The beautiful Muskoka community of Bracebridge, ON was my new home as I began my teaching career. The steep learning curve was daunting. Was I prepared? Was it even reasonable to expect I could succeed? My experience added to new meaning to “the proverbial fish out of water.”
On a positive note, I had an Aunt and Uncle who lived in Toronto, some 180 kilometres south of Bracebridge. I could leave Bracebridge Saturday morning on the Greyhound Bus and Uncle Warren would pick me up at Yonge and Wilson. Then on Sunday afternoon, Aunt Norma and Uncle Warren would drive me back to Bracebridge.
One August weekend, a lady affiliated with the school was driving to Toronto. She knew I had relatives in Toronto and asked if I would like to travel with her. It all sounded so simple. She would drop me off at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, I would jump on the subway, ride all the way to the Yonge and Finch stop and then walk the rest of the way to Claywood Rd.
Sounds extremely easy, right? For starters, I knew absolutely nothing about the Subway — zippo, zilch, nada, nix, naught — but how hard could it be? Please, please, please, make a pact with me to never, ever utter the words “how hard could it be.”
Filled with confidence, I boarded the subway and watched the stops go by: Glencairn, Lawrence West, St. Clair West, DuPont, at which point my archenemy, Mr. Panic, paid a visit. He convinced me I was going in the wrong direction. It was impossible get to Yonge and Finch this way.
I did not know that I could switch to the Yonge Line at Union Station.
I exited the subway and found myself at Spadina and Bloor late in the afternoon. Fear consumed me and my mind went blank.
Once I settled down enough, I called a taxi, gave dispatch my destination and waited. I should have realized something was up when the driver had to call dispatch to find out where Claywood Drive was.
“How far? Are you sure? Okay!”
My theory is, he had visions of dollars dancing in his head because the route was almost 30 km. Unfortunately, the driver had set himself up for a big disappointment because I had all of $20 to my name. I watched the taxi’s meter like a hawk and as it ticked closer and closer to $20, I asked the driver to let me out.
At least I was on Yonge Street and could walk the rest of the way. (I am glad I did not know Yonge Street begins in downtown Toronto and ends in Barrie, more than 100 km away.) I stopped at a Dominion grocery store in a small mall and called Aunt Norma from a phone booth, yes, a real phone booth.
Since I really didn’t know where I was, Aunt Norma played detective to determine my location, and then gave me the directions I needed. I heaved the biggest sigh of relief when I reached her house.
I survived — just barely — my first experience riding Toronto’s Red Rocket.
In the forty years since that fateful August Saturday, I have never again taken the Yorkdale Line, but I have used the Yonge Line a few times. For a girl who grew up on a dead-end road in West Head, NS, I should have taken someone with me for first ride on the subway. You know what they say: hindsight is 20/20.
Now it is your turn. Do you have a story from Canada’s only subways in Toronto and Montreal? Or, do you have stories to tell from subways in far flung cities such as Beijing, Copenhagen, Dubai, London, NY City, Naples , Paris, Pyongyang?