A Stranger in Burlington

Burlington GO station is a disaster area. It’s under construction, so half an acre of structures and lands directly outside the train tracks is fenced off and full of rubble. Entering and leaving the track platforms involves hiking long distances down the tracks to one of five different exits, none of which connect to each other in any way. One exit even leads to a construction fence with no way to go any farther. The other four exits lead in four different compass directions to parking lots and woody wilderness. There is no sign of civilization anywhere nearby.

When my GO Bus arrived at the station, I had gone one and three-quarter hours without water, and badly needed some. Luckily, there was still a good half-hour to go before I’d be due to board the train, so I went into the station in search of water. I canvassed the entire huge place without finding so much as a drop of water. All I found was one lonely vending machine that was supposed to dispense bottles of soda, but took my money and did not dispense anything. By that time I was starting to get pain in my throat and esophagus from thirst. I had no choice but to leave the station and go out into the street in search of water.

I chose the exit that led to Fairview Street…eventually. First, I had to spend more than ten minutes crossing a huge parking lot that accommodated more than 10,000 vehicles. These vehicles belonged to commuters who drove at home in Burlington but took the GO Train to downtown Toronto for work. I heard the train pull into the station behind me and pull back out again while I was still crossing the parking lot. Eventually, I made it out onto Fairview.

I didn’t know anything about Burlington, so I randomly chose to turn left and walk on Fairview in that direction. It was at least the same way my train was headed. Burlington is hostile to people who walk. The blocks are four football fields long, the sidewalks randomly disappear on one side of the street or the other, and the odysseic street crossings require you to lean on a walk-permission button for ten minutes before the don’t-walk signal turns off, and then it takes you more than a full minute just barely to get across the street before the light changes. I walked fruitlessly for more than half an hour and was developing a thirst-cough by the time I found a Wendy’s where I could gulp down some cola. That gave me an appetite, so I then got a burger and fries and another drink.

While eating, I asked myself whether I wanted to go back to the desolate Burlington GO Station to wait for the next train. They are once an hour, so I’d very likely just miss it and have to spend a full hour sitting around in that disaster zone. I’d also be walking in the opposite direction to the one in which I wanted to travel. So I decided instead to continue the opposite way toward Appleby GO. It would be a longer walk, but at least I’d be headed in the right direction and might not be forced to die of thirst.

Along the way I saw bus stop signs, but someone standing at a stop told me that the next bus was in forty-five minutes and would arrive at Appleby around the same time as I got there on foot. I weighed the option of standing there passively near the doors of a huge shoe factory, but decided to keep walking instead.

I began to overheat, as I had dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and the temperature was hitting 85 Fahrenheit. In my little Roots bag I had a souvenir T-shirt and shorts I could put on instead if I had some place to do so. I managed to find a Mr. Sub outlet where I tried to buy a coffee so I could use their washroom to change, but their cofee machine had been broken for more than a week. Instead I bought a bottle of water, changed in the washroom, and continued on.

I reached Appleby Line close to two and a half hours after I had last been at Burlington GO. A lady on a laptop in Starbucks told me exactly where it was, so I got on the train, and the rest of the trip was completely uneventful. So here I am.

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