Brain Power

Eyes Sharpening

Posted on

Union Station Toronto ColumnsIt’s a gusty day, clouds billowing up on each other, stretching apart to reveal dark patches of blue sky and let the sunlight through. Once again this week, I’m standing on the sidewalk, against the wind, staring down down down the street, all the way to the third traffic light in the distance. Red red red green. Or is that the fourth traffic light I can see to?

How is this happening? Seeing more depthlike depth in distance objects was weird. And wonderful. Seeing the whole of a computer display in one go was oh so nice. But now with another new improvement, I’m boggling. How is this possible?

My brain is adapting. A bit unsteady at sudden moments. Back to staring and taking in buildings, people, signs, colour nuances on the Royal York hotel stones, details in bricks, Union Station’s warmth and richness of colour, before I can feel my brain release and I can continue to walk.

Brain Biofeedback

Vision Update: Seeing Farther

Posted on

Photos of new streetcar door jambs and enormous windows.Brief vision update here. I don’t want to jinx it, but for the last couple of weeks, my far-distance and panoramic vision seem to have stabilized. Does this mean my brain has stopped trying to shut down the firehose of new visual information that the surgery turned on? Does this mean it has ceded the battle and is coming to terms with both eyes working together and feeding more efficient data to the visual cortex?

My depth perception is still being integrated. I’ve discovered that reciting to myself over and over “integrate” as I step down each step actually integrates my proprioception (sensory information from my feet) and perception (sensory information from my eyes) and makes stepping down and knowing where I am on the staircase much much easier. Huh. This week I got to the landing and knew it without having to stop and check my feet and feel unsteady until I did. W00t!

I’m slowly adapting to the new streetcars. Because of the TTC’s systemic bias, they have created door jambs that have yellow paint not at the outside edge but behind the black bumper. Only the accessible door has no black bumper; still, the slope down and gradual grey edge makes it difficult for my brain to perceive what is streetcar and what is pavement. And for some reason, it’s also more difficult to discern how high the step is when getting on. The old streetcars with their white-painted edges are easier to step up into, though it’s still more challenging than regular stairs . . . maybe because they’re steep??

Anyway, I bang my cane down on the surface I want to step on to, and that tells my brain where my foot goes.

The large windows and sloping floor (why oh why did the streetcar designers think sloping floors are safe on a moving vehicle‽) can induce nausea in anyone, I’ve learnt. I suggested to a friend with a perfectly healthy brain that she sit in the accessible car where the floor is flat. Nausea solved for her. But for me, it’s the large moving landscape visible outside the enormous windows. I’m assuming this moving-scenery-induced nausea/dizzy will ease over time, and I’m seated anyway, so I won’t fall.

I was starting to get quite stressed over the thought that my new vision would reverse and my brain would revert to “default.” I’m heartened that the brain biofeedback, and perhaps the increased light levels on my audiovisual entrainment device to stimulate the retina, are enforcing the new vision.

News

Going to the CNIB, Talking Vision and Brain Injury

Posted on

Accessible Pedestrian SignalWhen the Executive Director (ED) of BIST invited me to attend a meeting with the CNIB, I said yes. But I had no idea what I was saying yes to, other than getting to talk about vision and brain injury. I also didn’t really pay attention to how many people I’d be talking to. So when I spied through the door long tables in a large squarish pattern filled with people, my eyes grew large. Melissa, the ED, asked if I’d be OK. Uh, yeah. She and the CNIB had kindly set back the meeting so I wouldn’t have to get there at the crack of the working day. I’ve begun getting more stringent with sleep time since I’ve learnt Alzheimer’s is related to lack of sleep. I also can no longer tolerate dragging myself to places every week because I had to wake up early enough to get out on time. Brain injury screws up actual time asleep. The longer in bed, the better chance of getting something on the right side of six hours. Anywho.

We were given seats in the middle front to face the group, and I could see all of them equally well. This might have been the first time where I didn’t think about where to sit so as to accommodate missing peripheral vision — because I’m much more used to having it. Sweet.

