My Humbling Public Transit Experience

My Humbling Public Transit Experience

I was taking the subway home one day this past week and an interaction between a couple other passengers and a TTC operator really struck me.

We were stopped at a station for a minute or two. I was reading a book so I wasn’t completely present to the amount of time that had passed. Although, we happened to be at Eglinton station, where I’ve noticed the train always seems to stop for at least a couple minutes, which I’ve come to figure is for safety or scheduling purposes — totally fair.

I got pulled out of my book by a woman, leaning slightly out of the subway doors and speaking loudly to who must have been one of the TTC operators, who was out of my view. The passenger started getting very frustrated, saying that they had just waited six minutes for a train to arrive, and now she (being the TTC operator) was making them wait some more, and she should get to where she’s supposed to be so we could all be on our way.

The TTC operator had been chatting with someone and when the woman started near-yelling at her, she simply rebutted with “yeah, yeah” — thankfully not escalating the situation. A man who was sitting behind me was cheering on the aggravated passenger, saying “You go! You’re right,” and giving her a thumbs up.

Now, I was on my way home from a meeting, on a high because it went really, really well, and I wasn’t in any rush, so on this particular day the brief delay wasn’t phasing me at all. I’ve also been on Toronto’s public transit at other times while I was running late to something important, stuck in a delay with no indication as to when service would resume, so I completely understand and empathize with the frustration.

Having said that, what had me struck by this encounter is how entitled we’ve become as human beings. In a way, it’s not our fault either. The world has progressed very quickly, is more technologically advanced than it’s ever been, and we have everything we need at our fingertips. It’s an age of instant gratification, and this woman was not receiving what she has come to expect.

These few minutes of interaction between these other people humbled me because it made me present to how we complain when we have to wait six minutes for something. That’s barely microwaving two pizza pockets. We were literally in a tunnel underground, in a train — a train that typically arrives every few minutes, speeds underneath a massive city, avoiding traffic and protecting its passengers from poor outdoor weather, all for $3.25 per trip and with indoor heating, no less — that gets us where we need to be, and yet we complain when we have to wait six minutes.

All the while there’s a homeless man walking up and down the train, getting a “no” or even the cold shoulder for every person he asks for spare change. There’s some real perspective.

What came out of this for me was an intention to be present to situations like this going forward. To be grateful for the fact that I can easily get around the giant city that is Toronto, that I have somewhere to come home to, that I don’t need to ask for spare change, and that the subway was six minutes late but also arrived at the station safely and got me home safely.

So, for what are you willing to give up your sense of entitlement and instead be grateful? It all starts with a shift in your mindset.


Photo via unsplash.com