Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I am using the kitchen laptop to write this post. The kitchen laptop has seen better days. The kitchen laptop has been a victim too many times to count of having had some kind of liquid spilled on the keyboard. Because of this, the shift key no longer works. And the speakers. And the number pad. For punctuation, I rely on the keyboard character map tool. It's tricky.
Right now, because I've been on my feet since 10 am this morning and it's now 8 pm, I don't think I could manage to get off this chair and make it upstairs to the home office without my legs collapsing. I'm actually afraid to get off the chair after I write about my cooking/baking marathon for fear of stiffening up completely.

I'm hosting Christmas dinner this year and put together a rather ambitious menu.

Originally, I had Poutine râpée on the menu, in honor of my Acadian father, but the dumplings - a mixture of cooked and raw potatoes filled with pork and boiled in water, fell apart. I had never made them before. I watched dozens of videos and read numerous blogs with tips and instructions and yet, they didn't work out. So when life hands you failed dumplings, make potato pancakes instead.  I strained the potatoes from the water, dried them out and used them for the pancakes. My dad is still getting his Acadian meat pie so at least there's one traditional dish on the menu.

I was feeling really positive as I watched the dumplings spin around in the boiling water.

They rolled out perfectly. They held together just fine and were dry and coated with flour prior to me gently lowering them into the water. It just wasn't meant to be and with no grandmother around to call... I wish I had paid more attention to her cooking when she was alive, but I was a teenager spending summers in New Brunswick and the last place I wanted to be was in mamere's kitchen.

I have a sister who is a bit of a health nut so for her, I made a bean salad medley.

 I suspect she will manage a cabbage roll, or two...

How can you resist these beauties? My Ukrainian mother has been making these for Christmas dinner forever. My mom is tired. It's my turn to carry on the tradition.

The filling is stupidly easy. Raw beef is combined with cooked rice and seasoned with tomato juice, ketchup, Worchestire sauce, diced onion, minced garlic and salt and pepper - email me if you would like complete instructions.

Boiling the cabbage stunk up the whole house. It also took almost an hour to soften this beast.

Of course, I had to try one. Just to make sure I had cooked them thoroughly.

Continuing to pay homage to my eastern European roots, I whipped up some Kapusta. This dish has many names. Polish people call it Bigos. Most Slovaks have a variation of the dish which is essentially cooked cabbage, sauerkraut, sauteed onion, pork or bacon fat and chopped cured pork - all combined in a sauce pan, or cooked in the oven. It's not the most attractive looking dish but hot damn, is it ever tasty.

And since lobster is so cheap right now, I decided to do a lobster bake with toasted bread crumbs, herbed garlic butter seasoning and shredded cheese.

I kid you not. I shredded the skin off several fingers getting the meat out of three lobsters.

My roasted chicken is prepped for the oven. I am leaving the pumpkin meringue pie to be made and assembled on Christmas day as well as the caramel cheesecake. I am exhausted but I managed to bake cookies for my husband, who is diabetic. This is a tough time of year for him. There are many goodies he can't have so I adapt my baking and use sugar substitutes. I made 'easy on the chips' chocolate chip cookies and almond cranberry cookies.

And lastly, let's not forget Santa and his reindeer. My daughter put out cookies, milk and carrots. She decided to keep it classy and put the milk in a wine glass.

I'm off until January 2nd. Have a lovely holiday everyone!

Friday, December 21, 2012


So here I am, 8 hours into a shit day and I decide to check my Crazy Train email.
If there was a kielbasa for bravery, it would be 24 inches long and wider than the most obnoxiously sized flat-screen television and I would have it bronzed and blessed by some crazy Orthodox Ukrainian priest so I could give it to this person.

I am PROUD, PROUD of the author of this email. MERRY CHRISTMAS INDEED!!!

From Jack C
Fri, Dec 21, 2012 at 1:41 PM
Pre-Christmas Foot Rider Drama

You’d have been proud of me today. I made my feelings known to a donkey (pictured below) on the LSE into Union this morning who had his feet up on the seat, and on a fairly wet day no less. As a mild-mannered high school teacher, I deal with more than my share of unwanted conflict and drama with students on a day-to-day basis (actually not so much this year, as I’ve transferred to a much nicer school), so I don’t go looking for arguments with strangers and generally mind my own business on the train, all the while grinding my teeth about the behaviours you and your readers also find irritating.

What pushed me over the top today was the donkey’s attitude when the transit safety guys came around checking tickets. No wonder high school students frequently act affronted when challenged on clearly inappropriate behaviour. Adults apparently act the same way. Having taught for about six years now, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’m usually the “bad guy” for doing my job and disciplining a student for something he knows full well is against the rules and which he is doing in plain sight.

My theory is that nobody really likes being told what to do. It’s in most of our natures to resent authority just a bit when we feel our freedom is being curtailed, even (and perhaps especially) when we are the ones in the wrong and know it. The difference is that most of us learn the basic social codes that enable us to repress our resentment at being subject to rules in favour of appropriate respect for authority and the desire to maintain a peaceful, orderly environment. However, some do not learn or accept basic social codes, and so are endowed with a sense of entitlement that far outstrips any conventional notion of right and wrong. I was raised to believe that your morality and personal integrity is best demonstrated in who you are and what you do when you believe nobody is watching.

