In winter, the cold wind bites to the bone. The summer sun burns the skin. Today has been a beautiful July day, not too hot, not too cool. Just right !
Waiting for the GO Train from Pickering to Toronto was actually enjoyable.
As a small boy, my parents used to take me on the train from London to Port Stanley. I do not remember the scenery, only the belief that the trip was special, riding on the seemingly enormous, powerful, black steam engine led, train. I am sure that neither my mother nor father knew that my friends and I had been sneaking into the railway yard, putting ears to the tracks, listening for the arrival of the next huge, thunderous beast, awestruck by all that we saw and heard.
As a young man, I crossed Canada on the train, by then, diesel powered. It took almost a week; enough time to begin to feel weary of the journey but a perfect platform for viewing the passing landscape. It is something that every Canadian should do once.
Now, almost half a century later, the steam engines were gone and the diesels still in use. I live in Ecuador where trains are used mainly for sightseeing through the Andes Mountains, something that I am enjoying doing. No other way can one relax and get such a view of the mountains and steep precipices, especially when one can ride on the open roof as is sometimes done here.
Back to the Pickering station where I was waiting for a long, diesel powered, green and white, double decked commuter train with the large GO written on its sides. I did not have to wait long. In the distance, on time, I saw it coming, as did the mass of waiting passengers who headed toward the edge of the platform.
I was not part of the crowd. I stood, almost alone, on an elevated area designed to facilitate the handicapped and those with luggage.
The train slowed, stopped, doors opened and a ramp was put in place over which I dragged my suitcase. This service car, which I entered, had much more space than the other passenger cars, had fewer passengers and was staffed by an attendant.
When everyone was on board, the attendant broadcast over the PA system:
“Hello everyone and welcome onboard the __ (time) __ train. This is
Jason your Customer Service Ambassador. I am in the accessibility coach # ___.
"Ambassador". It sounded sophisticated and encouraged me be satisfied that I was to be well looked after.
There was a count down to doors closing followed by the last call message " Stand clear of the doors."
Just before the doors shut, he announced the time, train number, destination and information for the next station and about a stop on route, undergoing renovation.
Jason had a smile on his face as he went about his announcements and greeting passengers, many of whom seemed like old friends of his. I couldn't help but appreciate this human touch in the service car, as opposed to the sterile and less roomy environment in the standard coaches.
Near to the cubical by the door where Jason sat, was a blind woman whose black labrador dog laid quietly at her feet, not concerned about passenger movement nearby. She got on and off with ease, sharing pleasantries with him.
The train picked up speed and everyone settled in, looking out the windows as the passing scenery, chatting, reading, talking on cell phones, working on computers or just sitting waiting.
Behind me sat a young woman and a little boy, perhaps four years old. He was a handful, never still and always demanding her attention. She spoke to him in Spanish. It was only a few moments before he hung over the back of my seat to see who I was and what might be of interest to him. He looked like a nice kid so I spoke to him, the chatter that an adult has with a strange four year old. His mother's concern that her son could be an annoyance changed to a pleasant surprise on realizing that I was speaking Spanish. " I never imagined that you would be speaking Spanish." She said. Was it that we were travelling in an English language environment, or that I was perceived as being too old and gringo to have the ability? I didn't dwell on this, and they got off the train shortly thereafter.
Stations came and went, as did the associated announcements. My turn to leave finally came and, as I dragged my case out the door, joined others thanking Jason with a smile, nod or a friendly goodbye. A short walk took me to the parking lot and my waiting brother.
To commuters hustling to and from work each weekday, the Go Train may be part of everyday drudgery. For those like me who avoid the rush hours and travel in the service car, the train can be an enjoyable and convenient way of making ones way around the Greater Toronto and surrounding area.
I have spoken about the Go Train; but, there are similar train services in and around most major cities. Do you know of one on which you could have a little adventure ?
Do something different ? Take the train and enjoy the ride.
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