Wednesday, January 16, 2013



I might as well have been in a Tim Hortons rather than the TTC. Non-stop sucking up food and coffee in every direction.
So I filled the time to Yonge on the Bloor subway by contemplating modern mysteries. Why exactly does the subway lose money when so often it is so crowded with customers it's cattle-car conditions? Which neatly fits with the other mystery.Why do so many people eat on the run, grazing as if they were out to pasture?
I understand being rushed for time. But I think it's become a habit, to charge into work with a gallon of something held before you like the prow of a ship.
I rather like sitting and stretching and having a tea or a hot chocolate, not the evil stuff called coffee which I stopped drinking as a kid reporter because  I found that after all nighters covering murders and major stories, I had poisoned myself.
So I have had about two polite cups in the last four decades and figure I will live longer because coffee probably will turn out to be cancerous (along with just about everything else.)
They used to be called coffee breaks. A pause to recharge. Drinking and eating on the run ruins the break from routine, unless you are so frantic to inhale something, you are willing to forget about anything to do with taste.
And it seems too many people are. At coffee breaks in the office, in the tsunami of customers chanting double double as they roll over a Tims, in the crowd loading up at the snack bar before the movie, clustering around the street food trucks,  in the mobs of teenagers descending on food joints after school, it seems that the famous old warning of every mom about not eating between meals is now considered as outdated as a wringer washer.
On my latest jaunt through the transit foodies, I got off at Davisville, the TTC's home station, and noticed that the escalator was broken, which filled me with glee because now TTC brass had to labour up stairs like the rest of us in a system which can run buses better than escalators.
My destination was my opthamologist who peers into my eyes every year to see if anything is sticking there from medications.  A fine fellow with a deft touch with whiny kids. He graduated from a famous university but will continue to be anonymous because I want to slag his patients.
His door has signs on both sides asking people not to truck in snow and rain and food and drink. He's done it for years. I kidded him about the sign asking parents not to feed babies just before he examines them. I said there was probably no medical reason, he just didn't want them barfing on him.
He conceded there was some truth to that because one of the reason he became an opthamologist was he didn't much like vomit. But he added there could be complications from asphyxiation.
I waited in mid-exam for my pupils to dilate from his drops, Plenty of time to observe the fat mother pouring juice and an entire bowl of some white mush into her tot. Right under the signs banning food and drink, especially for young squirming patients.
Beside me a formidable lady was trying to settle an hysterical boy of around 11 who acted as if the doctor was about to pluck his eyes.  When she whittled his whining to a dull roar, she extricated a large hamburger from a suitcase-sized purse and chomped away. The doctor spotted this when he emerged from his sanctum and called her a nice criminal in a friendly way. Why didn't she eat that out in the hall where the giant strollers were parked, also in response to a sign banning them inside, which I wish would hang in every public location, strollers now taking up the space of small battle tanks.
This very large lady proceeded to eat enthusiastically out in the hall, but she was allowed to watch her cranky son through the open door. It was 10.30 a.m. She was hardly missing a meal.
Activity subsided a bit, and then a modern dad with a baby in a carrier showed up and to keep the cute infant quiet, proceeded to feed him from a variety of plastic bags stashed in his manpurse.
You can't start them too young, apparently.
The doctor told me he had a couple of large immigrants, perhaps from some part of the ruined Soviet empire, who marched in one winter day, ignoring the mat for the boots outside, and spread moisture far and wide.  He ordered their boots outside, pointing to his sign. The main mom scowled and yelled in rebellion. He insisted. She persisted. Then he lowered the boom. No exam unless....
 Wish I had been there to watch that, because they probably had a kielbasa or two in their pocket, and maybe some vodka, and that's a great way to pass the time as your pupils dilate. But I'm now traitor to my thesis that 24-hour-consumption everywhere has become rude.
I survived my exam, to some relief. And so to home, as Pepys and the other diarists used to say. I was gratified to see the escalator was still broken under the TTC headquarters. I was still wondering why a system that carries nearly half a billion people a year and is always jammed except at, maybe, at 1.34 a.m., can't be a money-maker. Must be those union contracts.
Maybe we should get more revenue by taxing the munchers like that guy in the subway car corner who appears to be eating a large TV dinner, the debris sifting down around his feet.

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