My own not-so-long way home

This weekend has to be good for working into a story at some future date.

I went to the ‘Can’t Stop the Serenity’ screening in Toronto yesterday. It was overall a great time, seeing the movie yet again, (with my ‘beat sheet’ fresh in my mind.) I dressed up as a character for the first time ever – I went as Simon Tam, in a full suit with waistcoat and long-sleeved white shirt, the whole bit, and had pictures taken with a girl who had come dressed as River. Fun fun. Also spent some money at the charity auction, walking away with a Jayne needlepoint that I’m going to put on my desk at work, some T-shirts, a signed photo, and a comic. Not too bad, and it’s all for a great cause.

This weekend is also the G20 summit in Toronto, and at first I wasn’t too concerned about that. The screening was at Bathurst and Bloor, well outside ‘the security zone’, and though Union station is close to the convention center, the GO transit website said that trains would still be going through as scheduled, though most street exits would be blocked. That seemed fine – I could go from the GO train directly to the subway, and thus north. Worked out alright, though walking through the Union concourse was eerie when so many of the storefronts were closed up.

After everybody had left the theater, crossed Bloor street, and the Pauper’s pub finally let us all in to the upstairs room, I started to realize that something worrying was going on. Chris M, next to me at the table I finally ended up at, was reading news reports off her Iphone, and soon there was footage from the G20 protests downtown on the TV screens intermixed with the Fifa world cup matches. By the time I’d ordered my chicken fingers, it was pretty clear that getting home would not be as easy as I’d planned. No subways were running south of Bloor, and no Go trains or buses were coming into or out of Union station in any direction, according to the Iphone.

“You should talk to Kate,” somebody at my table mentioned. “She came in from Hamilton on the Go train today too.” I agreed that it sounded like we had the same problem to work out, at least, so I went over and introduced myself.

We talked for a little bit about various possibilities, including taking streetcars south to the Exhibition grounds, and then suddenly Kate told me: “You look so familiar. Did you live on or near Stanley avenue in West Hamilton, when you were younger?”

I was completely stunned – I grew up on Stanley avenue pretty much until I went away to University, and Kate didn’t really look familiar to me, but she said that she’d been just up the block. Around this point my food showed up, and while I was munching on the sinfully fattening (and delicious) chicken, word came in that the Exhibition station was now no longer an option – Lakeshore west trains were at best getting to Mimico.

Someone else from my table asked if she could give me a lift to a GO station in Mississauga, and I said that sounded promising and mentioned that Kate might want to come along as well. So the three of us headed off pretty much as soon as we’d finished eating and saying goodbyes. Kate and our volunteer driver got along very well, chatting about job possibilities in the insurance business and so on, and eventually Kate and I got dropped off outside the Port Credit station, with much luck wished our way.

At first, it seemed that luck was not at all with us. Inside the station, there was one harried-looking ticket attendant inside her booth, explaining that no GO trains were running, no GO buses were running through the station, and that if we wanted to proceed west, it would have to be from making our way between different regional bus systems – Mississauga transit to Oakville transit to Burlington transit to Hamilton buses and so on. There were also a few other stranded passengers, including a friendly but overwhelmed Icelandic tourist who was trying to find some way to get to Niagara Falls.

Things did look grim for a bit. Kate called home to her parents and apparently got a bit of an earful about how they’d told her this would happen. I emailed my mom on my work blackberry, and got no reply.

Somehow the idea of taking a cab arose – I think the ticket attendant might have been the first to suggest it, and Kate jumped into organizing the trip. She found another couple who wanted to go to Hamilton, I did my best to convince the Icelandic girl that she’d be able to get to Niagara Falls from Hamilton on another coach line, and Kate got a quote from a taxi-van driver who could carry five. One hundred dollars total to drive us to the Hamilton GO train station. Twenty bucks each. We all agreed to it.

And that’s nearly the end of the story. Kate jumped out on the west side of Hamilton so that she could walk home more easily, (after giving me her share of the fare,) and I sortof turned into the defacto expert on transit operations at the Hamilton GO center, helping our Icelandic fare get her tickets for the Coach canada bus to Niagara Falls and showing her which platform it would be picking her up at, and even giving the other passengers a tip on which bus they’d want to get to Barton street and where to catch it. And on my own bus ride home, I got off early, at the Dairy Queen at Main and Ottawa, and walked home from there. I kinda needed the sugar rush.

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