On Saturday, I attended my friend’s bachelor party. It consisted of a Blue Jays game, dinner, and various stops at different establishments in between. A lot of fun was had by all in attendance and it’s a day I’ll never forget.
Now that you know that, I can start talking about why the title of this post is, “16,731 Steps”.
To get downtown for the baseball game, I take the subway. It’s a nice 40-minute ride underground, with over 15 stops. I’ve done it so many times in my life, I know what to expect with each station.
This one will smell like Cinnabon. This one will have a mob of people waiting to come on. This one will be outside and there will be eight people or less. This one has a Starbucks across the street. This one has images of the Montreal Canadiens on the wall.
The plan was to meet everyone else downtown at 2:00PM for the baseball game that starts at 3:07PM. I get on the subway just before 1:20PM; I’ll be right on time, if not a few minutes early.
This was my first time on the subway since about two weeks before the world shut down in 2020. And on that ride, I remember seeing one person wearing a mask and thinking it was strange. Was that really necessary?
Turns out, they were ahead of the curve.
So, I’m on the subway, looking around as all passengers tend to do. I have a drawstring backpack with me, to hold a water bottle, glasses cases, a jacket for later, and other things.
The guy sitting across from me has ear buds in and a large note pad of paper, on which he is writing furiously. Is he writing a book? An essay? A very detailed grocery list?
I wanted to know.
Then it made me think that if someone ever wanted to write a TV show, where riding the subway was a prominent activity, then maybe they’d spend their days riding the subway, just so they’re right in the thick of it.
Maybe passengers would recognize them every day and learn why they’re always there.
“Oh, just writing a television show.”
“Oh yeah? Maybe I’ll watch it sometime. Hehehe (exit on the left).”
The whole story would make for great late night talk show banter, if the show ever got popular.
“So, I hear you wrote every episode while riding the subway all day, every day. Is that true?”
That’s what was running through my head.
Until, the reckoning.
After six stops, a voice comes over the speaker.
“Due to a fire investigation between (Station A) and (Station B), this train will be out of service after (the stop two stations away).”
I put up my hands in front of me, as if to say, “now what am I supposed to do”, but not directed at anyone. It was just instinct.
The guy sitting across from me pulls out his ear buds and asks the man next to him, “Did you hear that?” The man relays the message. They commiserate.
At the next station – the penultimate stop – a girl gets on and stands by the door. I thought to myself, “in about 30 seconds, she’s going to find out this train only has one more stop.”
The doors close, the train pulls away from the station, and it happens.
The voice comes over the speaker once again and tells all of us that the next station would be the terminal station.
The girl squints her eyes as if she couldn’t believe what she just heard. She turns to look at the map and realizes the little red lights have been turned off for all future stations.
We get to the final stop and it’s everybody off.
I’ve been in situations like this before, except the closures have been pre-planned, so there are shuttle busses waiting outside. I knew that wouldn’t be the case this time because they didn’t have enough time to rally the busses over to where we were.
I imagined bus drivers getting phone calls, while they were out soaking their toes in their backyard pool. Reinforcements were not coming any time soon, if at all.
In this moment, you could either be a follower or a guinea pig. I decided to be a guinea pig.
It’s a station I’ve never been to before, but for some reason I decided I wasn’t going to hold back and follow where everyone else went. I was going to be the one to forge the path, find my way out of there, and beat the rush.
We all get to the “stairs or escalator” portion of the station and I take the stairs. Yes, I am the only one taking the stairs. I get to the top before almost everyone.
Guinea pig gonna guinea.
I am about 10 subway stops away from where I need to be. I need to make my next decision quickly because it’s just after 1:30PM and I’m supposed to be downtown in half an hour.
Needless to say, I am (barely) halfway there, livin’ on a prayer.
What would you do in this situation?
Call an Uber? That’s not really in my playbook.
Take the bus? Sure, maybe.
Walk? Would you walk? I walked.
Initially, I wasn’t sure which way to go, all I knew was if I walked straight long enough, I would eventually get to where I needed to be.
