Category Archives: Getting lost

Helping lost people turns into something personal

GO train on the go

GO train on the go

This summer I am making it my business to help people who are having difficulty finding their way around Toronto. I don’t actively seek doing this but when I see someone who appears lost – or if they are asking for help getting around – I do my best to help them. Some days when I’m out nothing happens; some days there are a couple of instances. But last Saturday it got personal as my friend K. from Oakville had to return home by GO train and the situation for boarding was very vague.

K, N and I had spent a day at Harbourfront and N and I walked K back to where she figured she would go to get her GO bus. It was where she had exited.

The long waiting room with windows on one side and entrances to stairwells to some of the platforms on the other side was not very helpful. Neither was the Departure schedule on one of those changing digital boards. All the upcoming GO trains and Go buses were listed, but the boarding platform was not listed until five or 10 minutes before boarding time. Instead, you saw the word “Wait” beside the trains and buses. There were no officials around to ask; no indication where the nearest washroom was, and no seats to sit on.

K has back problems and other medical issues. N has a hip problem and I have a couple of digestive disorders. We would have appreciated at least a place to sit and someone official to ask if we were even in the right place. With this Union Station in construction flux, this latter part isn’t unreasonable. Last time K came to Toronto in the fall, she boarded her GO train at the other end of the large Union Station. So it wasn’t inconceivable that there was another place with platform entrances, particularly as the ones we saw here didn’t go up very far in numbers. The wall maps were useless.

So we waited, fretted and oh, did I forget to mention – no air conditioning so it was hot and humid inside. By continually checking the departure board I figured out that all GO bus platforms were numbered in the 40s. I also figured to get to them, you would go to the end of this long room, through the doors and there would be an indoor walkway to take you across the street to the GO bus terminal. Not for trains, though.

Five minutes before K’s GO train was scheduled to leave (they were running every hour only on the weekend because of construction) a platform number appeared. By that time, there were a number of people huddling around and they all proceeded through that numbered door. K hugged N and me and followed the others through the door to board her GO train.

I was so outraged by this major consumer service flaw, that I filed a complaint with GO online using their complaint form. Besides what I mention here, I also suggested they take a page from VIA rail (also goes through Union station but in the main area), i.e., that they list the platforms for all GO trains and buses departing – all the ones on the screen as they appear. The one word “wait” which they have, should deter people from entering the platform ahead of time in case there is another GO train or bus departing or arriving there before then. VIA does this and it is not unusual if you arrive early for your train when you go to the place to line-up, there is another line-up for an earlier departing train. VIA rail also has updated announcements via loudspeaker. That wasn’t happening a this GO waiting area. So that makes you wonder what blind people do? Maybe GO is in some violation of accessibility laws.

There was a notice in the waiting area and GO online that the platforms would be changing August 10 for construction so I also suggested they implement my suggestions when they do their construction.

If they can’t get their heads around giving good customer service to regular GO riders, they need to remember this is the big tourist season in Toronto and if regular riders (K does take the GO but in her area only, not into Toronto usually) get confused, what about tourists?

What do you want to bet that the powers that be at GO Transit all drive cars?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, Friends, Getting lost, Helping Others, Only child, Public Transit, Union Station Toronto, VIA Rail

Only Child does stay vacations

Sailboats at Toronto Harbourfront Centre on Lake Ontario

Sailboats at Toronto Harbourfront Centre on Lake Ontario

When I was a child, my mom and I used to travel around Toronto by public transit (TTC) – buses, streetcars, and then the subway when the first line was opened. Some TTC galavanting was for shopping but Mom picked good and interesting areas, such as the Danforth, which had the big “dime stores” as they were called. You know Kresge’s, The Met and Woolworth’s. Yes, that’s dating me, but it was an adventure to go into all three stores before Easter to get that Easter hat. And stopping at the restaurant counters at The Met for a hot dog and ice cream was a treat. We also stopped in butcher shops and greengrocers. Sadly, the “dime stores” are all gone although Woolworth’s upgrade Wal-Mart is still around, in malls. And “dime stores” would never fly in these expensive times. Instead we have the Dollarama and Dollar Tree chains – which I actually like. They are the 21st. century’s Kresge’s and Met.