In any event, donkey has his feet on the seat, and the transit cop comes by checking tickets, and this is the exchange that ensued:

Transit Cop: Sir, you need to take your feet off the seat. I believe I spoke to about that yesterday as well.
Donkey: Whatever. Here’s my Presto card, man. *feet still up on the seat*
Transit Cop: Sir, take your feet of the seat now, please.
Donkey: *slowly and grudgingly takes his feet down* Man, what is your problem? You act like this every day. Why don’t you get a life?
Transit Cop: I’m doing my job. It’s not fair to other passengers to have your feet where they are going to be sitting.
Donkey: Whatever. Everybody puts their feet up. Get over it. *puts his feet back up* See? What are you going to do about it?
*At this point, as a teacher, I’m thinking DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! Donkey’s testing you, brother. You CAN’T back down now or your authority is shot.*
Transit Cop: Sir, if you keep acting this way, I’ll have to fine you.
*I’m thinking, Okay, but you’d better be prepared to do it. If that’s an idle threat, he’s going to call your bluff, and you’re toast.*
Donkey: Fine. You wanna write me a ticket? Go ahead. Go ahead. Write it up.
*Uh oh. I hope you know you HAVE to write that ticket now, Mr. Transit Safety Guy*
Transit Cop: You WANT to be fined?
Donkey: I don’t care. I’m sick of you and your attitude. If you wanna fine me for putting my feet up when EVERYBODY else does it, go ahead and do it.
Transit Cop: Just don’t put your feet on the seat. If I see you breaking the rules again, I WILL fine you.
*No, damn it! No! Don’t back down! This is terrible!*
Donkey: Yeah, you do that, bro. *smirking*

At this point the transit cop moved into the next coach, and the donkey exchanged a smug smile with his seat mate. What really got to me was that another student-aged passenger (female) gave him an approving smile and nod. He just got away with it and he’s now a hero to the other donkeys sitting and watching. Damn! I still probably would have kept my mouth shut if he had kept his shut, but no, he began to roundly insult the Go Transit official for doing his job, called him all sorts of names, and continued loudly defending his behavior. “I mean, EVERYBODY puts their feet up. EVERYBODY.”

This was the last straw for me. If there’s one pet peeve I have as a teacher, it’s kids pointing out the bad behaviour of others to justify their own. “Everybody’s doing it!” has got to be the most employed (and also the dumbest) defense for rule-breaking. It’s also the mindset of people who help themselves to a couple of TVs from a smashed storefront after a hockey riot. “The window was already smashed. Everybody else was helping themselves to stuff. I know stealing is wrong, but if I hadn’t taken it, somebody else would have!” I hate, hate, HATE the bandwagon defense.

So I spoke up. All 5’5’ 120 lbs-soaking-wet of me: “I don’t put my feet on the seat.” He and his friend turned to stare at me. “Moreover,” I continued, “the transit safety official is just doing his job, so you may as well can the personal remarks.” This is the exchange that followed, as best as I can recall:

Donkey: Whatever. Listen… everybody puts their feet on the seat. Everybody.
Me: No, they don’t. I don’t.
Donkey: Yeah, well, that’s you. I agree with you. Maybe it’s not courteous, but almost everybody does it. Are you gonna go around and stop everybody from doing it?
Me: No, obviously I don’t have the means to stop everyone who does it. But I really wish they wouldn’t. I don’t want to sit where people’s dirty feet have been.
Donkey: Yeah, well, lots of people do it. You can’t stop them all. That’s life. So why are you getting so upset about it?
Me: Who said I was upset? You’re making a scene about having been told off for breaking the rules. Since silence implies assent, I’m speaking up and letting you know that you’re wrong. Your behaviour actually does affect others. I’m not the police. I can’t enforce anything. But you spoke up first, and I’m refuting your point that EVERYBODY does it. I don’t, and there are many others who don’t do it and don’t like it. That’s my point.

*At this point, the young female passenger from a neighbouring quad leaps to donkey’s defense and rounds on me angrily*

Bystander: Yeah, well, I don’t see a sign. Do you? If it’s that important, there should be a sign.
Me: You need a sign to tell you not to be rude to other passengers?
Bystander: I’m just saying it’s not a big deal. Like he says, everybody puts their feet up.
Me: And as I said, I don’t, and I don’t like it.
Bystander: Yeah, well, you’re one person. You can’t stop everybody else from doing it.
Me: Perfectly true. I can’t.
Bystander: So why are you even talking right now?
Me: Silence implies assent. Just because I can’t fix the situation single-handedly doesn’t mean I should just keep quiet while he’s boasting about being rude.
Bystander: Whatever. There’s no sign. So you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Me: We don’t need signs for every basic point of personal conduct on passenger vehicles.
Donkey: Listen, man. I get where you’re coming from. I do. But not everybody was raised the same way. Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. You think people shouldn’t put their feet up on the seat. That’s your opinion. I’m just pointing out that most people do it anyway, so there’s no point getting worked up about it. If everybody does it, what am I supposed to do?
Me: You could try not doing it.
Donkey: Okay, I hear you. But if everybody else is doing it anyway, what does that accomplish?
Me: I don’t know. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. I still think there’s room for basic common courtesy.
Donkey: You’re living in the wrong times, man. That’s not how the world works. People do shit all the time. Maybe I don’t like it, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

But, but, but… note the photo I’ve attached. His feet were DOWN for the rest of the trip, AND he held a door open for me at Union. So maybe that’s my Christmas gift from the donkeys.

This was me this morning

I've been commuting since the 5th grade.
Every Saturday, my mom would give me 35 cents to take the Annette 4 bus from the stop at the end of my street to Jane and Bloor where I took tap dancing lessons at Doreen Hayes School of Dancing in Toronto's Bloor West Village.
I'm a veteran. I like to believe I'm prepared for anything.
I've heard about the Save-a-Seat phenomenon. I've witnessed it over the years but I've never been a victim -  until today.
My bus was late. We had a swing driver unfamiliar with the route who unfortunately missed the turn leading to the GO station and had to backtrack to get back on course. I was engrossed in Episode 9 of American Horror Story on my tablet and wasn't paying attention. Another passenger realized the error after the driver was past the intersection.
I missed the train I usually take and hopped on the one waiting. The coach was 30% full. I took a seat in a quad opposite a woman who had a bag on every seat except for the one I sat in. I didn't look at her. I had my headphones in and had just flipped over my tablet cover when she tapped me on my knee. I pulled out an ear bud and she asked me if I would mind sitting somewhere else. She said she usually saves seats for her friends.
Since it's Christmas and crap, I got up and went upstairs. Although I didn't feel any need to take a shit, I can empathize with the dog in the clip because once I got upstairs, I had a whole mess of dialogue I would have liked to share with Ms. Save-a-Seat.
I was in a bad mood for the rest of the morning.
Seats on a commuter train are first-come/first-serve and on a relatively empty train, I don't like being asked to sit somewhere else. I like being the one in control of where I sit. If I witness you and your friends getting onto a train, or a friend joining you, and I realize it would be nice if y'all could sit together, I'll get up and offer my seat.
The dog says it all.
I'll just continue with my bad day now.