Based on a gut instinct, I hung a left outside the subway station and started walking. I figured I’d find a map on my phone as I went. You know, just pick out landmarks, or side streets that I could keep an eye out for as I was walking, so I knew it was the right way.
I took the old-school, trial-and-error approach to navigation, basically.
Besides, I knew the CN Tower would probably reveal itself to me at some point, and that would be my North Star.
If I saw it, I’d know I’d be going the right way. If I didn’t, it would be six more weeks of walking. No wait, that’s Groundhog Day. My bad.
If you’re ever in Toronto and want to know how to get downtown, just look for the tower. It’s becoming harder to find these days because of all the tall buildings, but it’s there.
After five minutes, I spotted the CN Tower. It was FAR. It was almost like a blurry image in the distance.
I’m going the right way and I’m booking it. I am speed-walking, as if I’m an Olympian who knows there’s a refreshments table just up ahead.
At some point, I switch from my glasses to sunglasses, at which time I drop the microfibre cloth, that permanently resides in my glasses case, on the sidewalk. It’s dead to me at that point. Five second rule be damned.
I throw it back in my bag and mutter words of negativity to myself.
Update: the microfibre cloth was washed (resurrected) when I got home and has returned to its regular duties.
Around 1:37PM, I receive a message that my friends missed their train and will arrive a half hour later. I was almost relieved to hear that because if we were still meeting at 2PM, I would’ve been so late I would’ve been free.
Yes, that’s a “30 minutes or it’s free” pizza joke.
So, that gave me time to walk.
There I am, walking down the sidewalk in a hat, sunglasses, and a mask (out of an abundance of caution). I am fogging up every 25 seconds and taking my sunglasses off to recover some vision.
I remember getting to certain streets and thinking, “I’m only HERE.”
About half an hour into my jaunt, I realized I was an idiot. I was walking on the sunny side of the road. The sidewalk on the other side was in the shade, so I crossed over.
As I passed by the subway stops that I should’ve been at a long time ago, I thought about going in and seeing if the subway was back up and running again. How long could a “fire investigation” take?
And why did it shut down five stops? Maybe that’s just protocol? Maybe it has something to do with the tracks and multiple lines converging at the same spot? Maybe the trains that were now out of service needed somewhere to go?
I’m not a train conductor, I just pretending I was one when I had Thomas the Tank Engine toys as a kid. Actually, no. I pretended the trains were a baseball team. That’s a story for another blog post.
Regardless, I figured that the risk of popping in to the subway stations, and finding out it was still closed, wasn’t worth the time I would waste.
I needed to get moving because I was still only…HERE?
By the time I eclipsed the stations where the closures were, I knew there were only about four stops left before I’d be where I needed to be. And I knew from experience, that the travel time between those stops was always a short one.
I didn’t really feel like paying another subway fare, just to ride the shortest stretch of stations. At this point, I had too much pride in what I was doing. Getting a ride would be admitting defeat. So, I kept walking.
Over the course of my walk, I was stopped by two strangers, at separate times.
Insert the “strangers always talk to me” blog post here. I actually wrote one, once. I just don’t feel like linking it.
Anyway, the first person to stop me was a man who asked, “Are the Blue Jays going to win today?” I told him, “I think so” and even added a thumbs up because visual aids always help, right?
He said, “It better not turn out like last night.” I agreed and kept going.
Spoiler: The Blue Jays lost 4-0.
The next person to stop me was a lady. She said, “Hi sir, excuse me, sorry to bother you, do you have a toonie or any change you can give me?”
A toonie is a two dollar coin, by the way.
No matter how old I get, being called “sir” will never feel normal.
I’m not sure what she needed the money for, but she seemed to be in a bit of a panic. I told her I didn’t have any change on me, which was a lie, and I still feel bad about it because Canadian Guilt is real.
However, I stand by my decision to lie just because you don’t know who’s around. You don’t know if this is an elaborate plot, orchestrated by multiple people, to have me pull out my wallet and help someone, only for someone else to swoop in and nab it out of my hand.
I had no reason to think she would do anything dastardly. She genuinely looked like she needed help and I was a friendly face…that was covered in a hat, glasses, and mask.