Mom also took me to places like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and to visit family and friends.

So, recalling all the above, and for the sake of my almost empty wallet, I’ve decided I’m doing a lot of visiting local touristy sites in Toronto, the free ones. Sure, I still hope to do my annual visit to my cousins in southwestern Ontario, but there is still the rest of the summer.

Besides my once or twice a week trip down to the Danforth for groceries, I also head for some of the events there, such as Taste of the Danforth – a celebration of food (yes, I’m a foodie), not just Greek in this Greek area of Toronto, but Italian and Asian. The nearby park, Withrow Park has several weekly evening events such as a Farmer’s Market and Shakespeare in the Park.

On Sunday I headed down to Toronto Harbourfront Centre on the shores of Lake Ontario. Since the street has been made more pedestrian, cyclist and streetcar friendly, it is easier to get around and also looks better. The Car doesn’t rule here anymore as cars are confined to two lanes. In fact all the traffic – pedestrian, cyclist, streetcars and cars – have their own lanes. There is also art in two buildings, although the outdoor art seems to be missing this year, a boardwalk to walk along the lake, lots of boats and ships – some you can book rides on. If and when I can afford it I’d like to take a two-hour tour on the Tall Ships.

Each summer and early fall weekend, Harbourfront has a theme and the foods and music are tied into that. Last weekend it was Latin music. And there are craft booths, two stages, grass (the fake type, which might be a blessing in this summer’s drought-ridden Toronto), and some restaurants. One building which used to have two or three restaurants and several small shops is now down to one restaurant – a pub and grill – and the Sobey’s grocery market (now expanded) on the main floor. It looks like the rest is being renovated but gone is my favourite – Tilly’s – you know the company known for travel clothes, especially the Tilly hat. The beaches are clean of mess and overcrowding. And it is fun to sit on a bench along the boardwalk and people watch.

But  my favourite part of Harbourfront is the Toronto Music Garden. Every other Sunday at 4 p.m. and one evening a week, classical music is presented by various musicians from all over. It is relaxing to sit on the grass steps (real grass here) or benches and listen and watch. And just walking through the other parts of the garden and looking at the flowers is amazing. I spent a lot of time trying to take photos of bees landing on the echinaccea.

Perhaps the highlight of this afternoon was helping a family from Cincinnati find what they were looking for. I was walking from Union Station (where I exited the subway and I prefer to walk from there than take the streetcar – the lineups are too long) to Harbourfront and waiting for the light to change when I heard a woman from behind call out something about needing direction “Any locals?”

I turned around and went up to them and started chatting with the woman. She had her smart phone out and said there was supposed to be an LCBO Market on the corner here. After I found out from her that she wasn’t looking for a Farmer’s Market (there are lots of those around closeby), but that she meant an actual store, I explained that the LCBO is the Liquor Store outlet but there was a Sobey’s Grocery right just down the street in Harbourfront.

“I’ll walk with you as I’m going that way, too,” I said.

She introduced me to her husband and their two daughter and we all shook hands.

We asked each other questions such as how long had I lived in Toronto and how long were they here for holidays. They asked about Casa Loma and I told them how to get there and also mentioned another historical place, a house set up in the early 1900s, Spadina House, just across the street from Casa Loma. When we arrived at the corner with Sobey’s, she said, “That’s the place.”

I looked at the sign: “Sobey’s Urban Market.”

We parted ways at Sobey’s, but it was good to help someone to find their way – literally. As I did explain – I get lost too.

Afterwards I thought of so many other places they could look into and the dine Toronto  blog for restaurants that are rated.

One of those slapping your head for forgetting situations.

