Tag Archives: commuting

Pushing Buttons

This model served me well for over 6 years

This shall be my first ever blog post from my “smart phone.” Ergo, please excuse any spelling and grammatical errors I’ve let slide as a result of my phone’s spellcheck-less-ness. Wait, is there and app for that?

I recently upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy after being a proud owner of a Nokia whatchamacallit for over 6 years. Seriously, I’m not really sure my old model even had a name. It was just your basic, run of the mill mobile phone. It could make phone calls, it could send and receive texts, and it even had a pretty decent camera (a feature I would have appreciated more if the phone’s memory were half as decent). It was adequate, durable, and it served me well. It once went missing in Toronto, ended up being found in Ottawa, and still made it back to me. If that isn’t loyalty, I don’t know what is.

I always said I would keep my nifty Nokia until the day it failed me and that’s exactly what I did. Up until recent days, the device had been everything I needed but with the rise of “smart phone” ownership, the little phone that could, just couldn’t anymore. I was increasingly losing the ends of texts, and the battery had started to die every time I made a call. As archaic as it sounds, I do enjoy a good chat on the phone over a tizzy of texts every now and again.

With the retirement of my little camera phone came an open door for me to change service providers and start anew. So far, the switch has been refreshing. I’m paying less for more, there are countless apps that have come in handy – particularly those that act as a crutch for a directionally challenged lass like me, and it’s nice to have the option to look information up at any time if I need to. I like to refrain from doing this when sitting down for a meal mind you, but therein lies another rant!

No longer do I have to call 411 when the paper I wrote the address of my destination on goes missing in my bottomless purse, no longer must I send a multimedia message or multiple texts if I have more than 160 characters worth of information to relay, and no longer is the vibrate setting on my cell phone louder than the ring tone!

Yes, I’m happy to have upgraded but there is one thing about my little Nokia that I miss dearly – buttons! In fact, it’s one of the reasons why I strongly considered going for a Blackberry or Blackberry knockoff rather than a touch screen. I figured that if and when my phone falls, I could at least cope for a while because buttons would still allow for phone calls. A bad screen break on a touch phone will render it useless and in need of immediate replacement.  Being that I’m a natural-born klutz, this could be problematic and expensive for me.

Buttons really are underrated. There are so many advantages to having something tangible to press rather than a screen to stroke. The first thing I realized I missed about my number pad was that I could no longer text and walk at the same time without bumping into people and things. I used to compose messages in my pocket, no seeing required. With T9, I had figured out what all the combinations of keys spelled and I could send my thoughts in a matter of seconds. Now it takes all of my attention to write quick messages to people and I’m constantly hitting the wrong letters on my QWERTY keyboard.

The other good thing about my keypad was that my phone never froze in locked position. Two buttons and it was unlocked, no matter what. It hasn’t happened much, but my new device sometimes freezes and it takes a few minutes before I can do anything with it.

In an emergency situation, such freezing could be dangerous. With phones that have keypads, 911 calls can be made even when the phone is locked. And isn’t that why cell phones became so widespread in the first place? Years ago people purchased them not to surf the net everywhere they went or to constantly be tuned in to their best friends’ lives, people bought cell phones to have on hand in case of emergencies.

As touch screen phones becomes sleeker and sexier, bulky phones with traditional keypads wane in popularity. It’s time to embrace the new wave of technology that is seemingly here to stay so forgive me for being nostalgic. As an homage to the buttons that most of us grew to love ages before the iphone changed the way we communicate, enjoy this song performed on an old school keypad.

 

Subway Sounds

Toronto's new Bombardier subway

When Torontonians found out about the new fleet of Subways that would be rolling out in the city, there was generally a sigh of relief heard across the GTA.

Sure, the new subways were a long way off – the city’s deal with Bombardier was penned in 2006 and the new “rockets” weren’t expected until 2011. And sure, the fresh infrastructure came with a hefty and controversial price tag – the Toronto Transit Commission agreed to shell out a whopping $548 million, possibly before more affordable avenues were explored. But the new designs were sleek, practical, and generally a welcomed improvement on the aged and crusty subways this city had come to cope with.

With five years to anticipate the arrival of the latest, greatest, priciest subway cars, the fine people of Toronto came to expect excellence! Yet months after the July 2011 debut of the new beauts, even the most frequent commuters have seldom set foot in the trains. That’s right, they’re still cramming themselves into the sardine cans that came before. How’s that for anti-climactic?

What will often happen at rush hour is this. A person will wait for several over-stuffed trains to pass, always hoping the next one will have just enough space for his or her body at least. Finally, a subway will come rolling up, honking its horn and instilling hope in the waiting commuter. There appears to be space on this one, and not just a little bit. The commuter gets hopeful that he or she might actually get a seat. Perhaps this is the morning to read on the subway, or catch that last 20 minutes of sleep. Then, as quickly as it came, the subway will race out the other end of the station leaving nothing but dust and broken hearts. What a tease.

It’s probably for the best though. For anyone who manages to get onto one of the ever-elusive new cars at rush hour, there’s an unpleasant surprising waiting. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve never been on the train at a truly busy time. It’s quite nice when there’s light to normal traffic flow. The seats are comfy and probably not too soiled yet, the electronic transit map is pretty neat, and the lady announcing the stops has a very soothing voice. Not to mention the partition-free design adds ease for panhandlers and flash-mobbers.

There’s a different vibe at rush hour altogether though. As soon as people start reaching for the overhead handlebars, beware! Once they are moved from their neutral positions, they let out merciless squeals that will have you blasting your ipod, shoving your fingers in your ears, or even listening to that co-worker you got stuck sitting next to on the way to work! Yes, you’ll do anything to avoid hearing the wretched sound of dolphins squeaking mixed with nails on a chalkboard. I daresay the sound matches the horrid screeches made by the Scarborough Light Rail cars. I know, it’s unthinkable.

The first time I heard this horrendous noise, I looked around to gauge the reactions of those around me. One woman was smirking and I don’t doubt she was thinking the same thing as me, “$548 million didn’t cover the cost of the oil for those handlebars?”

Perhaps the TTC should have shopped around a bit more after all. But considering what’s done is done, may I recommend an investment in some WD-40?