A few weeks ago I lost the subway train in downtown Toronto. I wasn’t actually in charge of it so it wasn’t really mine to lose. I didn’t lose the people, or the station, I just lost the train. A full-sized subway train. I’ll start at the beginning; it will be easier to understand what I mean.
I suppose it all began a couple of months ago when I did a writing course through Vaughan Public Libraries. It was at this course that I met a lovely Australian lady called Stephanie who had recently moved to Canada. When I heard her speaking in her unmistakable Ozzie accent, my heart filled with southern hemisphere love. After the class (during which I’d sat grinning like a fool and trying not to smile too weirdly at her) I mustered all my courage and introduced myself to her. I think we were both excited to meet another person from lands down south and we promised to meet up the following week to chat.
Our writing course came to an end but our friendship was only just beginning (cheese alert). We met for coffee and enjoyed our time together again, discovering we had quite a lot in common. We continued chatting and sharing online and our next date was at a paint night Downtown. That’s the night I lost the subway train.
My orienteering skills are lacking in the most phenomenal way. It’s actually spectacular that I find my way home any time I leave the house (to be fair though, I do rely heavily on Google Maps to guide me EVERYWHERE). My lovely Mister knows this well (having directed me from some dodgy areas in downtown Johannesburg before we left South Africa) and he prepared a graphic guide for me so I’d be more likely to find my way. Despite his best intentions, I still managed to lose my way. The road to Dundas Square is paved with good intentions. Edited to add: My lovely Friend Leslie (who is so famous she has her face on a billboard and even played a role in Short Circuit) bought me an outdoor survival kit for my birthday. It includes a compass, a torch, a flint, and various other MacGuyver-like tools so I’ll never get lost walking though urban forests again and I’ll always be able to keep warm no matter what!
I followed his photo guide all the to the Chelsea Hotel, like a bewildered tourist. I suppose I was somewhat of a country bumpkin visiting the big city, seeing that I was coming all the way from the ‘boondocks of Vaughan’. What neither of us took into consideration is that on the way back, having had a glass or three of wine, I might have needed more assistance than my entirely sober self needed on the way there.
I left the hotel clutching my newly painted masterpiece thinking how proud I was of myself for being open to making friends with strangers (I’m exceptionally shy and usually bolt in the opposite direction at the merest threat of having to speak to a stranger). It was only as I came to my first corner that I realised we’d neglected to plot my route back to the station. I summoned all my directional Angels, smiled and thanked the toothless homeless gentleman who told me I was beautiful, and marched on with a confidence bolstered by my second and third glasses of Kim Crawford Savignon Blanc.
Much to my delighted surprise I found myself back at Dundas Square (Winners on the left; H&M on the right – Boom!) and the subway station. I knew this to be true because I saw a sign telling me ‘Subway Station’ and pointing at a door. With a smile on my glowing face I pushed hard on the door that said pull, changed tack and pulled on the stubborn door, giggling at my silliness. I knew in my heart that the right direction to go would be down the escalator. Everyone knows that the subway is down! Even a country bumpkin like me. At the bottom of the escalator I looked around for something akin to a below-ground coach, or at the very least a familiar landmark. Nyet. No. Nothing. Nada. Mmm. I retraced my steps to see if I had perhaps missed an alternative route to a secret subway platform. Nope. Once again I went down the escalator, my previous confidence flagging. I found a quiet corner and phoned Roger. The conversation went something like this:
Me *whispering*: I can’t find the train.
R: What do you mean, you can’t find the train?
Me *still whispering*: I mean, it’s not where it’s supposed to be.
R: I’m confused…
Me: Me too!
R: Where are you?
Me *trying not to sound like I’m three glasses of wine in*: Downtown Toronto.
R: Yes, poephol (Afrikaans for “asshole’ but for some reason not as harsh), but where?
Me *indignant*: At Dundas Square subway station. And I lost the train. I see a door that says PATH and Subway. But not the actual subway. The takeaway place.
R *patient as ever*: Can you see a bunch of people walking in a direction?
Me *super excited*: Yes! How did you know!?
R: Follow them.
Me *following strangers*: I see it! I see the train.
R: Ok, good. Don’t fall asleep on the train. I’ll see you later.
I did not fall asleep on the train. But I watched other people falling asleep and wondered if I was supposed to wake them up. Knowing how grumpy I am when I get woken up, I decided to mind my own business and sing loudly in my head to my Killers and Kings of Leon playlist. I arrived back at the subway station in the sticks, with some newly earned street smarts and a beautiful painting of a lady with a red umbrella. Not bad for a night out in the big city.