Christmastime in the Emerald City


Okay. I live in Toronto. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This city is supported by its transit system, known as the TTC. We live and breathe the TTC. When it shuts down, the city shuts down. One can be standing above ground and know if the TTC has shut down simply because the volume of confused and pissed off pedestrians will suddenly triple, and strangers will begin exchanging TTC related stories. The only other cities I know of that rely as heavily on their underground transit system are New York and London. New York at least has taxis, and London….well, London has produced an awful lot of bad musicals lately, so I don’t much care for them.

As with any large city, we are always waiting. We wait in line at the bank, we wait for the subways, we wait for the elevators, we wait for electronic doors to slowly open because some asshole was too lazy to use his God-given arms to push the door open himself. We are constantly waiting, because there are several million of us, added to which are several million more clueless outsiders on a day trip to clog the arteries of our attempted motion. We wait, and we wait, and we wait. So when we are finally moving, get the fuck out of the way.

As stated, the majority of our moving is done via the TTC. So, if you don’t want to experience the reknowned rudeness of Toronto, it is highly recommended that you learn the rules of the TTC. We are rude because it is the fastest way to get you to move your fat tourist of an ass. If you do not follow the rules of the TTC, you are labelled a ‘foreigner,’ and you are likely to be pushed, glared at, shot, or otherwise afflicted with bodily harm. For the purposes of definition, it does not matter if you are from Hong Kong or Barrie. If you do not follow the TTC rules, you are a foreigner and you are in my way.

Anyone who has been proverbially bitch slapped with a sharp Toronto tongue has more than likely broken one of the following rules:

There are two lines when entering the TTC. Choose quickly. One is for metropass and token holders. The other is for those who need change, or are too stupid to read their fucking map and need to ask for directions. The latter need to be shot in the face. Intended for this second lineup, unfortunately, are those who already have change and simply need to dump it in the box, and those who have tickets, transfers, or a day pass. Here’s the crux: just because you need to get change, it doesn’t mean the thirty people behind you have to wait. Get your fucking backpack out of the way so people can wave their transer/pass or dump their change/ticket and continue on with their journey.

Do not ask for directions. The TTC is one of the least complex transportation systems, as anyone who has seen the London or New York system can attest to. The TTC is crucial only because it is so sprawling and because in the core of the city it is far more efficient than driving. It is not complicated. There are signs. Everywhere. Need to transfer at the oh-so-confusing Yonge/Bloor interchange? Look up: southbound trains are at the top of these stairs; northbound trains are at the top of these stairs. While you are standing and staring and asking people where to go because you cannot follow directions at a fifth grade level, you are preventing us from moving.

Do not rush the doors. Do not rush the fucking doors. I am not going to spare your life because you didn’t have the wherewithal to give yourself four minutes leeway to get to wherever you are going. Because four minutes is all you are going to have to wait for the next train. Unless there is a delay, which is often caused by trains having difficulty with their doors because so many fucktards crash into them and then try to pull large parcels through. Also, if you were a true Torontonian, you would have your route planned down to the second, and would never miss a train.

When we here in Toronto are finally on the move, we are in fact fulfilling a purpose. As such, it is a rather private endeavour. In this regard, similar rules apply as in public washrooms: there is a one urinal/stall/seat buffer zone when at all possible. If I am sitting on one side of the train, and there is a free bank of seats across from me or further down from me, do not sit one seat away. I will automatically assume you are a pervert and are going to try and touch me. The serrated blade all Torontonians carry unbeknownst to foreigners is being prepared for the stab, pulled a little further out of its hilt with every inch towards me you have the nerve to lean. Get. The Fuck. Away.

