It was a bright and warm fall day. I let the sun’s rays embrace me while waiting for my streetcar. The wind softened the street noise by rustling the dried leaves. My streetcar slowly pulled up. I stepped off the sidewalk, always mindful of cars that don’t stop behind the streetcar.
In Toronto, some of the streetcar tracks are in the middle of the road while the stops are on the sidewalk. When it arrives at a streetcar stop, you step off the sidewalk and on to the traffic lane to board the street car. Some streetcar lines now have stops and platforms in the middle of the road. But the line I use doesn’t. As a rule, when the streetcar is at a streetcar stop, cars must stop behind the streetcar. Sure enough, as soon as I step off the curb, a car drives by in front of me. I raised my hand at the driver in frustration but he doesn’t even notice.
I waited by a door for the passengers to step off and helped someone with a walker go in. I was about to step on when a woman cut right in front of me, said something in Chinese, and pointed to the man behind me. He was pushing a cart of groceries. I bent down, grabbed the bottom of the cart, and helped lifted it on to the streetcar. He said “thank you” as he walked past me. I replied in Cantonese that it wasn’t necessary. He looked back at me with surprise. “Oh you speak our language!” he said in Cantonese. I smiled and answered back in Cantonese “Yes, just a bit.”
I squeezed my way to the back where I saw a space to stand. At the next stop, a woman with grey, disheveled hair, well worn clothing, got on and walked towards the front of the car. Her mask barely covered her nose. I’ve seen her pan handling in the area.
Then I heard a loud, raspy voice from the front. I knew it was her. I couldn’t make out what was being said. It continued for awhile. Then the coughing started. It got louder and deeper. It sounded like she was going to vomit. People moved away What ever she was saying now sounded closer to a screech I wondered if she had Tourette’s Syndrome. Eventually people just gave her a lot of space. As the streetcar made its way to another stop, the conductor got out. I thought he was going to deal with the woman but instead he got out of the streetcar. But he had to lower the wheelchair ramp to let a passenger on a wheelchair aboard. A large, scruffy man in an electric wheelchair zipped up the ramp into the spot for wheelchair. He looked like he had a rough life. Unfortunately for him, the spot for the wheelchair was right across from the woman.
She started to talk again. After a minute, he shouted back “Will you shut the f*** up!” The next 5 to 10 minutes was just the 2 of them yelling at each other at regular intervals. The man kept threatening to beat her but she kept on talking. When she finally stood up to leave they had another exchange of swearing.
A man entering the streetcar saw some of this. As he walked past the wheelchair guy, he must have said something. This triggered more obscenities from the wheelchair guy. And he added a “and f*** everyone else!”. Fortunately there was a bit of quiet after that. A couple of stops later, the wheelchair guy moved to the door. The streetcar rolls to a stop. There was a slight pause, the conductor came out and asked the guy in the wheelchair if he wanted to get off. The wheelchair guy looked at the conductor and yelled “You had one job to do and you f*** it up. What’s wrong with you?” But the conductor kept his cool, got off the streetcar and lowered the ramp for him.
I got off a few stops later and did my shopping. On the way back, I hoped that the ride would be better. But that was not the case. A woman hopped on walked the aisle asking for money. She approached a woman with earbuds. The woman looked at the outstretched hands and “I have my ear buds on and can’t hear you.” Another woman that was approached opened her purse. After a minute of rustling in her purse, all she came up was a small perfume sampler which she gave to the panhandler. I gave the woman some money when she walked past me. Another person also gave out money. She left shortly with probably just over $2 of change.
A few stops later, a short man with dirty blond hair, a ragged beard and an angry face got on. He ripped off the yellow tape covering some seats and sat down. The tape is to provide some distance for passengers. He didn’t have a mask. Fortunately he didn’t stay long.
When I got home, I got annoyed and irritated. But after awhile, I remembered that there are people that need help, are lost and are hurting.