Melissa had asked me to go first, and she’d end our presentation with info on BIST (Brain Injury Society of Toronto). I hadn’t planned anything. No clue what to speak on. Didn’t faze me because I learnt a long time ago that brain injury had given me the gift of speaking off the cuff and doing a pretty good job of it. I usually do write up a few notes on virtual cards, then don’t look at them at all because I can’t read and speak at the same time. But between the Olympics and stressors, I didn’t even think about it. As it turned out, my subconscious had been dying to speak to a captive audience. My vision story, the things I learned, needing advocacy and better design and maintenance of Toronto’s accessibility features like Accessible Pedestrian Signals, the anxiety of people injured in a car crash when walking near traffic, all flowed out in one long uninterrupted stream. Even feeling my energy seeping down and out my toes didn’t stop the flow of words. So weird.

The organizer began the presentation with having everyone introduce themselves including the two disembodied voices over the conference phone. It was so rapid, my brain was like, uhhh, I’m supposed to keep up with that? So before I began, I asked who was there, meaning what do people do. There were three groups. As I recall, orientation mobility trainers, low vision specialists (one of whom had a quiet guide dog in training, we all had to resist petting him), independent living including technology (oh, hmmm, mustn’t forget to talk on that), and early intervention for children. I couldn’t speak to the latter, but it gave me somewhere to start since I’d been half-blind since early childhood, and I could talk about how that was my identity and how brain injury began to restore my vision and how getting back my vision was initially not so hot.

They let me talk for a long time. My waning energy told me of passing time, but no one seemed inclined to stop my flow. They asked a few questions, which I was able to answer.

I felt valued, normal, like I had information and experience to share that was legitimate and valued. Maybe this sounds a bit strange to you, but after brain injury, this sort of thing becomes rare to the point that you wonder what’s the point of all the hell, of all the learning to get out of hell, if the only one to benefit is you. And you’re also in this strange place where people treat you with respect, listen kindly, yet don’t include you. And people who know me never call or email me when someone they love is concussed or has a stroke, as if my knowledge and experience is, as if as a person with brain injury I don’t know what I’m talking about because . . . injury.

One thing that really surprised me is that I had remembered to talk about technology and how health care workers need to know more than basics and more than clients know about devices and apps. For example, let’s not think of smartphone as just a phone and thing to text on, but a device that has apps that facilitate our work. For me, that’s writing, and I have three apps for that. I described them as concrete examples help better than simply abstract statements.

After my talk, one person asked my advice about technology. I can’t recall the specific question, but I watched her take notes as I spoke and was blown away. Usually, I get nods and zero interest. Rarely, see note taking and so many notes too throughout my talk and the following Q&A.

Most of the people there were women. No surprise as men aren’t as prevalent in health care professions outside of physician as they ought to be.

As time goes on and as I care less and less about people liking me, I’m becoming more vocal in calling standard medical care of brain injury as medical malpractice. Even so, it’s one thing to say that to someone I know, it’s another to say that to a group of health care professionals. I was surprised to hear that come out of my mouth, but I don’t regret it. During the Healing the Brain conference, Dr. Norman Doidge expressed frustration with physicians and health care professionals eschewing neuroplastic treatments as if these kind of individualized treatments lacked evidence and were some sort of scam. I felt validated hearing him express that; yet he hasn’t suffered as a result of such attitudes.

I have.

Greatly.

I’m permanently injured because neurorehab doesn’t include it and because they misleadingly call compensating strategies “cognitive therapy.” Oh please. And the government won’t fund community care for people with brain injury. They keep cutting and cutting (and paying their administrators more and more). I don’t have the social support to compensate for lack of community care — and I’m not alone in that. I also didn’t have anyone working with me in my brain injury treatment homework; I still to this day have to rely on my health care professionals to keep my brain active so that I can benefit from the treatments I continue to receive. No wonder my neurodoc opines that “few would do what you do.” It’s a demoralizing, shitload of work, and I’ve gotten so tired after eighteen years of this, I’ve quit a lot of it myself.

