The other day, for some reason, on the subway travelling along the Bloor Danforth Line, the stops were not being announced as they usually are.

A typical day’s subway rhythm is punctuated by the steely voice of an anonymous female announcer:

“The next station is Christie, Christie Station”

“Arriving at Christie, Christie Station”.

Without the regular announcement, I had a wholly different experience of riding the subway.

The stops quietly presented themselves without being promtpted. The rhythm of the train was smooth and continuous, without being interrupted by the announcement of the stations.

Without the announcements, it was quite easy to fall into a trance of motion and non-motion, doors opening and closing in an endless and undifferentiated cycle.

It was also quite easy to lose track of my placement in the system, without the aural prompts used as a constant standard for reorientation.

I found I missed whole stops in the rhythmic, unpunctuated  trance I fell into — I was in Ossington, then Spadina, then Sherbourne.

Between Sherbourne and Castle Frank, I hadn’t a clue as to where I was, and felt a true sense of disorientation as I anticipated the Don Valley views between Castle Frank and Broadview that never came.

This experience gave me the opportunity to meditate on the complete lack of disorientation that accompanies modern forms of transit and telecommunications. With smart phones, and smart cities, we constantly know where we are, and it’s pretty hard to get lost.

The feeling of not knowing where I was between Sherbourne and Castle Frank stations — that was rare.

As someone often in a state of wanderlust, but with a strong sense of direction, it’s very difficult these days to be lost. I understand and support new apps like Drift that encourage, through a set of random directions, people to become lost in their own neighbourhoods.

I don’t yearn for disorientation, but this experience presented a different world to me, a less know-able world, where fun and mystery accompanied a healthy sense of not knowing where-the-hell I was. It was a welcome change to the routine of transit.

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