“Be good dawg!”
I watched the train doors close through my peripheral vision as I headed towards the platform escalators. I hadn’t seen Andre since my ‘sauga days, and it was good to finally catch up with the young cat. I wanted to purchase a few of his bootleg Canada’s Wonderland tickets just to support his hustle, but money was short. Nevertheless, it also good to know that if anything went down around my new house, I had a nearby link. I always knew he had some type of Scarborough connection, but didn’t know there were right in the ‘Vern until now. I squinted my eyes, blinded by the bright summer light as I reached the ground level of Leslie Station. I knew Ikea was within walking distance because I had looked it up online before. Sliding through the body-size turnstile, I proceeded to walk down a road identified by the street signs as Old Leslie Street. I could see Ikea in the near foreground, building confidence in my prior research. God knows I was eager for this. A mattress wasn’t the same without a bed frame. I noticed my back was beginning to stiffen throughout the week a work while leaning back in the semi-reclining chairs provided. This was a reminder that my bed frame purchase had to be done this weekend.
“At least the weather is nice. Thank God.” I mumbled to myself, realizing that my thoughts had just transpired into actual speech. Shane has offered me a ride back to Morningside Avenue, but I began to seriously consider undertaking the challenge of taking the six foot, hundred pound cardboard box on the TTC back home. I wasn’t sure yet. Approaching the entrance, a vibrant pedestrian traffic flow almost prevented me from entering the massive home decor store.
“What country is this store from?” I said, this time, containing the idea to a mental thought only. Looking at the bold presence of the colour blue along the walls of the front entrance, complimented by the strong, bright yellow shopping carts, I answered my own question within seconds.
Quickly grabbing a shopping cart, I strangely began to think about Sweden, more specifically, their transit system. Did they also have rapid transit outside their Ikea stores? And if so, were the routes used by a dense population? Or was it empty as empty as Andre and I had just experienced on the Sheppard Line? Frustrated with the uncertainty of the question, I still could not answer the bigger question: Why was I even thinking about that? Why did I even care? This was about the third month that I had been experiencing these “transit revelations” and by now, I needed to know its significance. It was happening too often for me to ignore. Forcing my mind to detach itself from the topic, I eagerly approached an Ikea sales associate and requested to be pointed in the direction of bed frames. I could feel the sweat being soaked up by the forehead brim of my retro Blue Jays fitted, but at the moment, was unconcerned. I needed to find the bed frame, checkout and see if I could set some transit history today. I had no idea if anyone ever brought such a large item on the subway before, but me being me, I was game for the challenge. Right then, my ears picked up on a word I had just said to myself in a conversation between a couple who has just passed me in Aisle 29, the aisle of bed frames.
“… and now fixing transit in Toronto? That’s a real challenge!”
The middle-aged, beer belly fellow was right. What I assumed to be his wife, gazed into his face, seemingly interested in his convo topic. As was I. Leaning down to a shelf closer to the end, I found the bed frame I had decided to buy when I browsed online a few nights before.
“MALM,” the sign read in bold, bubble lettering, hanging directly above the massive cardboard boxes. It was obvious that everything you needed to construct this bed frame was included in the package. It was too big to think otherwise. Crouching down, I leaned in and pulled the top box out of its container and atop my bright, yellow shopping cart. Looking at my Gold Rocawear watch, I knew I had to get back to the ‘Vern by 4:00pm, latest. Making a stern move towards the cash, I found myself cashed out and ready to leave within less than five minutes. Eager to head back and already deciding to opt out of the car ride offer from Shane, I took a minute to breathe before heaving the massive cardboard box between my arms. Crossing the parking lot, I began to attract some eyes as it became evident that I didn’t have a vehicle to put the bed frame in once my Sky Blue Air Max sneakers reached the sidewalk. Breathing slowly but consistently, my thoughts on how I was walking up Old Leslie Street was this enormous object was interrupted by the loud honking of what sounded like a school bus. Looking across the street, a miniature shuttle bus carrying what I recognized to be Ikea shoppers stopped and the front door opened.
“Looks like you could use a hand with that!”
The shuttle bus driver was pleased to wait as I sturdily jaywalked across the low traffic density road. Boarding the vehicle, I saw the subway station within about five hundred feet.
“I coulda made it…” I said ambiguously, realizing that I was more out of breath than had originally expected. In no time, the shuttle bus pulled up to the station and myself, along with the other shoppers exited the vehicle. Understanding that there was no possible way for me to fit the cardboard box through the turnstile, I walked in the direction of the TTC busway entrance, concluding that this was the only way for me to access the subway with my purchase. I happily walked around the “Danger. No Entry” sign, confident that the Metropass in my pocket could get me out of any conflict that could arise from my unique fare entry into the station. Glad to have reached the escalator, I thought of what means the shuttle bus could be used in, possibility providing neighbourhood access for residents.
“That would be dope.”
The thought resinated for a bit, before being distorted by the sound of the approaching train. Looking around, I was the only person on the platform. Granted it was 3:10pm on a Sunday afternoon, but still. Something had to change. And the more and more I thought about it, the more I knew I was going to have a big role in all of that.
An excerpt from A $mart Story (A.$.S) – Ch. 23: Summer Work Life