Commuting Etiquette

Sylvie sent over a link to a Modern Manners website. The topic of the post was commuting etiquette. Here's a snapshot from the author, Richie Frieman

The Seat is Not Your bed.
Here's the deal, folks, I don't care if that seat is the single most comfortable piece of furniture your body touches all day, it is not yours. You don't own it. You're not even renting it. You're only temporarily using it, at most. So, that seat is not your bed, and certainly not a testing area for your bodily functions.

The Train is Not Your Bathroom.
Clipping your toenails is one of the most disgusting things you could do in public.

The Train is Not Your Office.
It's one thing to type away on your laptop of tablet while commuting, it's another thing to hold a full-blown meeting in the middle of your commute.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Be nice to your co-workers. They bring you bowling balls filled with chocolates

A first-hand account of a "pedestrian incident" - Re: Man hit by GO train in Newmarket. Barrie passenger describes what many of us hope to never experience

In response to the yesterday's post, see "A person dying isn't an inconvenience"

From Withheld
December 18 2012
9:24 AM

I feel concerned about the man hit, and sort of surprised at myself. I know what to do in an airplane if there is a problem. I have no idea what to do on a GO train, which I ride at minimum four trips a week, and a GO train carries far more people than an airplane does. And after yesterday, I don't think the GO train staff really know what to do either.

I read your article on your website. One thing I likely didn't communicate clearly, the message about the no fare refund was via email or text - not announced on the intercom - another passenger received it and - well people were passing around phones, and seeing that was just revolting, in all honesty. I didn't realize it was in response to an individual who asked?

I don't subscribe to the service updates, I get on in Barrie, second stop on the line, and then going home get on at Union the starting point, delays just don't really impact me. In the last year I've never encountered a delay more than say 10 minutes. The message about the no refunds came electronically after the service update message that was emailed about a fatality, when we watched the poor man clearly still alive. That was unfortunately announced.

Another clarification I want to make - I don't know if he was elderly or not elderly. What struck me the most was his legs, all twisted up, he was wearing jeans with rolled up cuffs. And the blood on his hand. A lot of it seems rather morbid, thinking of the conversations when we were stuck across the road watching the man. It looked like pieces of bread strewn all around and I thought no, what the heck? Because everyone's first assumption was a suicide, so you tend to go with that thought. And so it was like what is that? People were all, it's bread. Then someone else noticed the water bottles. Then the conversation was, who on earth goes to the grocery store then tries to kill themselves by train?

Someone else mentioned maybe he fell on the tracks and couldn't get up in time. Maybe a shoelace got caught. Maybe he dropped something he was carrying and thought he had time to pick it up. Maybe he was visually impaired, no one remembers hearing a train whistle or the bells. Did the gate fail? Someone said, "we should send flowers".

The first customer service lady did announce that we could go to the courtesy coach to make a phone call if need be. I had no bars. I went up, there was a large line. I mentioned to her he was still alive, why were they saying he was dead? I went back to my car, as I had left my laptop bag there. I remember being grateful no one stole it, as it had a database I'd been working on for months on it, and I reminded myself to back it up on a thumb drive. On my way back to my car, I asked a lady texting if she could send a text to my office.

When I got back, the lady who had been taking pictures - first from the top of the car, then from the lower level - and it wasn't crass, she was just stunned that no one was helping him while they were announcing a fatality and he was so clearly not dead - she was upset. And I thought, we must have our timeline wrong, what is the timestamp on the pictures? 8:04, on to 8:09, on to 8:13 - she didn't know how to check the time stamps. So we went to the properties for each picture and it was wow, oh my goodness. And that was the first picture we saw someone other than the man in the black car, (though the 8:09 picture shows a blonde lady from a car and another man from another vehicle, and they weren't there in the 8:13 picture) and it was just the leg, she indicated it was someone from GO. That's a long time, considering the goal for firefighters is 10 under 10 - 10 firefighters on the scene within 10 minutes.

So I just hope he turns out as well as one can when hit by a train. I truly do. I don't know what happened that caused him to be on the tracks when he was. I do know that GO decided he was dead from the start. And the main concern was, NO, he's ALIVE! And if they actually not made that assumption, maybe the outcome would have been better.

In terms of how GO and the first lady on the intercom handled things - appalling in my mind. The replacement one, I've seen her on trains that depart earlier from Barrie, she was very efficient.

The coroner announcement, the clean up crew, I mean they assumed he was dead. Then they indicated they were evacuating the train. Calls were made by different people, many from Newmarket, to have someone come pick them up. We were told to know our call number and we would be exiting car by car by the last train, and when the buses arrived they would begin. The buses were lined up.

Then they announced that we would be reversing the train so the disabled coach would be at the street, and would be exiting from that car for the evacuation.

THEN they announced we would be proceeding onward with all station stops, after testing the brakes. Aurora wasn't that far away. They did have buses waiting for us, and they took us back to Barrie. I appreciated that. They had other buses for other destinations. The train proceeded.

I don't think they knew what to do. I didn't know what to do. I am not faulting them for that, but frankly when you have that many people on a train, you should have a plan. And execute it, without mentioning Coroner, clean up crew, crime scene, and I get the brake check, but knowing they have to test the brakes to see if they were damaged by the accident, and are testing them with me on the train - really, just get me off. It was such an unpleasant experience.

Add in passengers who were just mad they were going to be late, I mean, what is the world coming to when people are more concerned about their very big important schedule over a human life? It's sad.

And if he was trying to kill himself? Maybe knowing a bunch of people cared enough to take action to help until the ambulance came would be what it takes to turn it around for that man. Knowing people were more concerned about their refund or their meeting, I don't see that helping.