Paradoxically, the opposite is true during rush hours or around particularly busy stops. Not knowing which stops these are will make you, the foreigner, stick out like a sore thumb, and is enough of an offense in itself to be worth a shove or stab or two. If you can remember none other, remember Yonge-and-Bloor. When in this vicinity, it is imperative that all available seats are taken. This is done in order to make room for the inevitable amount of people jammed in around you. If you refuse to sit, you are not being polite by allowing the seat to remain free for some non-existant cripple – you are being terrifically rude by taking up the breathing space of those around you who have the misfortune of not being near an available seat. Sit down. “Oh, but I’m getting off in two stops, I don’t want to sit down.” Two stops? You mean Yonge-and-Bloor? Everybody is getting off at Yonge-and-Bloor. Sit. You are in the way.

When getting on/off the train at Yonge-and-Bloor or some other similarly busy stop, perhaps St. George or Union, do not try and push your way through the throng of people in motion. You are not more important than every other rider. Every other rider will collectively push you onto the tracks for being such a bastard. Also, let people off the train before trying to push your way on. The train is not going to pull away before everyone has exited.

Do not be that fucker who assumes that once he is on the train, all is well in the world. Move away from the doors; there are other people who need to get in. This is what creates the injuring panic people display when they start pushing their way through crowds in fear of the ominous chime of the doors. If you simply get out of the way, there will be time and room for everyone. Torontonians know this. It is you foreigners who fuck it up for yourselves.

Get your bag off the seat. Get your bag OFF THE SEAT. NOW!!!!!!! Did your bag pay $2.75 to pass through the turnstile with you? Hmmm? Or if it’s a particularly old and ugly bag, did it pay the senior fare? No, it didn’t. It is therefore not entitled to it’s own seat. Oh, but I’ll move it if anyone asks me to. Only a hardcore downtown Torontonian will tell you to move your bag or be punched in the face. There are far too many people who, while foreign and spineless, will be too polite or afraid to tell you to stop being an asshole – however, they are following the rules more than you, and so deserve a seat.

I am well within my rights to pick up your stroller and beat your child over the head with it to remove your type of stupidity and inconsiderate behaviour from the future gene pool. There are a few mothers out there who are well aware of this and fold up the stroller, hoist up the kids and keep them as compact and quiet as possible. These women are my heros. The rest of you, who think the universe revolves around your mucus producing bastard of an offspring, should be spat upon. I don’t care how fucking tired you are – either you chose to have a baby and therefore have no right to complain, or you were too stupid to keep yourself from getting pregnant and therefore have even less of a right to complain. Planned mommies: keep your “Jeep” montrosity and snotty bastard away from my ankles. Unplanned mommies: I will look upon you, your bastard, and your soiled sweatpants with as much disdain as I damn well please, and there is not a thing you can do about it. You are in my way.

Do not talk to people on the subway. Nobody cares in the slightest if you have read the same book that they have, or if you have the Scarborough-shit manners to try to pick them up on a subway train. This falls under the same privacy clause as not sitting next to people unless necessary. I’m on my way somewhere, I’m doing something, I’m busy. Do not talk to me. You may talk to your peers, so long as it is quiet, and so long as you understand that if your conversation is of a low level of intellect someone will eventually yell at you to shut your fucking pie hole so the rest of us can hang on to what brain cells remain.

If you are poorly dressed, ugly, or have not yet mastered the concepts of modern hairstyling, you will be judged by me and those around you. Pluck your eyebrows, shave your legs, get a better bra, put those man-boobies away, and for the love of all that is holy, give the shoulder pads back to Delta Burke. Also, nobody cares how comfortable you are with your body and it’s maladies: if you have six toes on each foot, you are not allowed to wear open toed shoes.

Fat. Bastards. Stand. You do not sit. You do not deserve to sit. You are depriving the rest of the working citezenry of room, oxygen, and cheeseburgers. Similar to luggage, your ass did not pay an extra $2.75 to take up the seat next to you. You are one of those hideous sons of bitches who are in someone’s way the minute you step out of your chicken-friend smelling house, and stepping onto the TTC only pours a little more sodium into the collective wound. Sitting next to me is equitable to vomiting on me, as I will likely end up vomiting upon myself.

