When in a different city, I love looking at the various vehicles or modes of transportation: buses, trams, taxis, police cars, etc.
Toronto is an easy city to get around: the streets are parallel and are properly served by the subway (mostly going North-South) and streetcars (mostly going East-West). It is thus easy to find your way and get from one place to another.
I have a preference for the streetcar and would often rather walk a few blocks than use the subway. However, at first, my streetcar trips did not go as straight forward as they should have gone. I found it easy to get in but a bit more difficult to get out…
There was first the matter of requesting the next stop. I looked for the button you would usually find in buses in Europe but could not find any; however, it did not take me too long to realise that I was supposed to pull the string that runs on each side of the streetcar.
The next problem I was confronted to was how to open the doors of the streetcar. It was fine if other people were getting off at the same stop as me, and I actually thought the driver was opening the doors, but I found myself missing a couple of stops because I could not figure out how to open the doors. Well… there is actually a sign above the door explaining how to open it: you need to stand on the step. The trick was to manage to read the sign!
Being in the streetcar, I could not help thinking of “The Salt Garden”, a short story written by Margaret Atwood and collected in Bluebeard’s Egg. Here is why:
“She decides to take the street car. She has a car and knows how to drive, sh can drive perfectly well, but lately she’s been doing it less and less. Right now she prefers modes of transportation that do not require conscious decisions on her part. She’d rather be pulled along, on a track if possible, and let someone else do the steering.
. . .
The streetcar comes and Alma gets on. She’s going to the subway station, where she will get off and swiftly buy a pink gym suit and two pairs of summer socks for Carol and go down the stairs and get onto a subway train going north, using the transfer she’s just stuck into her purse. You aren’t supposed to use transfer for stopovers but Alma feels reckless.
The car is a little crowded. She stands near the back door, looking out the window, thinking about nothing in particular. It’s a sunny day, one of the first, and warm; things are too bright.
All at once some people near the back door begin to shout: Stop! Stop! Alma doesn’t hear them at first, or she hears them at the level of non-comprehension: she knows there is noise, but she thinks it’s just some teenagers fooling around, being too loud, the way they do. The streetcar conductor must think this too, because he keeps on going, at a fast clip, spinning along, while more and more people are shouting and then screaming, Stop! Stop! Stop! Then Alma begins to shout too, for she sees what is wrong: there’s a girl’s arm caught in the back door, and the girl herself is outside, being dragged along it must be; Alma can’t see her but she knows she’s there.”
Fortunately, my own streetcar trips were less agitated and dramatic!