But, I’ll be going to some of the places I wanted to tell this Cincinnati family about.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Part of the Toronto Music Garden including some echinaccea

Part of the Toronto Music Garden including some Black-eyed Susans and Lavender

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Filed under 1950s, Cities, Getting lost, Helping Others, Holiday Travel, Holidays, Mother and Child, Only child, Public Transportation, The Danforth

Only Child on getting lost

One of the places in North Toronto Only Child was trying to find

Lately I keep getting lost when I venture somewhere in the northern parts of Toronto. Before I leave, I make sure I have the address, check it out on Google and Mapquest and even ask for directions from the person I’m going to see. I might as well be wearing a blindfold. Is there some reason I’m not supposed to be travelling “up north in Toronto?” Or is there some other deeper reason, like maybe I’m feeling lost in some part of my life?

Perhaps these current electronic guides  just don’t cut it like my late Mom did. Mom and I would travel around Toronto together and I don’t remember us ever getting lost. As I write in my memoir You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons

To get around in life you need guides, signs and a healthy dose of paying attention – on all levels.  As Dad was to riding the rails, Mom was to city transit. Travelling by the feat of my public transit savvy really began when Mom and I trekked around on Toronto’s buses, streetcars and subway. She was my guide. I just didn’t realize then how much of a guide.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

In the here and now, I had quite the “merry” journey trying to find my new opthamologist’s office. Armed with the online map printed out and the knowledge that I visited that medical building seven years before, I headed “up north.” When I stepped off the TTC bus and started walking towards the specific street I didn’t recognize the area – more tall buildings had sprung up. Okay. But I saw no street sign; however did turn and walk along that street  until I decided I was in the wrong place, so headed back for the bus stop, boarded the bus back to where the medical centre street crosses the bus line. When I got off I had to take stairs down to this street and had no clue where to go from there. This street crisscrossed many other roads and street numbers didn’t help. I started asking others. An older lady going for a walk had to literally show me the winding way. Yup. You guessed it. I had been on the right nameless road before – if I had continued another block and a half I would have found the medical building. I arrived late.

A couple weeks later when I headed to my new lawyer’s office – again in North Toronto – I had no trouble finding the building with its number big and bold on the side, which I saw once I could figure out how to exit the subway station. However, getting to the actual building proved a big problem as I came to  an overpass but I stayed on the same street because that was the building’s address. As I neared the building I couldn’t see how to get from the sidewalk to the actual building as there was a slight hill with trees and grass up from the sidewalk to the building and no way in. I kept walking and finally found an entrance on a  side street. I arrived late.

Yesterday I had to interview an optometrist for a story I’m writing for a magazine. After lunch with my son and his girlfriend, they dropped me  at a subway station before they headed up further north to visit Martin’s dad. This “getting lost” must be family-contagious because Martin took the wrong entrance to  the subway drop off — yet he had been there many times before and said he always got the entrance wrong.

Continuing in this vein, when I exited the subway, I started walking in the wrong direction. Because  I was early I had decided to surface a stop before and check out a small shopping mall. I finally found it but when I wanted to go back on the subway I couldn’t find the passenger entrance to the subway, just the bus entry. I walked north a block and found the subway station’s back entrance. Because entry was automatic, I had to use my pass electronically and it didn’t seem to work – another passenger had to slide it through and, of course, the revolving door magically opened then.

The optometrists’s office? No problem finding it or the mall it is in.  I arrived 15 minutes early.

I’m beginning to see a pattern here. As an only adult-child. out of necessity, I’ve become used to manouvering my way around alone. Obviouusly I need a guide like my late mom. The question is who? Sure, I did get lucky in a couple of the above instances and with the third (the lawyer’s office building) my own persistence paid off.  Maybe the lesson here is to be open to help from unexpected resources. Certainly many of the expected ones don’t pan out. I ask my friends for help and sometimes I receive a no. True, they have their own lives to lead and unless they break promises made to me I can’t hold it against them.

Or maybe the answer is to tap deeper into my own instinct and not panic. Especially as on my way to and from grocery shopping later yesterday my intuition was bang on about when buses arrived – including one showing up three minutes early.

Or I could stay out of North Toronto.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Cities, Direction, Getting lost, Only child, Only child memoir, Public Transportation, Toronto, Trust