So going to the CNIB, seeing people genuinely interested in what I have to say, asking me questions and writing down my answers was what my soul needed.

My brain needed coffee after! With a shot of chocolate, of course!!

Brain Power

Adventures in Brain Injury: Training Vision in the Winter Light

Posted on

Winter sunlight on the waterWinter light is not the same as summer sunlight. You’d think after practicing walking — seeing, perceiving with both eyes and feet together, learning where I am in space — during strong and long summer sunlight hours, I’d have no trouble in the winter. Nope.

It isn’t just the snow.

The sunlight is sharp, throwing long rays through polarized sunglasses. Bare trees cast patterns of shadow and blazing light in a repeating rhythm as you walk. No matter the hour, the low sun sends photons into your eyes instead of down to the top of your head. And white, gleaming snow reflects it back up.

My brain remembers how my scarred eye used to shut and, in its diabolical plan to return my vision to what it was used to, tries to convince my eye it still doesn’t like the light. I have to fight to perceive that its light tolerance has improved, except when looking extremely sideways to the left. Even when back indoors, my brain is like, hey, it didn’t like the light so let’s shut it against inside light too! Grrr. It doesn’t help my good eye is sensitive to the light as well. (Yes, before my brain injury and eye surgery, I’d walk familiar routes with eyes shut on bright winter days.)

My CNIB guy suggested I get the sunglasses with the top and side panels. That way sun rays can’t sneak around the frame edges. Old people glasses, I think. But then he’s way younger than me and his pair not only has the panels but also sit over his glasses. Then I noticed the baby boomer generation growing older means seeing others my age wearing them too and looking not old, looking chic. But where do you get them?

Brain Biofeedback

Week Two Enhance Gamma and Inhibit Beta to Heal Injury

Posted on

Week two of new double protocol. First comes gamma then comes, uh, goes beta. I came in to week two with emotional stress, grief touched off by neurodoc. Because he’s got nothing better to do than sodden my fibres with emotional stress exhaustion. Anywho. The coming change of seasons will be affecting me soon too, and may already be upping my fatigue like it’s wont to do.

Last week, my heart was not as smooth during HRV as it was the previous couple of weeks. Peachy. And my heart rate was back in the triple digits. Peachier. But it came down and stayed down in the 90s. Awesome.

My EMG was below 2uV for the whole of gamma CZ training and above 2 during PZ assessment only. This is nice. The lower the EMG (muscle tension), the better the training.

I’d forgotten to send my brain trainer the changes I’d blogged on from the first week’s training of the new protocol. But I caught her up. I was so busy trying to remember all the good stuff for her, I totally forgot about the nausea that came on during my first PZ training. I remembered in a hurry the moment she clicked Record. The indicators became live, the virtual triplane sat on its island waiting to climb into the sky, and nausea slammed into me. Barf. No, no, not literally. But the strange feeling of brain not being stable in my skull as I began my first neurofeedback screen at PZ again almost made me call a halt. But I reminded myself that it faded last time. It did this time too. And quicker. Phew. My bad eye got a workout, though not as bad as the first week.

While she was setting the thresholds for training the different frequencies, I chatted a bit about emotional shit. I got a tad sarcastic. She said sarcasm is anger expressed in a positive way, with a humour spin. My heart rate agreed sarcasm was good. It dropped right after.

The second neurofeedback screen, which replaced inhibiting 16-20 Hz with inhibiting EMG, was as easy as last week and sort of made my head feel light again. But this week, there was an almighty pressure around my head especially my temples. I got bored. I’m going to try and figure out a way to sneak reading in to this second screen. The third neurofeedback screen had the same parameters as the first – inhibit 16-20 HZ, inhibit busy brain of 24-28 Hz, and enhance SMR at 12-15 Hz. She ran it for 3.5 minutes. Right at the three-minute mark, the colours on the computer display intensified. The yellow of the sailboat race screen became very very yellow. The fluorescent pink eye-popping. The digits marking out the time sharpened to incredible clarity. Last week, these changes happened right after screen one. But at least this week, it happened before training ended!

