State of the Union

Henny hanging at the cottage

About a week ago, the mayor of Toronto, the premier of Ontario, and the prime minister of Canada announced that the decade-long renovation of Union Station was complete. I was not there for the ribbon cutting, but I would guess that neither were they, since complete is not the word that immediately came to my mind when I entered the (promised to be new and improved) commuter concourse. Sure, there are shiny floors and yet-to-be-marred walls and escalators galore. Escalators that glide endlessly up and down like animated Escher etchings, taking nobody to nowhere. It would be entirely within reason to enter the mobius strip of hallways and never leave, because apparently signage is not considered an integral part of completion. What signage there is has arrows that point towards dead-ends and vestigial construction hoardings.

After attempting to follow the sparse directions to the GO bus terminal, burning through the fifteen-minute buffer I had allowed for this eventuality, I gave up and found an exit door that would take me to Bay Street, so I could walk across the street to where the terminal was supposed to be. Or at least where I thought it was supposed to be because it was where it has always been. However, if one actually exists, I could not find a street level entrance to the bus station. Only a marble-clad wall and lights twinkling through the second story pedestrian bridge. I went back into Union Station to try again, going up and down each escalator until I finally found the right one.

When I eventually got there, the bus passenger assembly hall looked like an airport gate area. Same Euro style exit signs with a guy running east on a green background. Same robo-woman making bilingual arrival and departure announcements, preceded by the same bing-bing-bong. Too bad I was not headed to the gate for Athens or Berlin or Bora Bora, rather than the one for my milk-run bus, which is the equivalent of an analogue representation of the GO train tracks that snake toward the northern suburbs. Because, to serve us better, there are currently no trains after 5pm.

The electronic sign said my bus would depart from zone C. There was, of course, no obvious indication of where zone C could possibly be. But luckily, there was a man wearing a vest that said Customer Assistance. “Excuse me,” I said. “What is a zone?”

“Zones are where the buses leave from,” he said. And then he returned to the life-or-death situation that was apparently in progress on his phone.

The robo-woman announced my bus departure, and I followed the other people who looked like they knew where the bus would be leaving from. Star Trek doors materialized from the wall, and slid open to reveal the diesel-steeped dungeon that houses the buses. It is now entirely underground, which explains why I could not find it from the street. I shuffled onto the bus, like a victim of a cruel bait-and-switch, past the signs that prohibited food and drink. The bus wheezed out of its bay and drove up the equivalent of twelve-stories-worth of parking garage ramps, beginning its ninety-minute journey to a place nobody in their right mind would want to go. My sincerest thanks to the three levels of government that made all this possible.

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