- Name withheld by request

Monday, December 17, 2012

Meanwhile, at a GO bus stop in Bowmanville

Sign says, "Sell house fast 4 cash 905-233-2283".

Seems legit.

I messed with one, one texter, just as a Christmas gift to Skin Man

(Earlier today ... via text message from
416-854-XXXX to 905-442-7423 aka Me)

Is this CJ?

Me: Nope

Sorry man

Me: No problem. Have a good day.

(Minutes later ... )

This is the person with the crazy train website...right?

Me: The what?

You must think I'm retarded. I can read. I know what number I SMS.

Me: I don't think that person knows what a SMS is.

This isn't C.J. Smith???

Me: NO!

Is the number on the website wrong?

Me: What website?

Don't people text you about crazy train?

Me: Is that code for weed? You kids these days. All these names for the bad ass of green. Just call it what it is! Grass!

I'm not looking for weed. Who is this?

Me: Who is this?

I asked you first.

Me: I don't have time for this crap right now. I'm in the middle of strapping a gerbil to a remote-control helicopter. This is my 11th attempt at this experiment and I'm running out of pet stores, unless I drive to London or something, because I'm sure if I buy one more gerbil in Durham Region, my face is winding up on a poster.

Okay... let me try this again. Is there someone in your house who runs a website about GO trains?

Me: No. Wait, dammit. You must mean Chunk.   Ever since he showed up with this guy he calls Sloth and they started living in my basement, I'm dealing with all kinds of text messages from people looking for lost, triple-hoop earrings and a gift card to the GAP.

Does the C.J. stand for Chunk? Is Chunk there?

Me: Not right now. He left for Astoria, Oregon this morning. Something about a golf course and a ship.

Does he ride the GO train?

Me: Yes. He affectionately calls his daily commute "jumping aboard the Inferno".

I'd like to speak to him. I want to question him about some of his beefs about smoking and smoking while waiting for the bus.

Me: Oh gee... ah, I wouldn't do that. As a kid, he had this maid, Rosalita, that he was really close to. She died of lung cancer. He's really sensitive about the topic. She'd still be alive today if she hadn't had that part time job at Rothmans in the 70s. Single mother thing. Easy money. Such a shame.

Not everyone who smokes is going to get cancer just like not everyone who drives is going to die in a car accident.

Me: There are no such things as car accidents.

LOL. Sure there are. They happen every day.

Me: People who crash do so because they or someone on the road with them engaged in an act or performed an activity that resulted in a loss of control. But let's not get into that. Chunk doesn't drive a car. Therefore he's mitigated his risk. Same with anyone who doesn't smoke a cigarette.

Isn't everything in life a risk?

Me: Holy Christ, I'm not a philosopher. I'm just some person with a phone trying to fly a gerbil. What the hell is your damage? What did Chunk do to you?!

Tell Chunk we need to talk.

Me: Shall I have him text you?

Yeah. I'll wait... By the way, what does the J stand for?

Me: Junk.

Makes sense.

A person dying isn't an inconvenience

 We regret the inconvenience, but a pedestrian incident isn’t covered under the Service Guarantee: 

- Twitter

What's the price of a life?

This morning's tragic situation on the Barrie line, in Newmarket, calls for a bit more compassion, especially at this time of year, not a refund.

I received a call (my phone number's on the site for a reason) from a woman who was a passenger on the train that hit an elderly man as it sped through the level rail crossing at Mulock Drive this morning. The man was clipped by the train. He was thrown like a rag doll onto the road, his groceries scattered and his body contorted. Gravely injured, he reached upwards to the Heavens as blood poured from his wounds.

Passengers on the train were horrified by what they had just witnessed. Trapped on the train, no one was allowed off to help. No announcement was made asking if medical personnel were on-board. No one from the crew approached the scene offering a blanket or first aid supplies.

Instead, the driver of a car waiting at the boom gate barrier arm scrambled from his driver's seat and rushed to the man's aid. Cradling his head, he comforted the man and tried to wrap his coat around the man's body. The injured man clung to this Good Samaritan as he struggled to breathe.

An ambulance came but in the wrong direction. The train was blocking access to the part of the road where this tragedy was unfolding - precious minutes being wasted.

On the train, passengers were in shock. The CSA, who I'm told, appeared to be new and ill-equipped with how to deal with the situation unfolding during her shift. She told passengers the man was dead. She told passengers that they had to wait for the coroner to come even though passengers could see the man was moving. She told passengers they had to wait for a clean-up crew.

I was told it all seemed incredibly insensitive.

Passengers closest to the scene weren't asked to move to other coaches so they could avoid being subjected to the helplessness they were feeling as they watched the man struggle to stay alive. Anger over watching other drivers making three-point turns to leave the scene wasn't helping quell the unease. Those who wanted to get off the train to help could not and the lone driver was left by himself to deal.

It was too much sobbed the voice on the line. I could only mutter, "Oh my God" as I didn't know how to react, but I know that I could very well face this same situation. We're all ill-equipped when it happens to us.

Grief counselors were dispatched. They moved among passengers asking them, "How they feel right now?". The crew on-board when the man was hit had been relieved of their duties and replaced by another team. Passengers were surveyed about how they wanted to continue their journey - take a bus or stay on the train.

Many chose to go home, struggling with how to deal with having watched someone fight to live, and some chose to head to Twitter demanding refunds.

Passengers on the train think the man tripped. No one believes it was suicide. Or maybe this man tempted fate? According to CP24, he's in the hospital in critical condition - medical jargon for "clinging to life".

GO isn't issuing refunds for this incident because it's not covered under the Service Guarantee. If I had been on that train, that would have been the least of my concern.

I'm sorry people had to endure such a horrific event and I'm sorry people missed work or were late for work, but there are things in life GO just can't plan for. Based on what I was told, it appears GO could do a better job on how they deal with these situations as they unfold and the aftermath.

