by Erica Ly

The art of finding a seat

When you wake up exhausted in the morning but you look forward to sleeping on the train (if you can even find a seat during the rush…), you have truly understood what it means to be a long-distance commuter. Ignoring the taunting laughs of those that live on or near campus, whether you travel each morning via bus for half-an-hour, or have a two-hour bus, train, subway, streetcar commute like me, we have all experienced the hard times as a commuter, as well as the awkward stories on our journey that no one would have believed if we hadn’t Snapchatted it first.

I have only been commuting for a grand total of two months since the 2016 fall term began, but I think that I have already experienced plenty of the typical awkward moments and struggles that all commuters go through. While these are not perfect solutions, between myself and other upper-year fellow commuters, I’ve compiled the following list of how we get through each of these situations, and hopefully you’ll these find useful too.


1. You commuted to save money. Now the commute is making you go broke.

Struggle level: 10/10
So during summer you looked over the prices for residence and meal plans for two terms, and thought that spending a “few extra minutes” each day on transportation would be more worth it. Compensate your school tuition bit by bit with money you can save anywhere right? Wrong. At least not from your commute.

Unless your commute is really only a short bus ride, or you have the commendable endurance to sit on a stiff seat in a packed and congested subway car all the way from Line 2 (Seriously, the lack of airflow is a health hazard) to Line 1 until you get to Union; if you step on the GO Train/Bus, in a year, your commuting cost could easily be the equivalent to living in residence.

Chances are that this train or bus trip is inelastic to you (Applying economics – Prof. Gazzale would be proud), meaning you literally need this expensive steel box on wheels to get around. Instead of telling you to get a job (which is always a good option), or spending more time on cheaper routes, see if you can invest in a transit pass.

Whether you pay with your Presto, tokens, or cash, see how much an average day costs you and multiply it by the average number of days in a school month. Now compare that cost to a weekly GTA Pass (TTC/ YRT/VIVA), or Student Metropass (TTC – Bus, Subways, etc.) which allows for unlimited travel in a month.

If you take the train, get your GO Student ID Card for student fare prices, instead of adult.

*PRO-TIP: Monthly passes really help for those days that you didn’t plan on coming downtown and which would have cost you more on daily fare (i.e. the great “free trip” days on Metropass).


2. “I’ll do that in the morning.” It’s not happening.


Struggle level: 7/10
While your friends on campus can wait until morning to put their finishing touches (or start…) on an assignment due at noon the next day or can sleep-in until the first morning lecture at 9am, commuters miles away are glaring in jealousy (and cringing when you complain).

As a commuter, if the work isn’t done the night before and you’re not planning on waking up at 3am for these “finishing touches”, the work is simply not getting done. And if 9am lectures weren’t early enough to begin with, add in your commute time and you’ll be waking with the birds.

Prepare everything the night before. If you go to bed without packing your bag and laying out everything you’ll need, not only do you lose out on a few more minutes of shut-eye in the morning (you’re not going to wake up earlier in the morning just because you slept a few minutes earlier that night), you’ll also be rushing to have everything packed before getting out the door. Rushing means forgetting things and, unlike your residence friends, you can’t come back between classes to pick them up. This includes your headphones, which you will leave behind, making for a seemingly even longer commute.


3. “I don’t think you’re old!”

Awkwardness level: 8/10
As the proof that faith should be restored in humanity, you will want to get up and offer your seat to someone who is more in need of it than you on a crowded ride. Apart from those with clear accessibility needs or who are very obviously advanced in years, how do you  broach the subject? You’re stuck between politely telling them to have a seat and becoming anxiety-ridden that they will reject your offer and feel offended that you think they’re old (it’s happened).

Dealing with a fight that you didn’t pick in the first place is definitely awkward, but it all comes down to your beliefs. Suck it up, offer the seat, and hope for the best? Or save yourself the trouble and maintain no eye-contact as they walk by? One is blatantly better than the other, but it’s your call.


4. Looking presentable only because society deems it necessary

Struggle level: 6/10
As much as I would love to go to school looking perfectly fashionable for once, heeled boots, tons of accessories, and nicely done hair just isn’t sustainable through a long day. First of all, after getting home from a 9pm class at 11pm, and waking up at 6am for my 9am class, I really don’t want to wake up at 5am to get dolled-up. Moreover, constantly being on the move between classes and running to catch buses and trains make flats and sneakers my best friends.

Hoodies and bomber jackets really are the most comfortable for long trips, but If it really bothers you, then bring a change of clothes with you to school. Forewarning: it’s a time commitment and most people just settle for hoodies and sweatpants by December.


5. When standing just isn’t your thing anymore

Awkwardness level: 10/10
You’ve been on the subway a hundred times by now, so you don’t bother holding the bars or the handles. But there will come that time when a lurch takes you by surprise and you’re face-planted to the door or a person.

One jerk of the subway car was all it took, now you’re like a fawn completely incapable of standing without toppling over. This isn’t just awkward, it’s completely embarrassing for anyone who just witnessed it, or whom you’re currently pressed up against. Avoiding flailing when the subway halts comes with practice. Get used to standing with your feet shoulder width apart and find your centre of gravity. It becomes easier with time and having a better sense of balance is a useful skill.


6. When you bruise your stomach and your ego

Awkwardness level: 7/10
So you’re late for class during the morning rush at Union Station, and you rapidly take out your Metropass to swipe at the turnstile. But it happens to be upside down and instead you literally ram yourself into the metal bar, directly in front of everyone waiting behind you.

Just pick up that bruised ego, swipe, and carry on. If it helps, you probably won’t see those people again, right?


Commuters! Let me know in the comments below which awkward moment or struggle you can relate to . This is only the beginning of my journey through commuting (see what I did there?), so get ready for “Part 2” in upcoming blog posts!