I’ve interacted with strangers before. I’ve given directions. I’ve taken their pamphlets and listened to their cause. I’ve chatted for 20 minutes. I’ve formed alliances with people in line. I’ve linked arms with an elderly lady to help her across the street.
People come up to me and I can’t help but help. Also, I’ve never been able to figure out where the, “Come talk to me” sign is hiding on my body. What is it about me?
All that being said, I’m not about to abruptly pull out my wallet on a busy sidewalk at the behest of anyone but myself. If I had a toonie loose in my pocket, I probably would’ve given it to her.
I didn’t. So, I’m sorry.
I get to a point in my walk where I’ve found a good rhythm. Stopping at crosswalks, waiting for the light to change, provides me with a chance to be still and just breathe. And as soon as it’s time to walk, I’m the first one in the group to the other side of the road.
I figure I’m about 15 minutes away, when my friends let me know they’re about 10 minutes away. Good, we’re going to arrive around the same time.
Finally, for the first time since the only time I saw the CN Tower, I can see it once again.
At this point, I’m about two minutes away from our meeting spot. I get there and within 20 seconds, my friends appear. Perfect timing. And now we can all walk to the stadium together.
My legs were burning, okay.
I looked at my watch and realized I walked for 1 hour and 5 minutes. When I got home, I looked up what the Google Maps walking distance was, to see if I was faster or slowly than their estimate.
The Google Maps estimate was 1 hour and 14 minutes. So, I crushed it. I’d probably be under an hour, if I didn’t have to stop at so many intersections.
After getting to the stadium and traversing the ramps to the upper deck, we got to our seats one minute before the first pitch. Just in time.
This was new for me. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved being in my seat as soon as possible. I enjoy being in an empty stadium and slowly watching the seats fill up.
I enjoy watching the grounds crew put down the lines of chalk, manicure the mound, and water the infield. It’s all a part of the experience.
However, after the travel hassles we all faced, I didn’t even care that I missed the pre-game activities. I was just glad I had somewhere to sit and a baseball game was happening in front of me.
I don’t care if you don’t care about hearing how many steps people take in a day, but I’m going to tell you anyway. By the time I sat in my seat, I was about 100 steps shy of 10,000.
And not to toot my own horn, but that was a fast 10,000. I wasn’t lollygagging down the street, taking my dear sweet time to smell all the scents Toronto has to offer.
By the end of the day, I was at 16,731 steps. Some of you may look at that number and say, “I’ve done more than that.” Honestly, I don’t really care. For me, that’s a lot of walking in one day. That’s a lot of walking for two days.
Sunday came, and so did the pain.
You know why they call it the “Gluteus Maximus”? It’s because your Gluteus will feel Maximus a day after you push your muscles to their limit.
By Sunday night, I was like a wobbly chair trying to stand up. I was like one of those creepy dolls that hangs from a mobile and has strings attached to its limbs. It can’t stand on its own without its legs flopping around.
By Monday night, the pain had extended down to my shins and feet. If I were a character in a wrestling video game, my body damage icon would be red from the waste down. Don’t bother putting me in another leg lock, the body damage icon cannot get any more red. Pin me now.
I’ll be fine. I am fine. Truthfully, I enjoyed all the walking. It was a curveball in my travel plans, sure, but my main concern was getting to my friends, and getting to the game, on time. I didn’t have time to be mad about the situation. I had to go.
I had so much fun that day. I haven’t had that much fun in a long time. It was sorely needed.
If you were wondering, I didn’t see a single bus over the course of my 1 hour and 5 minute walk. Then again, I wasn’t really looking for one.
My mindset was all about, who’s ahead of me on the sidewalk and how can I get by them. The entire walk was a long straightaway, so my DRS was open the whole time. I was on a mission.
DRS is a Formula 1 joke.
As I conclude this dramatic story, I must add one more piece of information.
After I met up with my friends, I finally got the idea to look up subway alerts on Twitter.
Get ready, you’re going to laugh.
The delay for the “fire investigation” lasted 15 minutes, before trains were back up and running as usual.
Have you ever been inconvenienced and had to walk somewhere you normally wouldn’t?