Things you see on two separate subway cars

1 : The voice coming over the speakers of the TTC subway car announces a service disruption between Jane and Islington stations. There are, however, shuttle busses running, never a comfortable alternative to the already barely comfortable transit experience.

Yet the train is still nine or ten stops away so none of the passengers seem overly concerned. Most likely their stop is either far in advance of Jane or they’re confident, however naively, the problem will be cleared before long.

About a half-dozen faces, perhaps less, express a resigned chagrin at the situation—they are probably in for the long-haul to Kipling at the end-of-the-line and have a realistic expectation the disruption will not be cleared any time soon, based on previous experiences when a shuttle-bus was involved.

Still, no one is outwardly concerned. Except one young man.

He is tall, very tall. He’s made to look even taller due to his extremely thin frame. The gangliness of his limbs is emphasized by his nervous twitching and the slight palsy curl to his hands and forearms. He’s Indian or, perhaps, Pakistani. He is rushing, almost running, from the rear of the train to the front.

“Okay, okay, okay, okay,” he says, “Okay this is what’s happened. Okay, okay.”

His voice is high, constricted with excitement.

“Okay, okay, there’s a disruption due to personal injury at track level. There’s no service—NO SERVICE—between Jane and Islington. Okay, okay, okay. You’re going to need to take a shuttle bus if you’re going past Jane. If you’re going past Jane you’re going to need to take a shuttle bus. Okay, okay, okay. They’re turning back service at Islington and Jane.”

Purpose illuminates his face. He is being helpful and his concern for the welfare of his fellow passengers is genuinely radiating from his person. He has a mission. He is proselytizing.

His fellow passengers are beginning to look a little worried.

“Okay, okay, there’s a disruption due to personal injury at track level. They’re turning back service at Islington and Jane. Okay, okay, if you’re going to Islington you’re going to have a long trip. I just want you to know that.”

He is imparting this information to as many passengers personally as will make eye-contact with him. He jerks towards them and says, “There’s no service—NO SERVICE—between Jane and Islington. Okay, okay, okay. You’re going to need to take a shuttle bus if you’re going past Jane.”

The announcement is repeated over the speakers. His rictus-like grin widens, his eyes flash and he points to the ceiling. His god has spoken. The voice of the TTC has affirmed his faith. He redoubles his efforts with evangelical fervour.

People are really beginning to look uncomfortable now.

Their eyes are fixed on their books and magazines and—if they’re unlucky enough to be empty-handed—they’re looking at something they’ve suddenly discovered to be interesting about their own shoes. When they sense he’s turned his back to them, they make furtive glances at their neighbours. Checking-in. Trying to silently gain a consensus.

The glances all seem to say the same thing: He’s harmless. Annoying but harmless. For the love of god, don’t pull the alarmThis ride is going to be long enough as it is. Don’t you dare hit that alarm. I will tear you limb from limb.

2 : He’s in his forties, unshaved, untidy clothes. He smells of a faint, indeterminate but unpleasant odor. A black baseball cap sits at his feet. Puffy eyelids barely crack open but his mouth slack and open. He looks, at first blush, to be stupendously drunk.

The train shudders to a halt and the inertia throws his weight forward, tilting him upright from his leaning position. He lets out a long bellow. It’s low and ragged—partly bovine in nature, partly brining to mind a bear annoyed at having its hibernation interrupted.

He pulls his palsied arms into his chest like a roosting bird. His chin hits his chest and he appears to have lost consciousness.

Passengers exchange worried glances. Concern and fear fight for dominance in their eyes. A few people move to empty seats at the other end of the car.

Again, the train jerks violently as it approaches the next stop. This time the man’s head hits a pole. He bellows wordlessly again and throws a burning red glare at the metal bar. He tries to shove it away and sends himself tumbling onto the floor.

A woman gasps. Another says, “Oh, dear.”

People watch as he grabs his cap off the floor, surprised and angry to find find it there, and drags himself into the seat. He glares at each spectator in turn and wheezes out a lamenting groan; Less angry bear and more wounded dog stuck in a leg-hold trap. His twisted fingers swat at some invisible insect on his contorted face.

The looks of concern between the passengers take on a new intensity. It is as if they are willing each other psychically to press the yellow alarm strip, not wanting to do it themselves.

Yes, you should help him. He’s in bad shape. You’re the one who should stop the train so he can get helps and, more importanly, be removed from my site. Me? I’m not as close as you. You should get him help.

This time, when the train lurches into the station, the man falls into the woman seated perpendicular to him.

She gently presses him back into his seat and says, “You need to stay in your own seat. You need to be quiet.” He nods and sadly curls into the corner, his cheek pressed against the plexiglass window of the partition.


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