A few years ago, 17 West produced a short film called Surface.
It was our first official project and we pulled it off rather smoothly in our second home, North Bay.
While post was wrapping up I was starting to get the itch to write again. Back then I was still a freelancer at work. This meant working a lot of late nights and weekends. (As a side note, I’m not a fan of 10:30 Canuck games. I love the city but I can’t stand the Pacific time zone.) I was reaching the point where I wasn’t writing much and becoming more and more frustrated as a result. I needed to write something but it’s never quite that simple for me. When I write, I tend to plan a lot in advance before I actually hit the keyboard. There was no time for that so I decided to write a few tiny stories here and there.
4 Stops was the first.
Back then, I was faced with an hour of public transit every night. As dismal as that sounds, it provided me with an opportunity to read and engage in one of my favorite past times;
Who wouldn’t be fascinated by random events only seen on subways, buses and street cars? I don’t even feel bad. When I see two people arguing on the train, it’s better than any book I’ve got resting in my lap.
Oh and by the way, does anyone else hate it when people read over your shoulder?
It’s my book not yours! Sometimes I feel like I should be asking them if they are finished before I turn the page. It’s literally gotten to the point where I hide the spine of my books just to see if anyone shifts their position to discern what I’m reading.
When I’m not fighting the war on reading material, I’m wishing for confrontation or anything interesting to occupy my attention. Watching two people argue is a great example. I suppose when you want to rip your girlfriends face off you don’t care who is listening. Like many who ride the trains, I’ve seen full out battles. It’s awesome.
A few months ago, I was sitting next to the doors when we reached Bloor station. This is one of the busiest stations in the city. There is always a lineup to get on and things always get entertaining when the conductor starts to close the doors. I think they do this on purpose to entertain themselves. On this occasion, a punk kid barreled through the crowd and sat down in the last possible seat. Little did he know that one lady he pushed was a walking ball of rage. She ripped into this kid mercilessly. He actually started yelling back. These two went back and forth for a decent amount of time. When she was finally finished with the idiot I thought everyone would burst into applause. I even considered rocking the slow clap but thought better of it.
However, my personal favorite is also the rarest. The Transit Pick-up.
I’ve seen two separate attempts and both ended horribly. It’s so awkward watching these guys approach women who just want to be left alone. I have to give them credit though, it takes a big set of wheels to try and pick someone up on a bus. I could never pull off a Transit Pick-Up. It’s too risky. However, this doesn’t mean there haven’t been instances where I seriously considered trying. One day last summer, I had a terrible stomach flu and had to leave work early. The road home back then began with the Scarborough RT. For those who haven’t been blessed with this riveting experience, it’s a rickety train that makes 5 stops and takes 20 minutes to do so. I’m waiting on the platform when an incredible looking girl shows up carrying a suit case. I figured she was just getting home from a trip because buses routinely stop at the Scarborough Town Center. She walked all the way over to where I was standing. We exchanged a quick smile but at this point I’m trying to forget the piercing pain in my stomach. Gross. The train arrives and we get on. I sit on one end of the train and she sits on the other. I’m in complete agony but I still managed to get caught staring at her. (She was hot what else was I going to do?) She isn’t giving me a dirty look though, she is actually smiling. Am I supposed to go over and talk to her? I don’t have nearly enough courage for that.
Forget the stomach flu for a second. Am I really bold enough to stand up, walk over to her and start a conversation? Are you insane? Who does that? (I considered it.) Anyone who says I’m an idiot for not making a move is full of it. Put yourself in that position. The only way I’m going over there is after I’ve destroyed a 26er of rye. What if I made a good impression and then proceed to yack all over her bag. Maybe I could have offered to buy her a new one and our first date would be set. Maybe not.
Regardless, I decided to eliminate temptation and stop making eye contact. This wasn’t easy and I kept getting caught. We get to the end of the line at Kennedy station and I make my way down to the subway. There is a train waiting so I head in and sit where I can put my feet up and ease my stomach a bit. Guess who wanders into the same car as me? This time she sits facing me so I have no choice but to look at her every time I raise my head. The situation got worse when a stomach ‘attack’ began. It was so bad, I actually decided to leave the train but the stupid DING, DING, DING subway tune kept me in my seat. I get caught looking at her again. What can I say? I’m a sucker for brunettes. She smiled at me again. I started worrying about another scenario. Any other day I would have wished for it but tonight, I’m dreading it. What if she comes over to me?
“Sure we can grab a drink but we have to stop by my place first so I can unleash hell in the washroom?” Screw that. I took out a book and pretended to read. For 3 stations I read the same page over and over trying to forget the immense pain in my stomach.
Finally, my stop arrived and I got up to leave the train. I took one last look and she smiled again. I remember thinking that it was a waste. Even though I was never going to make a move, it got me thinking about what could have happened. Then I started thinking about what was going through her mind. Was she smiling to be polite or was it deliberate? Women can be devious manipulators so how am I supposed to know? Did she want me to talk to her or was she thinking ‘I hope this pale faced creep leaves me alone… He looks sick’? I left the train in a hurry. I stopped at the drug store for some much needed medication, called my parents for advice (about my stomach, not the girl) and went to bed. The next day I felt infinitely better but I was still thinking about my little adventure the night before. I don’t even care if I simply read too far into it. I thought about it enough that it became a fully developed idea for a short film. That afternoon, it became a script called 4 Stops. I decided to make it very simple. One guy gets onto the subway and sees a beautiful girl. Does he talk to her? Can he pull off the transit pick-up?
That night, I gave the script to Eric thinking he would read it, laugh and move on with his life. I had no idea he would spark to the story like he did. He mentioned immediately that he was going to direct it. I’m pretty sure I tried to talk him out of it. Good thing I didn’t. I love that NOT talking to a girl can be turned into a film. Even the smallest events can be turned into an entertaining flick. It’s my job to make them interesting on paper. This is a major reason why I’m so addicted to writing. Every script is a challenge.
Speaking of challenges, that was one of the most gut wrenching experiences I’ve ever had on the trains.
That stomach flu sucked.
PS: Are subway drivers called conductors or did I just make that up? A train is a train right?