Don't make it about money, time or clean-up crews. Don't engage or divulge gory details. Instead, help passengers deal with the situation by inviting them to move to other coaches. Simply state that they are bound by law to wait for an investigation to happen and conclude before resuming service. A person dying isn't an inconvenience.

We should all understand that.

Click here for a follow-up email to read the eyewitness account of this incident

How nice

Dude falls asleep.
Dude spills his coffee all over the shoe of another commuter.

Photo courtesy of rsvpstarbwoy

Friday, December 14, 2012

Oh my god. The feels!

So I printed these last night and handed them out this morning at Oshawa GO

When I feel pushed past the edge, I act out. -> Back story

This morning, I arrived earlier than usual and was worried I wouldn't see the usual band of rude smokers.

Instead, I was greeted with a new batch.

Clustered around the four Presto machines (shown in my illustration below) near the only entrance to the train platforms at Oshawa, several men and women were enjoying their cancer sticks, oblivious to my agenda.

I handed out my cards and with my face buried in my scarf (to ward off the smoke and also to mask my identity), I politely asked one of them to move so I could tap my Presto card and in turn, said, "This is for you ... and you ... and you ... and you." I gave out six. I had printed eight. I did it very quickly.

I admit my heart was racing and I didn't turn around to see if any of them actually read what was printed, but I hopped on a coach proud of my attempt to make a point. If any of these smokers boarded the train with me, I wouldn't know. No one tried to confront me.

I doubt I made a difference.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another black eye for Ontario

The Toronto Star reports that implementing Presto across the GTA has cost taxpayers nearly $700 million, way more than the $250 million originally thought.

Of course, the Liberal government and Metrolinx offer up a myriad of excuses but I think Progressive Conservative transportation critic Frank Klees said it best. He called Presto a "boondoggle and scandal".

Presto has proven to be what everyone predicted - a financial disaster that oversold itself. The auditor general's report explains why.

How I feel after a fight with a smoker on a GO train platform


I'm a mean one, I'm a Grinch... but I still got a tree

Imma let you in on a little secret. I hate Christmas but God gave me a child who is fanatical about holidays that come with bling and decor. Easter? Decorate all the easter eggs!!! Canada Day? Put up all the flags!!! Halloween? Carve all the pumpkins!!! Christmas? Decorate all the trees!!! So she's the reason why I bother with trees and this out-of-control holiday.

Last weekend, we didn't have time to get a tree and the kid was bummed. This weekend, I came down with a sore throat and fever and with the piss-pouring rain on Friday and Saturday, really wasn't up for trekking through a tree farm in search of the perfect tree. On Sunday, I sent the husband out to pick up a fresh-cut tree and we surprised the kid when she returned home from her tutoring session. I won't even get into the fight of epic proportions that stemmed from not being able to find the tree stand which resulted in an angry drive to Canadian Tire, and choice words exchanged in text messages as my husband roamed aimlessly up and down aisles to find the one I sourced on-line, even though I am certain he passed many people in red shirts ready and able to help him. No, let's not go there.

With the tree up and the box of decorations ready to go, I gave the kid the green light to decorate the tree herself. I watched from the sofa, wrapped up in a blanket and hugging a mug of tea, as she carefully planned out where each ornament would hang. I had mustered up the strength to string the lights for her but that was as much as I could manage in my feverish state.

She asked me to share the result with my GO train friends because she remembered I put a picture online last year.

The hills are alive with assholes

Recently, I met up with a fan of Yours Truly who confided she'd been an avid reader of this blog since the very beginning and she mentioned that she missed my stories. Specifically, my stories about how some of you are real assholes. No, I don't mean those of you who support my agenda to beat manners into people and gladly stand beside me with brooms and pitchforks ready to take on the foot riders and bag riders who feel entitled to claim "all your space" as their own.

I'm singling out those of you who stumble on here from a Google search, usually based on keywords and phrases such as "how to cheat GO transit", "fight cancellation of monthly GO transit passes", "how to cheat presto", "GO transit blog", "how often does GO transit check you", "why can't I smoke outside on GO train platform", "lost something on GO train", "can I text GO transit", and "ride for free GO transit".

Right off the bat, this should highlight the caliber of some of the people I'm destined to deal with in email or text messages when these same people browsing on how to rip off GO Transit discover my stance on smoking in areas of GO stations designated as NO SMOKING zones, complete with easy to read signs that any illiterate fuck should be able to comprehend.

These self-entitled assholes seem to think because they are outside, they own the air and by law, based on their foggy interpretation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, no one has a peg leg to stand on when it comes to dictating where they can smoke in the great outdoors.

These people take to their Gmail and Hotmail accounts, or pick up their phones with fingers trembling from rage, to preach to me and explain, often in a language so butchered that it can't even be called English, why they can smoke where they want and "they ant anithing u or go fucken transit can do about it". Proud of taking a stand, these ignorant jerks usually end their emails and text messages with sentiments like, "Get a life" or "Drive to work" or my personal favourite, "Fuck off and die".

It's taken me years to heed my lawyer Howard Bigfird's advice, and I no longer engage these jerks. I don't write back and I don't respond to the texts. But it's hard for me to sit on my hands, so I figured a post was in order.

I'm a big believer in law and order. I grew up with rules and discipline and have no qualms about living in a civilized society governed by laws designed to protect me and encourage safety.

What these people who bitch and complain about "sufficaking mcguinty laws pushing smokers into gutters" fail to understand is that it's medical research and the deaths of people taken from this Earth way too soon from cancers proven linked to second-hand smoke that led to the no-smoking by-laws currently in place.
Second-hand smoke immediately permeates and pollutes the breathable air space a distance of 12 to 24 inches around a smoker. Cigarette smoke lingers. It doesn't float straight up, nor does it dissipate into the atmosphere or evaporate the second it's expunged from someone's lungs. Cigarette smoke is like poisonous threads that weave their way around people, clinging to their clothes and contains toxins that embed themselves into non-smokers' lungs and leaves those of us with respiratory conditions gasping for air and reaching for inhalers.

