Strangers On A Subway Train


By Briane Nasimok

(TORONTO, ON) – Those of you accustomed to a smirk or chuckle in response to my ramblings here at The Square might find this offering a little off that beaten path, but an incident that occurred earlier this month struck me as something that I wanted to share.

Due to my computer’s decision that it would stop working, I have had little time to create the usual jocularity. I tried writing with a pen on something called “paper” but my inability to decipher what I put down – needless to say my penmanship is atrocious – meant that I had to wait until my “baby’s” return before crafting this.

Last week I discovered that my Mac Book Pro (product placement) would not start. No power. So I ran it down to the Eaton’s Centre Apple store and one of the very cheerful “geniuses” was much too busy signing in those Mac-a-philes, who had actually made an appointment, to even look at my machine.

I was directed to one of their many display computers to sign-up for a time slot, with the hopes that I would perhaps want to buy a newer, shinier toy, and I signed up for the next available appointment; at 5:00 pm the next day.

Unfortunately when I returned the following day at the appropriate time, I discovered that my appointment was for 5:00 pm, a day later, as the demand is high to sit with a genius. If Only Einstein had been around to witness this.

And once again no available “genius” could even take a moment to give me a placebo.

Twenty-four hours later, I was back and it took my new, personal genius, Rene, two minutes to discern that the connection to my power source had broken off and, if I gave him my “lifeline to the outside world,” for five to seven days, I would get it back.

It took me only a moment to realize had someone taken only a moment to look at the machine, this process would be well underway.

My response was immediate.

I broke into tears that got Rene to change the estimate down to three to five days. Or I could visit their Fairview Mall location where it might only be a one to three day wait. But I didn’t have the requisite insurance for a trip to the burbs.

So I left my Mac, and 47 hours later Joel called to say it was ready. He asked if I had noticed that the bottom of the screen had some “broken” light displays, meaning that on white surfaces it looks like there are footlights coming up from the lower edges of the screen.

No I had not.

And when I went into the store the next morning, and they powered up the machine, I was faced with the dilemma. Live with the problem or give back the Mac (product placement), and wait for another five to seven days. Oh yeah and the cost would be $250 to $300.

My minor fix cost me under $60, but I kind of felt like I took the car in to get a tail light fixed and now my muffler was broken. So I took my computer home and am getting used to the theatrical display that I face when I write.

Now to the story at hand…

Last week, at rush hour, I boarded the subway for a two-stop trip. Truth be told, I do not mind public transit, except during times where there are other people using it. And on this day it was not too crowded.

A found a seat, thankfully there as a vacancy between myself and another patron, and I went about my business of pretending to be busy so I wouldn’t make eye contact.

Sometimes I do look around to see if there are people I know or someone who might want to know me, but on this subway car, I decided to bury my head in my newspaper. A moment later I looked up to see a youngish man, standing in front of me, eyeing the empty seat on my side. He held a folded newspaper and I could tell that he was developmentally challenged.

I made a motion for him to sit, which he proceeded to do, and noticed that the newspaper page he was holding contained a partially filled-in crossword. Also in his hand was a pencil and, being the detective that I am, I gleaned that he was working on filling in the squares.

He looked at me, and then at the paper again – and I accepted his invitation and together we started to work on the puzzle.

He never uttered a word but just repeated the letters that I gave him as he filled in the spaces. After a while I realized that I did not have to supply all the answers and I would give him one letter and he would fill in the rest. Or he would figure out the answer on his own after I read the clue; never giving the whole answer, just uttering the letters.

Two stops later I had to get off and hoped that someone else might take up the opportunity to bond in this special way.

The next day I posted a brief note about this on Facebook and got nearly one hundred “likes” and at least twenty responses commending me for what I consider just being human.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.