Like leadership debates and Black Friday sales, commuter delays can bring out the worst in people.
Yesterday, the Toronto subway was closed between St. Clair and Lawrence as many people were making their way home from work. Chaos soon ensued and people were frantically piling on shuttle buses, hailing taxis, or vying for Uber and Lyft rides. There were arguments, people banging on bus windows and standing dangerously close to moving buses. In other words, a typical scene when a TTC subway shuts down.
People driving cars confronted worse than usual traffic congestion. I witnessed two men getting out of their respective cars to face each other in the middle of the street, swearing at each other, angrily waving their arms. Happily, they didn’t fight.
In these circumstances, when people are stressed and edgy, wanting to get home, late for appointments or family commitments, assaults can readily occur.
Avoidance is the best self-defense. Here are some general tips to be safe in times of commuter rage.
Don’t engage in car rage. With traffic congestion comes impatience, stress, anger. Drivers are more apt to disregard traffic rules and aim their frustration at other drivers. Don’t engage. If someone “gives you the finger”, yells at you, leans on their horn, etc.. don’t engage. Certainly, don’t get out of your car to confront them!
Have a backup plan. Subways sometimes shut down at the most inconvenient time possible. If you are within a viable walking distance walk. The key here is to travel light and wear decent footwear. Yesterday, I suspect, was a good day for Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers. Have your commuter apps ready! Also, explore alternative transit routes. Toronto, for example, offers numerous routes to the same destination. Explore these.
Know that people will act out. Yesterday, people were banging on the doors of buses, pushing each other out of the way, yelling at each other, disregarding people with disabilities or with mobility issues. Watching people clamouring for the shuttle buses looked like people were auditioning as extras for an episode of The Walking Dead. (This might be a stretch, zombies aren’t that rude!). In these circumstances, try to stay calm and don’t engage in shouting or shoving matches. Things can escalate fast.
Have a “Destination Plan”. Late for an appointment, picking up the kids at daycare, your kids’ sporting event or other activity? This is stressful. I know! Have the numbers for your destination readily available for easy notification. Try to establish contingency plans such as last-minute carpooling.
In a busy city such as Toronto, commuter delays will happen. Try not to engage with the inevitable stress and establish contingency plans to avoid situations of high stress and low patience.