I was kaput after training, so much so, I just sat for a few minutes. No uptick in energy though my mind was less round and round hamster wheel like.

No problem with playing music this week, but nausea rose pretty bad about 1.5 hours after training. Just wanted to lie on the couch at home but still had to get through the TTC. Ugh.

Stairs were slow and careful while looking ahead as usual. But instead of feeling unsteady and having to look at my feet two steps from the bottom, I only had to look one step from the bottom and didn’t feel dangerously unsteady.

That strange head turning started infrequently right after training then happened more and more. Able to cross intersections looking both ways and ahead and crossing in real time sans having to slow down, consciously look and deliberately tell myself what I saw and whether I can go or not. Automaticity is so much easier! Head straightening began about two hours after.

About 2.5 hours after, awareness increased. I’d already been able to walk looking into the distance. Bad eye felt worked with that and nausea rose but my brain could take in that amount of information and allow me to walk steadily. Perception or awareness widened after that.

That night I slept better, but except for being ready to head out well in time and my head turning easier and more naturally, all the rest of the effects pretty much disappeared. Sigh.

After the new treatment, I also had one regression: I couldn’t seem to visually comprehend old streetcar steps, going up or down them. I didn’t even attempt entering the new streetcars. Shudder

Brain Power

Fording Union Station for TTC Presto Card

Posted on

I haven’t updated on the recovery-from-eye-surgery front in awhile. Here’s one.

The first week of May, I had to go to the GO area in Union Station to buy a Presto card for the TTC. Why? Because the TTC in its disability-and-poverty-and-non-online-people hating wisdom, haven’t installed machines that take cash. At their in-station Gateways, you can buy with cash a $20 preloaded card – $14 for fares, $6 for card fee. But you can’t reload them at Gateways or their in-station machines with cash. You MUST have a debit or credit card. People use cash for a myriad of reasons, and those who are on the strictest budgets will probably use the TTC over cars and use cash only. But better not to fill all that vast space in their subway station entrances with a large, white Presto machine that takes cash. Much better to hide the tiny card-only green ones in far corners and force us to travel far and into the under-perpetual-construction Union Station GO area. (GO is government of Ontario regional public transit.)


Aside from the problem of getting lost when you have a brain injury, it’s an unnecessarily imperilling and exhausting journey.

Luckily my CNIB orientation mobility trainer knew the way and the station renovators had thoughtfully placed elegant benches here and there. My head felt like it was under pressure. The further we walked, the greater the forces of information overload pushed till I felt like my cranium was being crushed.

I wasn’t ready to enter the busy hub of local, regional, and long-distance rail travel. But the TTC in its quest to be a beacon of accessibility changed one of the subway entrances I use to Presto only, and I only have cash these days. So . . .

The machine was easy to use — because my trainer guided me. I think under normal circumstances, I could’ve figured it out on my own. But then I realized with horror: every time I have to reload this card, I have to come back here!

I can’t on my own!!


The TTC really doesn’t like creating a system that facilitates independence does it? Where is our Mayor? Where is the Ontario Human Rights Commission? Where is the Ontario government to rap their knuckles and inform them that like the London Underground, they must put the Presto machines that take both cash and cards in to every station?

Books

Writing with CCAC Therapists: A Concussion Is Brain Injury Update

Posted on

I’m partway into my 6-week sortie to the past, writing my Concussion Is Brain Injury update. During the early weeks of my recovery from eye surgery, I drew a new outline. Over the months, as my eyes were able to perceive text on the iPhone then wider high-resolution iPad in portrait mode, I put it into Scrivener, copied chapters from the original Concussion Is Brain Injury and moved, merged, cut them. But the surgery did something to my writing too. My neurodoc agreed: it was simplistic, he said. I felt like all the colour of my writing had been flattened into grey, with my words grinding out slowly. During NaNoWriMo, the long fingers of the surgery and general anesthesia loosened their grip on my writing; my creativity began to re-inflate.