Do not project any former part of your body into the air surrounding you. The TTC is a glorified, travelling tin can – it is by no means antiseptic. This means that you are not allowed to brush your hair, you are not allowed to pick at scabs and flick them away, you are not allowed to put your fingers anywhere near your nose or your acne, and for fuck’s sake, you are not allowed to clip your nails!!! What is wrong with you?!!?!?

It is not my fault, nor the fault of anyone around you if you are unable to purchase comfortable shoes. Or, if you have purchased uncomfortable shoes, if you do not have the balls to suffer for fashion. Do not take your shoes off on the TTC. You are not in your house, your car, or in a hotel room. There is a reason why all three of those venues cost significantly more than $2.75. You have paid for the privelege of being allowed to exist next to others going a similar direction. You have not paid for the privelege of being comfortable, and certainly haven’t paid for the privelege of making the rest of us surpremely uncomfortable. If you take your shoes off, I will dump my scalding hot extra foamy non-fat vanilla latte on your feet to demonstrate the searing discomfort your feet cause me.

If you are sitting in a forward/backward facing seat, and the bank of sideways facing seats in front of you is full, you will notice that there is an empty seat between you and the window that is extremely inconvenient to get into. Many people will not even bother to try and sit here – therefore you are passively aggresively taking up two seats, and deserve the same violence as the aforementioned fat bastards, backpackers and mothers. Move over and let someone sit. Or stand up and let someone sit. If someone happens to be sitting in this crevice and needs to get up, do not simply swing your legs around. Your face is still in the way, so unless you are perverted enough to want a face full of strangers ass, stand up. And then sit down, moving towards the window so that someone else may sit next to you, and pray that they either get off before you, or demonstrate the same courtesy when you have to get up. If they do not, you have the right to pass wind in the face of the rude son of a bitch. You probably know this after having been subjected to similar discomfort by the person who recently had to slide their ass past you.

If your stop is not quickly approaching, get the fuck away from the doors unless you have absolutely nowhere to move. And if the latter is the case, you must step off the subway at each stop to let passengers out. If you do not, you are in people’s way, and by now you should know that this will result in several varieties of violence. If you are approaching your stop, do not expect people to let go of poles and manoever out of your way while the train is still in motion. They will fall. Once the train has stopped, that’s when people must quickly move out of the way. This also allows for the fact that some of these people may be getting off as well. Particularly at Yonge-and-Bloor. If you stand up after the train leaves Bay, Sherbourne, Wellesley or Rosedale and begin pushing your way to the doors, announcing ‘excuse me, this is my stop, move!’ I will respond with ‘this is everybody’s stop, and if you weren’t such a tourist you might know that.’ Everybody will laugh at you, and you will deserve the humiliation.

In order for the driver to open the doors, he occasionally has to step out of his booth and manually press a few buttons below the opposite window. There is a very good chance that people are sitting in the seats at this window. If you are one of these people, get up before being asked, or you will be holding up not only a few people with your unnecessary presence – you will be holding up an entire train, and therefore the entire system. If you cause our precious TTC to back up, you are a plague to the city, and we will destroy you.

If you miss your stop, you miss your stop. It happens. Even to Torontonians, focused as we are on where we are going sometimes more than where we actually are. If this is the case, do not jump up as the doors are chiming and run into several people as well as the purse I carry that is worth more to me than your life. Get off at the next stop, cross to the other platform, and ride back. It will take about five to seven minutes. Now, it is true that most Torontonians have their daily TTC ride planned down to the second and so may not have this spare seven minutes. However, ‘there was a delay on the TTC’ is a universally (and by universally, I mean within our city) accepted reason for being a few minutes late. Do it too often though, and you merely reveal yourself as inefficient as well as ruining it for the rest of us.

