Balance, How-to, People, Places, Student Life

In which commuting isn’t as terrible as it seems

A view from a subway corridor. This is probably the only thing spooky about commuting.

A view from a subway corridor. This is probably the only thing spooky about commuting.

The other day, I was talking with my future roommates in our Facebook group chat about when we would move into the apartment for September. The chat was a mix of finalizing plans and cracking jokes, but it also signalled to me that my summertime commuting for work, volunteer commitments, and social plans was coming to an end. You would think that this realization would immediately bring relief (I mean, commuting wastes so many hours in a day), but strangely, I have mixed feelings about living downtown again.

On one hand, commuting has caused me much frustration, transit-rage (think road rage but just anger at the cool, detached voice announcing there will be a delay in service), and too-early morning wakeups. As someone who uses two separate transit services – GO and the TTC – to get to the big city, meticulous planning in order to catch buses and subway trains is a learned skill. And with meticulous planning comes muttered comments of please don’t let me be too late for the bus which, of course, is fuel for Murphy’s Law; what can go wrong will go wrong.

However, on the other hand commuting has, oddly enough, offered many advantages as well. From having to plan my schedule with the deadline of the last GO bus in mind, I have to make sure my days are efficiently organized. Having to wake up earlier and getting to the city sooner lets me choose the important events to go to and not waste time figuring out what to do. While this sounds like it might be stressful (or boring), I actually found it to be reliably fun and it kept me busy. The routine that I adopted is different from the routine living downtown during the school year – instead of procrastination and laying around, my routine involved doing as much as I (reasonably) could in a week. When I planned to see later festivals and concerts, I made arrangements accordingly. And summer commutes are lazy, lazy like beach acoustic playlists and relaxed naps without the stress of deadlines and anxious “I’m going to be late!” atmosphere. They’re a break from the hustle and a time to think.

A common thinking location. Just look at that soft light on the GO train!

A common thinking location. Just look at that soft light on the GO train!

The summer commute has also been a source of entertainment: people watching. I won’t lie and say I don’t do it because observing people is one of the most fascinating things about taking transit. I’ve listened to musicians jam out on the train or to sports fans belt out Blue Jays anthems at Union Station, seen couples fight up a frenetic storm only to calm down like a clear pond, witnessed teenagers actually help elderly people find a seat. I’ve pet so many excited dogs, had long conversations with people on their music taste just because I could hear their tunes spilling out from their earphones, caught so many people snoozing with their mouths in various positions (closed, gaping, drooling, etc.) and have shared amused looks with strangers when a person almost trips.

People on transit are fun to observe, to interact with, to laugh with.

People on transit are fun to observe, to interact with, to laugh with.

But most of all, commuting this summer to campus for work has helped me feel more comfortable in the commuter community (try saying that five times fast). I’ve spent many hours at the Commuter Student Centre (CSC) in the University College area. I’ve talked to students I never would have really interacted with before.

The commuter student centre (CSC)!

The commuter student centre (CSC)!

So that’s why I’m not completely over the moon about living downtown again. I’m also spending more time with my family, and as this is the last summer before my little brother heads off to university (he’s the last child out of the house), it’s also the last time to really be together. Come September, I’ll be back in the land of skyscrapers and taxis with the weathered experience of a commuter.

But then again, it’ll be nice to sleep in for once.

Let me know your commuter story in the comments below!

-Albert