True, there are pollutants and toxins in the atmosphere spewed out by factories, vehicles and manufacturing but it's not being blown, in full concentration, into a person's face and immediately drawn into a person's lungs. However, I will remind people that like to throw out this fact as part of their argument to support their right to smoke anywhere they want while on GO Transit property that as an asthmatic, I take responsibility for my managing my asthma and avoid going outside on days where the air quality index could possibly put me in a hospital. But when I'm waiting for the train on a platform at Oshawa station, I'm entitled to expect everyone waiting with me to refrain from smoking because there are laws that say you can't and you're expected to obey them. If you don't, I'm not mad at you because you're a smoker. I'm mad at you for being a douchebag.

There's nothing worse for me than to stand in line on a GO bus platform and the person in front of me lights up a cigarette. You're forcing me to smoke your cigarette without realizing it. You're forcing me to give up my spot and a chance at a seat on the bus because I have to walk several metres away from you, or escape to a bus shelter, so you can enjoy your so called right to a cigarette.

It's not fair.

You give up your seat and you go walk several metres away from the signs and people and suck on your cancer stick.

You want your freedom? You've got hundreds of feet of it in the parking lot but most of you are lazy and inconsiderate fucks and that's the real issue. The issue isn't your right to smoke on cancer sticks - smoke 'em if you got 'em I say - the issue is manners and respect for the law.

Kudos to those smokers who walk a distance away from people waiting for a bus or finish their cigarette in the parking lot, away from the platform. You're the ones I want to high-five. In return, I promise not to drive the wrong way down a one-way street just to save time and risk causing a head-on collision that could kill you or a member of your family. I mean, technically, I should be allowed to drive down any street I want but I obey the signs and I just don't do it.

Medical research dictates why you can't smoke next to me while we wait for a bus. The no-smoking signs were put there to protect my health, not to make life for you as a smoker "mizewrable" so you can take that and put it in your pipe and smoke it. Just not near me, please.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Some donkeys should stick with VIA

It's unfortunate that GO Transit can't accommodate one's need to "lounge".

Thanks to Peter S. for the pics

Friday, December 7, 2012

Plus one for taking the shoes off. Still a fail in manners

What it must look like to departure door donkeys

What are departure door donkeys aka Triple Ds?

Triple Ds are the impatient folks who jump the line by ignoring the assigned designated platform at Union Station for boarding trains and climb the stairs to the platform designated for people exiting trains.
Triple Ds cause platform congestion for incoming passengers making it difficult for them to reach stairwells and safely navigate the narrow platforms. It's a selfish practice.
Full definition here

Monday, December 3, 2012

How nice to know that GO Transit will be getting my cost of living increase

For reals, y'all.

The unfortunate demographic in the newly minted and approved 5% fare hike are those who don't get annual increases in pay and have to figure out how to cough up the extra $20 or more a month depending on how far they travel.

For some people, it adds up to an additional $250 a year. That's a lot of diapers for those currently parenting newborns.

I'll be straight. The increase stinks. I'll manage but what about families already dealing with tight, household budgets?  I balk at the phrase "fair increase". Hell no it's not. There's nothing fair with being slapped with another increase a mere year after one was just implemented.


I say we riot. Tonight. At Union. 6pm in the Concourse. Bring your pitchforks.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Get ready to pay 5% more for your round-trip

Metrolinx is proposing a fare increase of 5% in a memorandum to its Board of Directors dated Dec. 5th.

For me, it means 40 cents more on a current $8.01 one-way fare, bringing my daily total to $16.82 (this is what I will pay using Presto). I suck at math (as most of you know) but I think it means, factoring in the monthly discount, that I will now pay an extra $23.10 cents a month to ride GO Transit. I suspect a lot of you are pulling out your calculators.

The proposed increase is bigger than the last one that was approved back in January. The memorandum that's online at outlines the formula for the increase.  I started to poke forks in my eyes so read it for yourself here.

Who called it? Somebody on here called this one in a comment. McGuinty brings in the service guarantee, Metrolinx introduces a fair increase. No surprise here, folks.

Of course, the news release contains the words, "fiscal responsibility" and claims the money is needed by Metrolinx to maintain "its on-time performance of 95 percent" (Translation: Eff you McGuinty, we need to re-coup those refunds) and  for "service improvements [for] additional trains and buses for select corridors to facilitate ridership growth and overcrowding".

Whatever. It's not like many of us can opt out of our commute. I'm not riding a bicycle to work anytime soon so this increase will be jammed down out throats and we'll have no choice but to swallow it.

Thanks, @steven_petric, for the heads-up.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

So your GO Bus driver made a wrong turn

One of my faithful readers and Twitter followers sent in a piece he wanted published.
Peter has become a texting BFF of mine. I haven't met him yet, but I'm hoping to. Logistics tend to get in the way.

I really liked this letter. We all need a bit more patience some days and to speak up more, instead of whining and getting no results.

November 30 2012
Written by Peter S.

In response to the comments about “spare” drivers not knowing where they’re going (Stinky Bus Ride), I think we passengers need to take a moment and reflect on the trip from the driver’s perspective. I’m not a driver, but I’ve talked to enough of them to understand some of the issues they face.

Drivers on the “spare board” for the garage they work out of can be given an assignment on any route that is within 100 km. of that garage. So, the drivers who were assigned to routes into and out of Oshawa may actually be based in Streetsville – that’s right, Mississauga. And even though the drivers are given written directions with timings on how to navigate the route, it’s a far cry from actually having driven it a few times to become familiar with the landmarks.

Experienced drivers are not afraid to ask passengers for assistance, whereas those who are new to the position may believe they should know how execute the trip on their own. Travelling back to St. Catharines last night I caught part of the radio conversation between a driver in Toronto and his colleagues, who were doing everything they could to assist that individual. Apparently, the driver had made a wrong turn in downtown Toronto; the emotional stress the driver was feeling was quite evident. Even permanent drivers, who are assigned to a route, can get stressed if traffic conditions force an impromptu detour.

