact with the regular patrons (both dining–in and to–go), ’cause they just love to catch up with their regulars. Even I got dragged into some conversation as they wanted to know what I did for the (Canadian) Thanksgiving holiday!

Which is hilarious every time I mention I go to Buffalo.

Other: “Oh, do you go visit your family there?”
Me: “No, my family lives in North Dakota.”
Other: <insert confused/dumbfounded look as they either (a) try to figure out where North Dakota is, or (b) figure out why the hell I would be visiting Buffalo if I didn’t have family there>

It really makes me believe the effect it has of some people never moving out of the greater Toronto area. They don’t know what it’s like to move 250–300 miles away for college, or another thousand miles away for graduate school, and throw in another hundred or two for your next job. Transplantation isn’t so easy; it’s convenient to have your support network close enough for weekend visits. It was a luxury I did not have moving to Buffalo, nor much of one moving to Fargo. I’d hazard, people just don’t often think about it…

Anyhoo. Back to the weather changes. I would have expected a warmer reception from the (professional, supposedly) academics I have met to date. Thankfully, one I did, but she’s off & gone in Oman now2. I did emo–whine a bit earlier about the grad student colleagues in my department, but again, that’s a tight–knit social circle that is pretty self–stable. I’ve had the chance to reach out to a couple other postdocs so far, but those communications seem to be…evaporating, perhaps? I’m not sure. We’re all whipped workhorses to our own specific projects, but how on earth do you coordinate time to spend with them amidst all that, let alone any social circles they already have? So, there are the colder ones so far.

Last weekend, I got an amazingly warm response from a café shop owner. I inquired about what music was playing over the speaker system & let me snap a picture of the info off his iPod. Ten or fifteen minutes later, he asked if I had a flash drive with which to provide some of said artist to me with. I was momentarily floored; far above & beyond what I would have expected of a stranger, especially when he returned the flash drive nearly full! Listening to some pretty awesome contemporary classical music as we speak right now!

Lastly, this evening, I took it upon myself to inform a stranger about when the next streetcar was coming down College St, as I was leaving work. She kept checking the street profusely (a couple times a minute), while I coolly waited because I knew the streetcar was down at Yonge & College still3. I politely informed her that one was coming only a block and change away, with two more in quick succession behind it. I seem to have weirded her out a bit over the random remark, but she was thankful for the information. I mentioned the follow–up cars because she had a loaded rolling luggage piece with her, and any (competent) TTC rider knows that at that time of the post–workday hours, the first eastbound College streetcar after an extended lack is going to be one packed sardine unit! Anyways, first of the three shows up, I can already see that the car appears to be a nebulous, black entity traveling down the street, indicative that the plethora & density of standing patrons — blocking out all interior lights of the streetcar to the outside —has utterly filled the streetcar. She hesitated, and decided to wait out the next car, as I already said I would (I’m not that impatient to get home). I show her the app, and demonstrate how it shows the next two streetcars in tow: one at University & College already, with the other at Bay & College. She inquires where I got the app, I relate how she can track it down for her own phone (an Android, alas, not iOS like my own), and she looks to be genuinely happy with that extra piece of knowledge for the day. The next streetcar comes down College nearly a minute or two later, and it looks virtually empty! Alas, it is only bound for Bathurst, so I’m stuck awaiting the final car, while she enjoys her near–vacant streetcar. I figured in a city as dependent on transit at Toronto is, more of the regular patrons would be aware of/informed about such smartphone utilities to aid their travels. Heck, it even surprised a young man while I was waiting for the 47B Bus at College & Lansdowne; he was surprised with how accurately I predicted its arrival, after I asked if he was heading north (he kept inspecting TTC signage near the stop). Perhaps not! Mayhaps I need to disseminate my unnatural technical prowess more unto others…it might make a nice opening conversation piece, and who knows, maybe even get a regular conversation partner for my winter rides on the TTC!


1With a neighbourhood that is predominantly Italian & Portuguese, I lack the Hispanic good looks that my mother’s side of the family has, and lack the language skills to partake in the mostly non–English conversations in my ‘hood.
2Thanks, Meezan! Way to leave me hanging, once I found a friend! But no, really, not her fault; awesome woman who has a crazy wordly knowledge & experiences behind her…
3The Transit app from the iTunes App Store has probably got to be one of the most useful city transit apps I have ever had the pleasure of using! It shows (nearly) all the surface–exposed transit vehicles locations as their GPS reports them in to their respective server systems. Granted, some surprise additions/reliefs to the routes don’t always show up in the app, as I learned tonight when I got off the 47 bus at St. Clair and didn’t realize the 47B was right behind, which I could have transferred onto, as opposed to walking the final 1–mile of my trip home, uphill in the rain…