It's a huge mass of metal, cloth, plastic and who knows what else flying through a dark tunnel at high speed. The wind rushes before it, displaced like a wave of toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube. You hear the metal on metal screeching to a halt, opening its doors and disgorging the contents all over the platform and into the bowels of Toronto's transport system. The subway has arrived.
You'd think that we would appreciate the might and magistery of these massive machines, but in that frantic never-ending rush-hour-like jostling there is little time or energy to concentrate on their wonder.
It's in these cramped tunnels, deep below the earth that we meet the most fascinating creatures. An underground labyrinth filled to the brim twice a day with a mass of wide-eyed zombies stumbling off for another unproductive day in a miserable bureaucracy somewhere. It's the way they look through you; as if you don't exists, or they don't. That's how you know they've given up. They are caught in that an endless ping-ponging between some soulless position in the city, and some soulless hovel in the burbs. Each feeding into the other as its justification, neither giving much back.
Moving around in this subterranean world would be easier, except for those near-zombies that clump up together near the entrances and exits, like silt choking in a river. More commonly known as door knobs, they collect as do dust bunnies under a couch, gravitating towards what -- to them -- seems like the most convenient spot. Easily ignoring the pleas written in big bold letters on the doorways themselves to not block passage, they look indignant if someone ruffles them while trying to escape the train. Door knobs represent the most stubborn, yet only half-hearted zombies, because they still have hope that somehow their little position in life, in as much as it inconveniences all around them, is entitled. Blocking other people, so what?! The true zombies just shuffle into a respectable position in the center of the train.
The darkness in the tunnels may be eerie, yet nothing terrorizes in the depths quite a marauding packs of brats. Masses of screaming school kids, and shouting teachers, on their way to some extracurricular activity. Future zombies to be sure, but their exuberance sends ripples of lost and forgotten dreams through the weary denizens. It's like a rush of bad memories from days gone by, values that used to be intact, and that lost impractical belief that the world was not nearly as harsh and ugly as it turned out to be. Brat packs evoke old memories all while dishing out new headaches, a true terror worth avoiding whenever possible.
The metal whines and the speakers crackle with more inaudible noise announcing another delay on this badly managed mass transportation mess. Somewhere some administrator justifies the poor service, dirty cars, crowed people, all while traveling to and from work in their air-conditioned limo. You know they don't eat their own "dog food" so to speak, because if they did, after all of this time, they'd at least try to fix it in some way, rather than just allowing the slow decay that has set in over the decades. It's a testimony to yet another over-paid anonymous egotist that thinks their negative contribution has far more value than the rest of know its really worth.
Still, to save money, or the environment, or something possibly noble like that, millions of Torontonains venture into those depths on a regular basis. Most make it out in one piece, more or less. Big cities need big transport systems, and someday hopefully this city will get one too. Until then, we'll just have to plumb the depths, carefully avoiding the dangers that lurk there, once in a while catching a train that hasn't already exceeded the definition of overcroweded and dirty. Afterall, the system does manage to work once in a while.