But my chapters were still disorganized, my writing wasn’t back with all its colourful speed. I wasn’t able to read what I’d written, although I was reading my old chapters with my mother as a way to recall what I’d written back in 2012 as well as to practice reading.

Reading! Pfft. It’s always practice practice practice. Trying to get it back. But I digress.

My neurodoc wrote CCAC last Fall, telling them I needed help. I’m not sure how many weeks it took him to write the referring letter or how many his secretary spent trying to get them to acknowledge and respond. But I finally had a meeting with the Clinical Director and the sole Toronto-area Care Co-ordinator for brain injury — the only one left because that’s how community care for ABI rolls under Premier Wynne’s vaunted funding increase. Let’s cut what’s already too little. But I digress.

We waited until I’d completed Cogmed, gave me some time to recover and then chose the right behavioural therapist for me. They asked me for if I preferred the behavioural therapist assistant to be female. I didn’t care. Apparently women prefer other women for creative work. Maybe because I’ve often been mistaken for a guy (not in person at least!) and I was brought up in a culture of true equality, it doesn’t matter to me. Then I blurted out, well, not a white male. Me and white male health professionals seem to lock heads. That got a laugh! Nope. He’ll be Indian. Oh cool. My people!

Not really; more like the people of my childhood turning up in my life decades later in Canada. Anyone with Zoroastrian relatives is really my people — culturally. But Indian is close enough. Canada and Canadians in all their multiple glories is where I belong though. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Paradise is what we immigrants call it. But I digress.

In case it’s not clear, I’ve gone from post-surgery fractured memory that sealed itself back up to wandering, distracted focus. I think that reflects the heavy cognitive toll of writing my book’s update.

Anyway, the BT and BTA (don’t you love health care acronyms?!) have been coming to my home three times a week between them for 1.5-3 hours at a time. I wasn’t sure I’d have the mental stamina to work 3 hours straight. But Cogmed seems to have increased it incredibly. Yeah, my brain hurts, my thoughts grind to a stop, but I also learnt during Cogmed that yoghurt with nuts, fruit, chocolate mix and a few minutes rest recharge me enough to keep going to the end. Then I could really rest! Star Trek: Voyager FTW!!

So what do they do? The BT broke my book’s sections down into a schedule and divided them between her and the BTA. She talks to me about how to approach the book and helps me with the tough chapters from a clinical perspective. She gives me the courage to write and the permission to rest a couple of days. And she kicks my butt by giving me accountability for getting my word count down (which keeps going up, down, up, down. Argh!). She’s also giving me outline homework because I keep forgetting to update the outline as I go along.

The BTA sits beside me with my manuscript on his laptop and I with it in Scrivener on my iPad, and we read silently together what I’ve written. Without him there, I can’t initiate to read. I notice what I need to cut; he asks me if something belongs or discusses with me an idea until I understand what I want to say. He also gently tells me I need to focus on one chapter a time and how to note down things I come across for other chapters without leaving the one I’m working on and go haring off in a different direction. He’s reminding me to stay focused.

We go through my brain injury-related likes in Twitter together. At first, he simply emailed me the ones we’d decided were relevant to my book so they’d be in my inbox, ready to be read and incorporated. Then he noticed I wasn’t doing anything with them. That reading and organizing thing was getting in the way.

So he made me go through each one plus new ones, as many as we could get through in 3 hours, had me read or watch enough to know which chapter it belongs in then stick the link in the chapter’s Notes section in Scrivener. Now all I gotta do is incorporate!

This is absolutely amazing. Without them, my book would still be chaotic and not as well written. It probably would still be staring at me, going, well, are you going to finish writing my update?

With them, I have a submission-to-my-editor deadline, I’m writing regularly, I’ve gone through my bookmarked research links, and begun checking out images for my cover. I wish I had them until the book is published. But I feel lucky and grateful and excited I have them for the toughest part: the writing.