Tomorrow, December 1, starts a new “board period” in which driver assignments may change. This board period is the shortest of the year; it’s for December only. So, don’t be surprised if you see a different driver at the wheel.

This is where we passengers need to step forward and lend a hand. Introduce yourself, and ask if the driver requires navigational assistance. If you have a smart phone with GPS capabilities, volunteer to ride shotgun and give your driver directions. Your driver will thank you.

Remember, if we keep silent, and the driver makes a wrong turn, not only are we screwed collectively, we’re all culpable.

Friday, November 30, 2012

This really happened

8:40 am.
On the subway.
Stand near two seats. Can overlook a woman's shoulder. See that she's typing a text message on her iPhone. Notice that signal meter is nil.
She's typing. She sends text. She waits.
Thirty seconds later, she texts in all caps: WHY ARENT U ANSWERING ME???
She huffs. Sends the text. Taps foot.
Train rattles on. She sends another text. U R SUCH A LOSER. WHY DO I BOTHER!!!!
Couldn't help myself. Don't know who she is texting but there is no service in TTC tunnels.
I ask her if she's trying to use her phone and tell her it won't work in the tunnels.
She panics. Says, "Oh shit ...". Asks me how to get the texts out of the phone. Asks if they will still send.
I say I don't know.
She bolts off the subway at the next stop.

Vintage train coach, refurbished, at Oshawa rail yards

I'm a history nerd. I like old shit.
When I was little, I used to harass the neighbourhood kids and my sisters to play "olden days" with me.
I always lived in 1801 and had a horse and carriage with candle-lit lanterns. This kid, Alex, always had to be fucking Superman bringing it like it was 1988 even though I would yell at him that there was no Superman in the "olden days".
Then, years later, this stupid Heritage Minute commercial showed up on the CBC one night about Joe Shuster running towards a train, JUST LIKE THE ONE I SAW THIS MORNING, carrying a drawing of a dude in tights who was faster than a bullet.
Friggen Alex, he never shut up about it. The 1930s were hardly the "olden days", but that damn commercial and its really old train coach didn't help. He still thought it was the 1800s when Superman was "invented".

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Did you ride the Lakeshore East after 4 pm on November 21? You may qualify for a service credit

Today is the last day to file so giddy-up on that. For those that don't know, trains were delayed for over 20 minutes due to a broken switch.

My BFF and another train buddy (yes, you Al) filed last week and just received confirmation that, as per GO's Service Guarantee, their requests for a credit to their Presto cards have been approved and are being processed.

Because I'm a skeptic, I held off. Now that I've got proof GO is playing nice, and good on GO by the way, I've applied for a credit. You should too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Damn you PATH. Damn you

So the idea was I would eat one a day. I bought these this morning. I ate them all.

Agreed. Nowhere else but on mass transit would you voluntarily sit this close to another stranger

Photo courtesy of @paulsurette

In case you were wondering about the train ride home last night after the Grey Cup

People on Twitter were upset with the lack of crowd control at Union Station and that there weren't enough GO trains to handle the crowds. It was standing room only on many coaches.

Photo courtesy of @Smiley008

The Grey Cup special

Apparently many of you Argos fans were doing a good job at pissing off weekend regulars considering the texts and emails I got.
Here's the thing, sure, screaming, "Arrrrrrrgooooos" a few times shows enthusiasm but repeating it about 300 times during a 1-hour train ride makes you a douche, as demonstrated by a reader who claimed after listening to "Arrrrrrrgooooos" for 45-minutes straight prompted her to yell out, "Dooooouuuuchebaaaaag". This resulted in a verbal exchange on the platform at Union between this woman and three, 20-something year old men. Security was summoned.
So you can dish it out, but you can't take it, so you decide to push around a 30-year old woman?

Stinky bus ride

This morning I climbed aboard my usual GO bus, happy to see that my regular driver had returned. Last week, we had a new "spare" driver every day. Only one knew where he was going. Three of them tried to turn right onto Bloor Street in Oshawa instead of left towards the GO station which was met with a chorus of "Go left!" from people on the bus.
One driver had difficulty seeing the GO bus stops (I agree, the signs could be bigger) and drove past a few people who then had to run a good 300 meters to where he came to a squealing stop after passengers told him he had missed picking people up.
He missed the Oshawa Centre. I have no idea how one misses the Oshawa Centre, but he did. All of us were patient and gracious. We understand these temporary drivers are from other routes and do their best. It helps to have regular passengers willing to guide a driver to his destination.
Anyhoodles, back to this morning. I tapped my Presto card and moved towards a seat at the back. Within seconds of turning towards to the back of the bus I was assaulted with a waft of cooked cabbage.
So I turned back towards the driver, "What in God's name is that awful smell?" I asked him.
He sniffs and says, "The bus was just cleaned."
I said, "What were they using, cooked cabbage leaves? Is it a new Febreeze fragrance?"
He shrugged, claiming the bus smelled fine to him.
A man turned to me and said he could smell something funky, saying he thought it was just someone eating breakfast.
Gagging, I said loudly, "I honestly don't want to know what kind of breakfast that is... it stinks!"
I sat down, burying my nose in my scarf.
As the bus made its way towards the station, I was watching the reactions of people climbing onto the bus. We're so gracious as a society sometimes. People scrunched up their noses and made faces but no one other than me questioned the smell.
I am telling you, buy a cabbage, boil it and then carry the pot to a bathroom and shut the door. Go in after 20 minutes.
Worst smell ever.
I know this story is lame but I promised a few people I would try to write a post for today. This is all I've got - cooked cabbage on a bus.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

In case you were looking for some scrap metal

Photo courtesy of EC@Everywhere

According to this Toronto Star article, it will "cost GO about $35,000 to remove all the machines, including labour and the separation of the parts" and "there are no buyers for the units. That means the electronic parts will be separated from the metal and disposed of by a contractor that certifies an environmentally sound method."


