It’s a quarter past 9 in the evening. I’ve just arrived from my office, which I departed from at not too bad a time: 6 PM. My commute on the TTC subway and bus from work to home, which typically takes an hour and a half, has taken me three hours. For that amount of transit time, I probably could’ve paid my good friend maplealmond a visit in Kitchener. But I don’t live in Kitchener. I live near Finch and Islington.

My subway ride was smooth as usual. Having left the office later, the subway cars were not as crowded and almost halfway through the trip I managed to snag a seat and sit comfortably for the rest of the stops leading up to the north end of the Yonge line, Finch station.

This is where the fun begins.

A large crowd waits for 36 buses at Finch Station on the Yonge line

I reach the top of the three sets of stairs that lead from the subway platform to the bus platform. Then I move through a set of double doors to my left leading outside. The picture above fails to show the full magnitude of the crowd of people that I had to squeeze through to get to the location from which I shot it. The two lines of people that usually form for the 36 Finch West buses both curve in the same direction and run parallel to each other on the other side of the platform.

At this point, I know I’m in for a long wait in the cold and I’m visibly anxious. I watch all the buses that pass by.

Out of service. Out of service. 60. Another 60. 36C (to Jane, not far enough for me). Another 36C. A 36D (Weston, still not quite far enough). Out of service sign that switches to DETOUR ON ROUTE (wait, what?). Another 60…

As the 36’s stop to pick up people, I start to move closer and closer to the front of the line. But my bus is still to arrive. About an hour passes. I make fists with my hands to keep them a bit warmer. My feet hurt I am shivering. I continue to wait, wondering if maybe there was a detour on Finch West causing delays in getting buses back to the station.

Finally, a 36B. This one will go all the way down to Humberwood, well past where I need to get off. I’m close to the back door and desperate to get out of the cold. As we file onto the bus, I feel an unpleasant sensation between my shoulder blades: I’m being pushed from behind. Another passenger turns to yell at the man behind her, demanding to know why he’s pushing her. Clearly, the people behind us are as desperate to get on the bus as we are and considerably less polite about it.

The bus is packed as tight as a sardine can. The driver tells riders at the front door that he has no more room and that another bus is behind him; he doesn’t know if it is another B. The back door is particularly crowded. The riders there exit the bus and re-enter, playing a precarious game of human Tetris (no, not that human Tetris) against the two bars that trigger the door to open at stops. The driver tells people to try entering via the back door. Each time he does, the passengers near the back door groan.

We pass by the major stops: Dufferin, Bathurst. The bus is still roughly as packed as it began.

At Keele, a person further to the front squeezes past me to get to the back door. As he passes by, the messenger bag that is hanging on my right shoulder is pushed behind me and lifted way up. Finally, he manages to break through and exit the bus.

Not until Weston do enough people clear out to give me some space to breathe. There are still no seats however; I’ve been standing the whole time.

Now I’m home, quite irritated and wondering why my usual commute had suddenly doubled in length. TTC’s official Twitter feed for service notices says nothing about it. It reminded me of a customer service tip that might be useful to the TTC: perception matters.

Even if you’re doing the best you can, if that’s not what it looks like to your customers, you have lost them. That’s why the photo of the sleeping fare collector caused such a stir in the community. We now pay more than ever for each ride, including Metropass holders, and we want to see the return on that investment.