Homeward bound

Downsview Park is not a park and has no view. Discuss. Maybe that’s not entirely true. From the GO train upper level you can see the CN tower way in the distance, like a beacon of refuge for suburbanites yearning for food from a menu that isn’t laminated or on a sign over the counter and doesn’t have calorie counts. But maybe that’s just me. Downsview Park aspires to be a park but these aspirations are unlikely to be attained during the lifetime of anyone walking or even crawling on earth at this moment.

The Barrie train snails out of Union Station past throngs of commuters milling about with cellphones attached to their eyes, waiting to jam on to the train. Downsview Park is the first station stop for the northbound route. The first checkmark on the homeward journey. The last stop before the nonexistent line that turns the city into suburbia.

There is a certain etiquette to commuter-training that is not readily apparent. Like trying to understand the customs of a lost Amazon tribe, there is no handbook written about this particular culture. The regulars stake out their customary seating preference. If you accidentally sit in a spot that has an invisible reserved sign on it, things will not end well and you may never sit on this train again. The upper level is the quiet zone where you dare not speak to your phone or to your neighbour. This is a good thing.

The lower level is for people intent on getting the nanny to feed the children vegetables, people who have loud grudges against their boss (who is probably upstairs in the quiet zone, silently seething at the morons he has to try to extract a nanoparticle of work from each day), and people who have nothing remotely interesting to say but say it anyway.

The train clock schedule pretty much goes like clockwork, unless it doesn’t. But don’t make the mistake of arriving for the 16:40 train at 16:41, or you will be stuck cooling your heels until the 17:05. The train trundles north past houses old enough to need their roofs replaced, with scrubby backyards walled off from the tracks with weathered wooden fencing that leans to the left and right and north and south. The best and worst thing you can say about them is they are located near the GO train.

At each station there is a line up of cars at the ‘kiss and ride’, although kissing is only a suggestion not an order. The reverse lemmings arrive at the top of the virtual cliff and head back to hearth and home, with Swiss Chalet on speed-dial. There is a weird dance as precisely choreographed as Swan Lake. The passengers bound for the cars at the front of the pick-up line get off the train first, and so on and so on until the last cars in the row have swallowed up the stragglers. The lot empties out in a pouf of greenhouse gas as the pavement settles down to nap in silence until dawn. I wish I was homeward bound. Home, where my life lies waiting silently for me.

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