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My 7 year old found this hysterical - a transit PSA written to keep people off train tracks

Oh, those Aussies, they're so damn creative. Some of the best road safety PSAs have come out of Australia and now Metro Trains has released this gem:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The PATH is a dangerous place

Now that my foot is better and I'm able to walk without feeling like my foot is being squeezed by a vice with every step, I've gone back to walking underground to and from work.

This is the part where I should mention that I have lost 26 pounds since October 5 of last year.

The biggest changes I made in my lifestyle were giving up sugar, eliminating processed foods, giving up my car (and abandoning the drive-thru) and eating more fresh vegetables. The sugar part was the hardest part - it just about killed me because it's in everything! But you know what's harder? All those food courts! All those cafes!!! It's food. All the time food! Everywhere food!

See, when I get on the bus - no food. When I get on the train - no food. When I get on the subway - no food. When I get into work - no food.

When I walk? Food,  food. food ... and bad food. Croissants, danishes, cupcakes, donuts, and bagels with heaping helpings of cream cheese. And that's just breakfast! Then there's the lunch food. Burgers. Pad thai. Burritos. Subs. Pizza. Veal sandwiches. Panini. Pasta. Shwarma. Falafel. Souvlaki. French fries. OH MY GAWD.

I admit, I lack poor self-control. But I'm wearing a designer pea-coat that would have never fit me last year and I love it and I can't go back to the hippo-wear. I won't do it.

So you know how I deal? I leave all my cards at home except for a credit card locked in my office and carry $5 on me because $5 buys very little and if I break, I won't do a lot of damage. At most, it's something I can burn with the 30-minute round-trip walk.

This has got to get easier. This is what I keep telling myself. I'm 4 pounds away from a 30-pound weight loss.

I can do this! Right?

How do you deal with temptation. Is it just me? Do you give in to all the food?

Friday, November 16, 2012

For the train ride in...

I don`t know what year it was, probably 1998 or so, when I managed a team of internet developers for a dot-com start-up.
We were in San Diego at the time, on an 8-month contract, when I rolled into work one morning to the sounds of hysterical laughter and snickering.
One of the guys had been sent a link to a site where some guy scans the office artwork of his co-workers' children and critiques it for the world to read.
Yes, it sounds cruel, but it was pretty funny.
I laughed right along with them and decided to send the link to my mother.
She called about an hour later telling me that whoever decided to put "that into the Internet" was mean and I was mean for laughing at it.
"You were never bad at art, but laughing at what a five year old draws ... ?" she said. "Not every kid is an artist."
This only made me laugh harder because she'd missed the point completely.
Yesterday, I discovered that the guy behind this hot mess is now a published author. His book chronicles his critiques.
> I Am Better Than Your Kids

GO Transit has slowed down their parking enforcement initiative. The parking donkeys rejoice! And get their bumpers kicked in return it seems

- Clarkson GO Station, submitted

Thursday, November 15, 2012

For the train ride home ...

I always enjoy a good blog post that makes me laugh to the point of crying, so enjoy!

The Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog

Some key quotes:
Oh, thank God! Thanksgiving was mere weeks away and I was like OH FUCK, WE'RE OUT OF TWINE. AND WE HAVE NO PLACE TO DISPENSE SAID TWINE.
I also like that these gloves come with the word POTATO labeled across each one. Late at night, I often go digging through my basement screaming, "WHERE ARE THE GODDAMN POTATO GLOVES?" Because I usually end up grabbing the carrot gloves first, you know?
What kills me is that there are clearly people out there who have shitloads of money and NO cooking skills who order this shit. Who are these people? How are there so many of them that Williams-Sonoma can sustain its business model? Are we all just racking up massive biscuit debts that will soon break the economy? I imagine that 60 percent of Williams-Sonoma's business come from a group of six Persian oil barons, who buy everything in every catalog five times over every year for no good reason at all. Seventy-two-dollar biscuits.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ontario Launches GO Train 15-Minute Service Guarantee

McGuinty Government Improving Public Transit

Ministry of Transportation
Starting tomorrow, GO Train riders will be able to get a credit if their train arrival is delayed 15 minutes or more.
The new 15-minute service guarantee is another step in Ontario's efforts to continually improve GO customer service. Under the guarantee, riders will get a credit based on the fare they paid. PRESTO users will be able to claim credits for late trips online, at a ticket kiosk or from GO customer service representatives. Single-ride ticket holders, day pass holders and group pass holders will need to claim credit vouchers from GO customer service representatives.
Investing in public transit is part of the McGuinty government's plan to strengthen the economy.  A strong economy protects the services that mean most to Ontario families -- health care and education. 

Quick Facts

  • GO trains arrived on schedule 94 per cent of the time this year, up from 87 per cent in 2008.
  • Approximately 70 per cent of current delays over 15 minutes would qualify for the credit. Delays beyond GO’s control will not be covered by the credit, including extreme weather conditions as defined by Environment Canada, emergency investigations, track obstructions, pedestrian incidents and on-board medical emergencies.
  • Single-ride ticket holders, day pass holders and group pass holders must claim their credit within 24 hours of their train being delayed to be eligible, while PRESTO users must claim their credit within seven days.
  • Metrolinx has expanded its GO rail service by 90 kilometres and added 10 new GO stations and 25,000 parking spots since 2003.
  • Since 2003, Metrolinx has purchased 285 new bi-level rail cars, 57 new, more powerful, fuel-efficient locomotives, 22 double-deck buses, and 124 additional accessible buses to reach more commuters in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.
  • GO buses and trains carry approximately 62 million passengers per year — about 75 per cent by train and 25 per cent by bus.


 When commuters take the GO Train, they want peace of mind that their train is going to get to where they need to be, on time. GO Transit’s new 15-minute service guarantee demonstrates how committed we are to getting riders to their destinations on time. Improving public transit encourages more people to leave their cars at home, reducing traffic congestion and keeping our air clean."
Minister of Transportation
The service guarantee is another example of Metrolinx’ ongoing commitment to customer service. We recognize that reliable service is a key element to ensuring our customers are satisfied customers."
Bruce McCuaig
President and CEO, Metrolinx