Brain Power

TTC CEO Byford: No Stop Request Buttons for Seniors or Disabled on Bombardier Streetcars

Posted on

I’m recovering from eye surgery while still in my decades-long brain injury recovery. I have a CNIB orientation mobility trainer teaching me how to navigate the streets and TTC with my new vision. It’s harder than you’d think. The TTC is making it traumatic.

I don’t exaggerate.

Independence is fundamental to a purposeful existence, necessary for being fully functional in society. That’s why major transit systems have made their subways and buses accessible. Unfortunately, I live in Toronto where the TTC has to be dragged into doing it while we have to put up with their rationalizing BS contradicting their claims of wanting to be a beacon of accessibility to the world.

Because my brain is relearning how to see and vision is involved in balance, I can’t stand up right now while a vehicle is moving without being nauseated and dizzy. I must wait until the bus/subway/streetcar gets to my stop. And so I must be able to request a stop while still seated. Should be simple, eh? Ha!

I’ve managed to ride a bus on my own. Helps they have low floors, priority seats, highly visible poles, and stop request buttons on every pole next to priority seats. I can request a stop while seated.


I’ve learnt how to ride the subway between some stations. Priority seats are right next to the doors. Train stops, grab pole, hang on while getting off, regroup against the wall, then exit.

I’ve been trained on the old streetcars. But there’s a major problem. I can’t request a stop on my own. So I can’t ride a streetcar by myself until I have confidence in my balance and not feeling like I’ll throw up. I must not only stand up but also stretch up to pull the cord to request a stop. Well, OK. They’ve been in service decades so can’t expect to be accessible — except they were supposed to be. The TTC reneged; no one knew until they arrived in service.

But the new streetcars are accessible! Right? The media have trumpeted the TTC’s PR, done those cool tours. Have to be!

Have you ridden one yet?

I can’t request a stop while seated. I must stand up AND walk. I don’t know what’s worse: stretching to reach the pull cord while leaning on the seat or using my cane to pull the cord and hope I won’t conk anyone or walking across the aisle or standing, hanging onto a pole, walking around the pole, and reaching for the door button. With the cord in the old streetcars, I can sit down. In new ones, I’ll have to remain standing. Cognitive fatigue eats me with every movement too, just to complicate things. Fatigue makes it harder to navigate people on the street and TTC. Wonderful.

So I wrote CEO Andy Byford. He talks to customers, is totally into customer service. If he knew, he’d rectify it, right? After all, we’re customers too. And we’re the kind who clog up Wheel-Trans. He wants to be a beacon; he wants us off Wheel-Trans and onto the main system to ease the financial burden in our provincially underfunded system.

I wrote briefly since he’s a busy man:

“Dear CEO Byford,

I have a brief question: the priority seats in the new Bombardier streetcars have no stop request buttons on the poles next to them. There are also no priority seats within speaking distance of the driver. As a result, people who cannot stand while the streetcar is in motion cannot request a stop. How quickly are you intending to rectify this serious accessibility situation?

Best regards,”

I received his reply Monday morning:

“Dear Ms Jeejeebhoy

The design of the new streetcar went through extensive consultation, including detailed review with our Advisory Committee for Accessible Transit (ACAT).

These reviews led to the finalized design that is in service today.

While I appreciate that we cannot please everyone, experience to date and the fact that we involved ACAT in the design tells me that we achieved the right balance.

We will keep this under review but there are no plans for a retrofit.

Regards

Andy Byford”

After I managed to pull myself out of the puddle I’d become reading that there’s to be no relief ever — trying to write my book Concussion Is Brain Injury while healing my brain while relearning how to see, perceive, walk, and navigate the TTC while my writing disappeared then is reappearing gradually with the visual changes, getting this kind of reply is despairing to put it mildly. My rehab plate is too full to deal with a system that makes life tougher than it needs to be. After I experienced the true accessible system — London, England’s — I know what a profound difference it makes to functionality and mental health.

I have a few pithy comments.