Once you have exited the train at your stop, do not stand in the middle of the platform trying to determine in which direction to go. If you are that unfamiliar with the stop, you foreigner, get out of the way and start reading signs. It is far better to walk all the way to one end of the platform and realize that you must walk back then to have 83 passengers have to pummel their way past you and your overnight bag. At least if you walk to one end and turn back, it may seem like you merely changed your mind.  

Lastly, though almost most importantly, there are the escalators that one will more than likely have to take when leaving the subway system. Here is where it becomes absolutely crucial to go with the flow that is Toronto on the move. Your journey may be at an end, but that is not the case for everyone else. Other people have other trains to catch, buses to catch, streetcars to catch (buses and streetcars both deserving their own set of rules too numerous to be mentioned here) and once again you goddamned bastard of a foreigner, you are in the way. And you are in the way in the worst possible manner – because it is so! fucking! simple! WALK ON THE LEFT, STAND ON THE RIGHT. Just like driving, suburbanites: if you are in a rush, the left lane is for you. If you have an immobile object, a cane, or are just plain lazy and wish to stand (even Torontonians may be at the end of the day) then keep to the right to let others in a rush pass by. This is the simplest thing in the world. Walk left, stand right. If you stand on the left, you demonstrate to me and the world that you a) don’t know how to read the signs around you; b) are unaware that other people are behind you and that you are not the only carbon-based life form in the world; and c) lack the courtesy of a monkey. You are in my way, and it will take every ounce of my will to not trip your sorry ass onto the jagged spikes awaiting you at the top.

This may be, ladies and gentlemen, why Torontonians are so rude. Not only do we have people in our way on a constant basis, but we have to bottle our collective rage against the inconsiderate bastards of the world and keep our clenched hands at our sides. We may yell, we may glare, we may trip and even shove. We may hiss and spit and curse your sorry souls. But what we really want to do is reach out and smash your face in with a blunt instrument reading ‘YOU ARE IN THE WAY!’ In an ideal world, every true Torontonian would be provided with such an instrument. And at the bottom, in fine print, this clause would be imprinted, to be stamped until the next trip on the face of every immobile bastard who has the nerve to slow us down:

“If you do not know how to ride the TTC, you do not deserve to speak, breathe or live. “


Talea says:

Dude, I need a cigarette. That was GOOD.
Honestly, it has made me so patriotic to my adopted city that it brought a bit of a tear to my eye.
I’m going to say it. Even though I’m from Saskatchewan, and I’m supposed to be a good, polite, prairie girl, I fucking LOVE how rude this city is. Because once you understand it, it is a great damned place to live. All we ask is you follow the rules. I love our collective anger and our possessiveness and protectiveness of the TTC.
I love this post. It should be required reading for anybody touching down in Pearson for the first time.

Maytina says:

Fan fucking tastic. I love it. When I got to the part about true Torontonians having their routes planned to the second and never missing a train, I called my dad. He is the TTC master, riding it since the 50s he can go anywhere, and do so in a timely manner. I ended up reading more of the post to him and he was just dying ‘how many times have I said that? It’s all truuuuuue’.

So anyhee, that was rad.

Carolyn says:

Genius. Really. This is the best piece of writing I’ve read in months. Can we get this published in the NOW or eye magazine or something along those lines? In fact, I’m with Talea: required reading on the plane/train/bus/raft…whatever.

romi41 says:

Oh man, this was hilarious and true 🙂 . I take the TTC subway to work everday, and this post was like music to my ears. Before I got used to the subway pee-smell, that on its own was my biggest subway pet peeve; now that I’ve been riding the subway for so long, the smell of pee feels like home :-). Henceforth, I HATE people that break the rules…assholes.

[…] Seen to Date We all know my beef with jackasses on the subway. Or, if you don’t, go here and figure out why I often want to punch people in the goddamned face. Especially since Toronto relies so heavily on it’s transit system. We’re pretty green, […]

[…] Survived that day. Yesterday, have to do a bank run for work. No biggie except it means taking the subway. Normally I have my head phones to drown out the idiocy, but more on that later. I run into a […]

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