The subway only took me as far as Jane, where shuttle buses had been called to stand in for the flooded underground. There were hundreds of us spilling onto the street, trying to see over each other’s umbrellas to glimpse any coming buses. The rain was not cold, so it didn’t bother me that I seemed to be the only one without an umbrella. It was a very Canadian moment, because we all seemed to be in reasonably good moods, considering. I smiled when I looked up at the dark sky. A woman made a joke as an empty bus drove by. Laughter rippled across the crowd.
Our shuttle arrived and we pushed our way on it with surprising gentleness. We weren’t a mob trying to get that last seat. We were a crowd banding together to weather a storm. And there’s something wonderfully fun about banding together with strangers.
The bus sped down dark streets that were usually alive with noisy lights. We pressed tightly against each other, forgetting how awkward it is to be around strangers. It was one of those rare moments where Toronto and rural Pakistan meet. The crowded bus. The dark city. The tightly-packed strangers. The absence of anxiety. When we had to detour because of flooded underpasses, we joked about it. When the bus began to stall and the lights flickered, we trusted our driver who told us that she would get us to Kipling, come hell or high water.
She got us through the high water. But we didn’t come up against hell until we arrived at Kipling Station.
Many of us needed to transfer to the 45. It pulled into the station just as we arrived. The crowd clustered around it had little of the positive energy the shuttle had. Even as the doors were opening to empty to bus for us, people were yelling and swearing at each other. There were threats of violence as people shoved each other out of the way to cram onto the bus. Being swift of foot and small of frame, I was one of the lucky ones who made it.
The ride was angry and long. The people were angry because the bus driver was late in returning to his seat. The bus driver was angry because people would not keep behind the white line.
“I’ve been waiting four hours!”
“I’ve been working six!”
Emotions escalated until the driver threatened to pull over and kick us off. That shut the noise off, but did nothing for the atmosphere. It was a different feeling as we crawled up the dark streets that time. We weren’t a community struggling against a storm. We were strangers fighting for limited space.
The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
– John Milton