ACAT is either incompetent or a bunch of boot lickers to miss such a fucking obvious accessibility feature and to not at the very least call for the same accessibility features on the buses as a place to start accessible design from. Not regress from!

“Cannot please everyone”?! Seriously?!! Requesting a stop is basic functionality. TTC buses allow everyone to do it. London U.K.buses have special request buttons for those in priority areas so the driver knows to let them off before allowing people on. It’s awesome to see! But TTC streetcars decide only people who can balance are allowed to request a stop? And my desire to request a stop is what? Being ridiculously over the top? Asking for special treatment?

And as for “balance” . . . Balance with what?!! Money??? Oh sorry, but having people with balance and visual issues being able to request their own stop all on their own is a tad too expensive?! Those people should have to ask or just fall over or throw up because, really, imagine if they had that kind of independence on our shiny new streetcars that are so late, we can easily retrofit them now? Next, disabled people and seniors would be demanding the TTC paint the poles yellow like on the buses so they won’t bump into them or miss as they attempt to grab them.

I mean, really, the disabled are getting too big for their britches demanding stop request buttons that work for everyone.

I’m going to get some cake now.

(And having written all the above in one flow in that style, I feel like my writing is returning to pre-eye surgery. What a fucking relief!!!)

Brain Power

Returning to the Subway after Eye Surgery

Posted on

After an extended Christmas-and-Cogmed break, I’m back to orientation mobility training with my CNIB guy and weekly practice stints with my Vision Mate.

My eye surgeon saw me for the last time last week and explained I had to keep exercising my peripheral vision (seeing everything all at once) and eye tracking (moving eyes from one thing to another in narrow focus) to retain what the surgery had given me. And he also explained that motion — me moving while other people and/or objects are moving including rain — will be the last thing my brain will adapt to, motion being the hardest to perceive. I thought of how the subways are a massive moving challenge to my eyes and brain.

The roads in Toronto are getting so bad, I’m starting to get squirrelly about riding on buses. Don’t like my brain being shaken up. So it’s time to bite the bullet and relearn how to ride all the underground rails. Going a few stops in one direction is one thing; going several stops and having to transfer from one line to another is scary shit. Yonge-Bloor with its overcrowded Yonge platform is fucking terrifying. Governments and the TTC said they would expand that platform after they expanded the Bloor station platform.

They didn’t.

And over the decades, the crowds just keep on growing. I want to know how many people have been horribly injured or died falling off that too-narrow platform!

Given my current state, I’m giving that transfer station a wide berth. I won’t even get off there to get up to Yonge Street. So that leaves two alternatives:

  1. Spadina where the Toronto-hating-let’s-kill-off-the-golden-goose Ontario government starved the TTC of needed funds to the point that they ripped out the walkway — one of the features that made the TTC a beacon of public transit around the world. Gee, I wonder why it isn’t that beacon anymore? The TTC put in benches as if that could make walking easier. I can’t handle that long a walk.
  2. St. George where the lines run parallel to each other, one under the other. Lots of stairs but not much walking.

St George it is!

How do I get on the train, I asked my trainer when we arrived on the platform.

He laughed: you know how to get on.

Yeah, but . . . I stared at all the people. My brain went: urp.

Here, he said, go here. And he guided me to a place where fewer people stood and I had a clear line of sight to where the train would stop. Phew.

Next question: where are the priority seats? How do I get to one before the train moves and I get suddenly nauseated from standing while moving, especially if my back happens to be towards the front of the train? Not easy to answer. Look for the blue lights. But not all the blues are lit. Sometimes you just gotta ask someone to give up their seat super quick. And memorize where to stand on every platform to have the doors next to the priority seats open before you. Bleah. 

Subway trains and St George station needless to say are filled with movement. But not as much as Yonge-Bloor. And staying out of even the edge of rush hour helps cut down on the stimulation of movement.

One has to relearn some time, right? And at least the subway won’t rattle my brain like the bus bouncing and banging over potholes and wriggling cracks and pounded dents in Toronto’s crumbling roads.