First off, I want to apologize for there being no blog post yesterday, everyone at TYA is really busy now that OUR NEW LINE HAS DROPPED. Check out Big Cartel for our stock and if you want to make pre-orders. As always, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
But enough about business, I want to talk about public transit. I am your typical poor student with no car, so I almost always have to take public transit if I want to go anywhere. I also don’t have an iPod, so commuting is BORING. I could probably get a book but I always forget to bring one. Anyway, the point is, and I’m sure anyone who has every commuted will agree, it’s not that fun to just sit around doing nothing for half an hour.
That is unless, you try to pick up girls on the subway.
Well, my objective is not literally to find girls and hook up, but I just mean to say that I try to make public transit a social event and meet people. No girlfriends as a direct result (yet), but I’ve actually had some real conversations. I take the greyhound from Toronto to London a lot, and my laptop doesn’t usually last the 2.5 hour trip, so it’s nice to get some human interaction instead. I can honestly say that I have met a random person at a bus stop and talked to them for 150 minutes straight, which is a lot more fun than trying to use the ridiculously slow bus wifi to to Facebook stalk people. The coolest part? There was this one time when a couple people sitting next to us overheard our conversation and joined in. We all exchanged names and kept talking. The conversation grew like this until the whole bus was in on it. Then we all started dancing in the train station!
Ok, so I exaggerated a bit, but I added a few of these people on Facebook and now we’re officially acquaintances. I don’t really talk to them much, but the ride was much more fun than usual, and who knows when I might run into them again? Especially the ones that live in my city, or even go to my school.
Don’t let my romantic failures discourage you though. There are REAL subway love stories. Take Bill and Shirley Tee, for example. They took the same subway route every day until one time Bill decided to ask Shirley out. This was 1950, and they’ve been married for almost 60 years now.
So what’s with the big fear of talking to people on the subway? Is it natural for humans to be distrustful of others, or was it pummeled into us from hearing “Don’t Talk to Strangers” all the time?
The epitome of this fear is “The Empty Seat.” I don’t know if that’s the real term for it, but anyone who’s ever taken public transit in their life knows what I’m talking about. For whatever reason, you are not allowed to sit next to someone until all other seats are full (Maybe Wolfgang Pauli was a bus driver, and if you get that joke, you are a NERD :P). It’s why on the TTC, three seats fit two people, and two seats fit one. You’re likely to see people stand before they dare sit in between two strangers on a three-seater. This is especially interesting because it’s the same as urinal etiquette, which shows how we think of strangers. It’s like everyone starts with the assumption that everyone else is a serial killer.
In reality, if you’re “normal” or “average”, then by definition of the word, most people are going to be like you. And even if that weren’t the case, I would gladly talk to one-thousand weirdos if it meant that one-thousand-and-one was the love of my life. That might sound like hopeless romanticism, but it’s really just good strategizing and time management. I’m not doing anything, you’re not doing anything, might as well see if we’re perfect for each other! If not then we go on our merry way and forget this ever happened, but if we are, then we go on our marry way and make babies. That’s what people seem to forget. It’s a train/bus, not a prison. If the conversation fails then you go back to sleep or read a book.
Beyond finding a hook-up/date/spouse though, why can’t you just talk to someone you’re not sexually attracted to? Like I said, I’ve made a couple of friends while riding public transit, it seems just as plausible to find a best friend on the subway as it is to find a husband/wife.
The whole post was supposed to be about how public transit was boring in general, but I got real caught up in the love thing. The question I originally wanted to address was “How could public transit offer a better experience for the customer?”
For starters, here are a couple cool videos of people jamming on a train.
Wait sorry, did I say this was cool? I meant this is AWESOME. If every time I took the subway I was accompanied by a live concert, I would consider going out of my way to take it just for fun. Obviously, these performances would really piss off some people, so I thought it’d be cool if there was some way to distinguish different train cars as being “quiet” or “loud.”
(Slight digression: I always found it strange that buskers had to perform in the entrance of the subway, the one place where NO ONE has any time to stop and listen for more than a minute. Start jamming on the train itself? You instantly have 40 grateful passengers that rotate at each stop)
In my perfect world, you’d put on your going out clothes and get on the subway. On your 40 minute ride, you are serenaded by some quality musicians while meeting new people who are enjoying the same services. You get off at your stop and go to the club/party or whatever you were doing, except maybe now someone is coming with you ;). Whenever you’re done, you get back on the subway and it happens all over again. It’s like going to a concert, but it takes you home at the end of the night!
But hey, what if you’re feeling tired/ugly? Go to the quiet section! Everyone is sleeping or reading a book anyway, no one cares how you look and you can just relax.
There’s so much potential in making public transit more than just a way to get from point A to B. You have thousands of people together for extended periods of time, it seems like a real shame to waste it by having them awkwardly check out hotties in silence, only to immediately turn away when their eyes lock – I KNOW YOU DO THIS TOO.
So next time you’re taking public transit, go ahead and be crazy. Start an impromptu jam session or have a conversation with the person next to you (yes, sit NEXT to them); maybe it’ll be about the guy who just started an impromptu jam session. Every day you’ll see a hundred people that you might never get to meet again, why not talk to one of them? If you’re lucky, you just might fall in love.
Stay fresh Canada,
– Nick “Nicholas” Hassan