Friday, June 28, 2013

Zombie Attack In Toronto Subway

Yesterday, I was scheduled to go down to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) to tell a story and to be interviewed about it. I agreed to the 9:30 interview because I knew we could easily hop on the subway and get there in plenty of time. I insisted on leaving early, telling Joe who was worried we'd get there way to soon, that we could relax and have a cup of tea if we had extra time. So, out the door we went.

We stepped out of the elevator and on to the subway platform. A train was there and people, by the millions it seemed, were swarming on the train. I realised, then and there, that I'd never travelled the subway in rush hour. Not to worry, I thought, there'd be lots of trains running. A second came and, even though I was in front of the door, people swarmed around me, blocking me, knocking me, terrifying me. The rush to get on the train overwhelmed transformed me from person to obstacle and, in fear, I stopped, powered down my chair, and waited. When they were packed on I looked at them and they looked at me, as the door closed. They seemed all so happy that they were where I wanted to be.

As we waited for the next train, we wandered to find a space where there was a little more room. The train came and the same thing happened. This time I was hit a couple of times by elbows and several times by purses and backpacks. Suddenly I found myself beside a TTC fellow and we chatted briefly, I explained that I had an appointment and had left early but now I was fearful of being late. The next train came and he attempted to stem the flow of people, but again, I couldn't get on.

Another TTC guy came along and the two of them planned together how to get me on to the train. When it came, one stood on one side of the door and the other on the other. They held their arms out holding people back. When everyone who wanted off was off I moved to the door. They were now shouting at people to go to another door, but they were pressed right up against their arms, some were reaching towards the door. They looked like the Zombies from World War Zed. As if their desire to be on the train had drained them of all humanity, they were just open, aching need. It was terrifying.

Once on the train the TTC officers stepped back and on the came. Many of the angry at being held back, many of them glaring at me for getting 'special treatment'. I finally said, out loud, "For those of you who want to know I had waited for several trains and no one would give me space to get on, I have a right to use the trains too." There was a silent response to my statement. I didn't care, I wanted them to know that I had attempted several times to get on a train and only needed assistance because other people had behaved in the same way that they just had.

I did the interview dry, there wasn't time for tea.


Anonymous said...

Rush hour requires a re booting.
Maybe if squadron of people are planted amongst the commuters, smiling and behaving with respect and kindness, we can influence?
I was enjoying my yogurt on a rush hour train and the person opposite me commented on how yummy those yogurts are.
Maybe just enjoying is enough.
It’s also a shame that so many people don’t feel that going to work is yummy or exciting.

Anonymous said...

You may have a right to use the train - but have to use your brain too. Why would you pick the busiest time of the day to travel on the busiest mode of travel? If you had a choice, which it sounds like you did - why expose yourself to the trauma? Guess what - they, the teeming mass, had appointments/jobs too. I never pick the busiest time to do my business - yes I have the right to - but I don't have the stamina to fight for that right against traffic and mobs. It is terrifying. I'm glad it worked out and thankful someone came to your aid. What an ordeal - an ordeal that might have been avoided.

Anonymous said...

Using the Subway near Frankfurt in Germany was/is a big obstacle for me too and I am not even in a wheelchair. The people are either talking to loud and about really silly things or listening to ratteling techno music via their ithings or smell like an ashtray. It overwhelms me. I huddle in my place and am grateful, that I go on the subway where it is fairly early and far away from the city center to get a place.
Thats why most disabled people around my place (who are in wheelchair) have to use a taxi.

So much for public in public transport...

My mother suggested that there should be special wagons; one for the loud talkers, one for the music listeners and one for the silent people who want to sleep a little more. Well a woman can wish... Even though I know tis would be a kind of discrimination too :-)
Some things would be so much easier for me.


Dave Hingsburger said...

Anon 2, I didn't pick the time. Circumstance did because that's when the studio was available for taping my interview. It wasn't like I had a ton of options. Too, I've ridden the subway often but never at rush hour, I didn't know that people would swarm like that, bashing me around. I didn't predict what people would be like. Even so, I don't live in a world where I have complete control over my time, tons of options for when I need to be somewhere - it sounds as if you do, good on ya, but for me, I am still at the mercy of my job and the expectations of others.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave for modeling how to respond firmly yet with civility to the "pick another time" argument.

I wish I could send you a Sonic Screwdriver to send out a bubble of silence in which you could move on to the train without special treatment.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you are a brave man.

Kris S. said...

Your experience sounded terrifying, Dave, even if (or maybe especially since) the passengers WEREN'T zombies. Glad you were finally able to get onto the train! And good for you, too, for your response to Anon.

CT said...

Oh, my God, Dave. I don't say that lightly. My jaw dropped as I read, although I should not not not have been surprised.

That sounds ... so appalling, so horrifying, so absolutely awful. I just wish I could have made that not happen for you and for anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday, I was scheduled to go down to the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) to tell a story and to be interviewed about it. I agreed to the 9:30 interview because I knew we could easily hop on the subway and get there in plenty of time. I insisted on leaving early, telling Joe who was worried we'd get there way to soon, that we could relax and have a cup of tea if we had extra time. So, out the door we went.

It does look like you had a choice, according to your own words. You may not have been the person to present the time - but you agreed to it.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anon, if it makes you feel better to have this be my fault - have at it. Yes, they presented the time - after three days of trying to find studio space and technicians to do the recording - and yes, I agreed to it. Could I have asked for another time? Maybe but I'd been offered that time the day before. It seemed workable. I don't know why you have so much invested in blaming me for the behaviour of others and holding me responsible for setting an appointment with a reasonable expectation of being able to make it. Can you tell me where this is coming from, I'd like to understand the source of the, seeming, anger behind your comments.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how hard it would be to have a special loading/waiting area for the disabled. They could mark that area with universal symbol and have it cordoned off on either side with theatre-style ropes, so that folks couldn't press in from the sides.

It would be like a parking space--but one that is monitored by a TTC officer. So that when the train stopped, the disabled could load first, and then then remaining space be filled by the ambulatory who are waiting behind the cordoned area.

I wonder.


Penelope said...

I have to admit, I've traveled NYC rush hour in a manual wheelchair and *never* had anything as bad as you describe. It's probably a good thing because I would have cried.

I haven't done rush hour in a power wheelchair on the subway, yet, but I do wonder if my standard "this is how I get on using a powerchair" would work for you in rush hour. I position myself as close to the center of the door as possible before it opens. The folks getting off have to stream around me and as they kinda part down the middle, I start to get on. I've also been know to put my arms out to block people behind me from getting on while I'm trying to. So pretty much, I just end up being pushy in my own way. I haven't run over toes and no one has been nasty to me about it, yet. I'm not naturally pushy, but I've found that, especially on the subway, it's what I need to do.

Thank you for posting this, by the way, it reminded me that I needed to put in a complaint to the MTA about a weird policy that puts wheelchair users at a disadvantage when boarding at the end of a line.