Skytrain Express

I pretty much hate these ads, but they reflect real life experiences
The plebiscite is round the corner and the discussions around it seem to excite or frustrate everyone involved. However, whether you vote YES or NO, my hope is that the pressure to fix the systems that were made to serve us continues. The current debate, as irrelevant to the issue as it sometimes seems, raises our awareness to the ills that plague public institutions and governance.

I really enjoy riding the Skytrain. I don't enjoy buses as much but they have their merit. Public transport is just another tool within a complex array of services that sustain our society. It's up to our elected officials to best maintain and develop this tool. It's up to us to use this tool for our benefit.

At times, we need to take responsibility, whether it's a vote or unexpected interaction with each other. When I see the posters calling people to say something when they see something I have mixed feelings. I agree with the message but it's just a lot more complex than that. The following story, I'm sure, is just another drop in the endless examples for choices we face. Whether you say or do something, nothing can promise you - in the moment of action - that you're doing the right thing.

Young man eats sandwich.

He is sitting close to the Skytrain floor.

His portable piano's case serves as a bench.

The case stretches from side to side in the passage of the articulated cabin.

People are hesitant.

The moving train is full of them.

Tall guy asks young man "are you waiting for someone to ask you to move?"

Young man explodes "can't you see I'm eating?!"

Tall guy looks him in the eye considering the exchange.

"What?!", the young man continues, "the train is full. Can't you see I have nowhere to sit?"

Tall guy responds in a calm voice "you're blocking the way".

The exchange escalates asymmetrically: young man shouts and yells - tall guy stays calm until,

Young man exclaims "what are you, a security officer?!"

Tall guy picks up on the opportunity: "No, but I can call one for you if you like".

Young man picks up his piano in rage and stands beside the wall.

His beverage is left in the middle of the floor; his sandwich paper bag drops off. "Why are you bullying me, taking advantage of your age over a younger person?"

Train stops. People rush out the doors. New passengers board the train.

"Happy now?!" young man continues his charge. "It's all about you, isn't it?! You feel better with yourself, now that you’re a hero?"

Tall guy looks him in the eye and says "Not really, do you need a hand with your cup?"

"What is it with you, I need to eat before a practice session with my band" young man whines. "Now look what you've done! I'm shaking all over. Because of you I'm going to throw up"

"Sorry I'm making it so hard on you. Do you need a hand with your cup and paper bag?"

Train stops. People rush out the doors. More passengers board the train.

Young man realizes it's his stop.

He reaches the doors just before they shut.

Tall guy picks up disposable cup and paper bag and follows young man.

Young man barely squeezes out onto the station's platform.

Tall guy stretches his hand out the gap.

Young man asks in disgust mixed with fear "Now what do you want to do to me?!"

Tall guy, now on the platform, avoids him.

I walk to the nearest garbage bin. Through the open lid, I slip the paper bag into the bin and place the paper cup on top.

"There you are", I point to the cup, then turn back to the edge of the platform and wait for the next train.

Young man picks up his cup of coffee and rushes away.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

A few days later, I am on the Skytrain heading out of Downtown Vancouver. The car is filling up quickly. I stand beside the single seat right by the sliding doors. On one side a half curtain - partly opaque, partly transparent - separates the seat from the sliding doors. Its other side is just a few inches away from the bench arranged perpendicular to the car’s wall. It is conveniently inviting to rest your feet on it even if your shoes will no doubt soil it on a rainy day.

On a crowded train like we are now on, a young woman is diligently texting on her device. Her shoulder leans on the car’s wall. A couple enters and stands beside me. The man looks down at the empty single seat. He budges closer to the chair hoping to signal his desire to sit down. The young woman continues to text. The man’s accomplice, possibly younger, encourages him to sit. As he bends backwards, the young texter slides her feet ever so slightly but not enough to allow the man to fully lean all the way back.

He sits at the edge of the seat. A few seconds later he leans his head on the divider. Not knowing whether to say something to the texter I decide to approach the guy. I crotch so that our eyes make contact and say, “you can feel free to ask her to move her legs”. He looks at me, then at his accomplice. I realize he doesn’t speak English. I tell the young woman the same thing, then, “I can ask her to do that if you like”. She translates this to him and they both smile, somewhat embarrassed, a little grateful.

The texter, not at all oblivious to the exchange removes her legs from the seat. “He didn’t seem to care”, she says. The man slides all the way back to comfort. “You didn’t seem to care either”, I say and stand up to continue my ride. My time to get off comes and I'm out of there.

It’s a strange sense of relief. I can’t help trying to exist. I don’t feel that I want or need that kind of being in my life. But it does make a positive difference. "So be it!"

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