As it turned out, my husband and I did the next best thing. We live in a ‘burb of Toronto the Good (a sarcastic moniker nowadays; once called “Good” because of so-called Victorian high moral standards in the 1800s. Also called Hogtown but that’s another story. And oh yes, a hint that hip hop star, Drake, had renamed TO ‘the 6’ a couple of years ago. But I digress.)
On occasion, from our home an hour away, we drive or hop on the GO (Government of Ontario) commuter train. Which we did every day for one week recently.
Each morning, aboard the 6:20 a.m. train, I people-watched. There was the blonde woman, hair pulled back in a pony-tail, mid-30s, rings on each finger. (But no bells on her toes…couldn’t resist that...). Her heavy eyes stared into space, flickered momentarily, then closed, her head bouncing on her chest. Instantly asleep. Beside her, a sharply-dressed middle-aged Suit lowered his face for a mere second, nodded off immediately.
Looking around the commuter coach, the same scene was replayed but with different characters. Some commuters used earphones, inhaling relaxation music, I imagine, or perhaps listening to business-related data, hoping to absorb a fraction of info before falling asleep.
Study after study reveals the unhealthiest part of your work day is your commute, whether sandwiched in public transport---or sandwiched in traffic in a car---on the way to your job. Long commutes (60 minutes) affect your mental and physical wellbeing. Researchers point to rising blood sugar and cholesterol levels, an increase in stress, anxiety and depression. Plus your waistline adds inches. Presumably because of snacking more. Usually on unhealthy food.
And if you actually find a seat on a crowded subway, you may find a standing male’s pant zipper or a woman’s heaving breasts stuck inches from your face. And how unjust being forced to contend with the sitting-next-to-you stranger who emits an odour most foul! Or you could be squished like a sandwich while standing---physically closer than you’ve been with your partner for ages---no support needed--- on an overly-crowded bus.
Seems the first delightful discovery is living simply. Slower pace of life. Less pollution generally. Friendlier folks. Walking to the market. Stopping to smell the roses. Having once lived in an Ontario town, population 5,000, I got it.
So maybe I could have been one of those zoned-out zombies trying to keep constant deadlines, eating on the run, chronically tired, depressed, edging towards insanity. But by some good luck, I’m not.
My mother’s advice was sound: better be careful what you wish for.