Wherein the Sweaty, Feculent Herd Almost Stampedes (with a nod to Gord).
Book of Dante, 7:1-22
Dante arrived at the GO station a little late today, and had missed his 7:10 train. Upon arrival however, he noted a large Herd waiting on the platform. Obviously, there had been a delay. Mrs. Dante drove away, and Dante went to his spot on the platform, secure in the knowledge that a train would eventually come, and all would be explained. Dante is patient, and rails not when the universe throws him a curve.
Now it is well known the Herd is neither patient nor understanding. They mooed among themselves, discussing in their own way the lateness of the cattle cars. One of the Herd approached Dante, perhaps sensing his calm demeanour amidst the sea of anxiety, hoping for an answer.
“Moo?” it said.
"I have no idea,"he replied unto it “but they’ll probably make an announcement soon.”
“Moo.” the Herdmember said, momentarily placated, and went back to chewing its cud.
The other herdmembers however, were growing restless. Dante sensed that panic might soon ensue. Although a stampede would be amusing to watch, being trampled by a 300 lbs. Admin Assistant with a stainless steel coffee mug and running shoes over her nylons would be unpleasant. And Dante had forgotten his cattle prod.
“Your attention please” said a voice over the P.A. The herd looked about, some into the air, others at the ground, each other, and their own handbags. “Due to a strike by rail operators, all trains are running late. The first train is due to arrive at 7:25, and will be making all stops to Union Station. GO Transit apologizes for the delay and inconvenience.”
The Herd mooed furiously among themselves. Surely they would now be late. Some who had just arrived mooed at others, but the Herd has a notoriously short memory, and could not now (8 seconds later) remember the gist of the announcement. The newcomers were now confused, as they were unsure how any lightning strike could have killed 725 telephone operators. Also, they were unsure how this could have made their train late.
Many re-entered the GO Barn to ask the GO Farmer to repeat the announcement for them personally. The GO Farmer repeated this many times, even to those who were in earshot while it was being explained to another herdmember. For it is also well known that unless you make direct eye contact with a member of the Herd, they do not listen.
Suddenly, a bell began to ring. Startled, many of the herdmembers again checked their handbags, sure that this time, the sound must emanate from there. But lo! The GO Train approached! The Herd was excited. Many of them fouled themselves, thus leading to the feculence. The GO Farmer again came over the P.A. None of the herd checked their luggage, for the ringing of the GO Bell had captured their attention as little else can.
“Your attention please” the GO Farmer announced. Many herdmembers fell down, as sounds coming from two directions at once play havoc with their balance “the train that is now pulling in is the 6:50 train. All trains are running 35 minutes late. The next train to arrive will be the 7:10 train, and will arrive at 7:45”.
Dante shook his head sadly. The GO Farmer had made a terrible mistake, and its consequences would lead to confusion among the herd that is rarely seen.
The Herd mooed amongst themselves. The 6:50 train? The consulted the time devices just above their front hooves. But it’s 7:25! Would we go back in time? they wondered. Am I still going to be late for work? another mooed.
Before they could truly become panicked, the doors of the GO conveyance opened, and the day was saved, for it is a function of the Herd that as soon as a door opens, they rush towards it. The was a great and satisfied “Moooooooooo” as the Herd took their seats, happily ensconced in their pens. Many immediately fell asleep in their seats, and began drooling softly down their chins.
The GO conveyance departed the station, and the Herd was content. Dante was troubled however, as he knew there were many more herdmembers to come, and all would bring with them their plaintive bleatings, which acted like needles in the brain of Dante. Dante is ill-suited to stupidity.
At the next station, a great and massive Herd is waiting on the rails, looking up at the conveyance as the Israelites looked up Jesus on the Mount. Surely this great metal beast would bring them to their place of employment where they could do exactly the same thing they did the day before! Joy! The doors opened, and the Herd rushed to their seats. The newcomers mooed to those already present. One of the newcomers asked one of the Herd already present if her train was late as well. A few of the more intelligent herdmembers furrowed their brows, almost on the point of understanding, but all answered yes. Dante approached the questioning newcomer and made a small notation on her ear tag so that she would rendered upon arrival, and turned into cosmetics products for the rest of the Herd. Thus does the Herd function.
Many train stations would come and go. More herdmembers would get on the conveyance, and more questions would be asked. Dante would hold his tongue, for he has learned that the Herd is not to be educated. The Herd is content in their day to day repetitive existence, and breaking them from it causes them anxiety and peptic ulcers.
The last train station. The GO conveyance is well and truly full. Dante, solitary and cranky, is feeling the presence of the pressing Herd. Surely the conveyance can hold no more of the Herd. Also, the sweating and feculence is becoming more noticeable. Some the Herd were not hosed down this morning. A particularly rank herdmember, obviously cursed with Hansen’s Disease and therefore unable to feel what it’s doing, is pressed against Dante. Dante has shifted more than once to get the herdmember to move, but to no avail. But Dante blames himself for choosing a seat on the outside of the aisle. Dante is benevolent, and knows when he’s done wrong.
The Herd begins mooing plaintively. Surely no more of us can fit in here, they bleat. Those other herdmembers should just wait for the next train, others opine. Again the short memory of the herd should be noted. Also, The Herd can be a selfish Herd. Some moo loudly at others trying to board the conveyance. Dante smiles to himself. Benevolence has passed, and Dante is swimming in childish spite.
Thus does the Herd arrive. The operators of the conveyance, somehow sensing the anxiety of the Herd, pull up to a platform at which the doors on both sides of the conveyance can be opened. The Herd can exit twice as fast! But the operators make a terrible mistake. The Herd is used to getting off on one side of the conveyance and one side only. The operators open the doors on the opposite side of the conveyance! Some of the herd make for the exits, but others, confused, staunchly hold their position facing the closed doors. If they take a stairwell different from the one they’re used to, surely they will become lost in the Temple of the Conveyance and wander forever, never making it to their office. Important figures will never be entered in the debit columns! Further figures, equally as important, will never be entered into credit columns!
The Herd is becoming dangerous. Dante can hear the mooing changing. Many are mooing “Excuse me” in a tone of voice that could easily double for “Get out of my way or I shall surely put something pointy into your loins”. Finally, the other set of doors open. The Herd is safe! They surge out of the conveyance, bleating happily at the chance to go to their stalls and photocopy pieces of the paper. The Herd is placated, and disaster has been averted.
Dante is one of the last to exit the conveyance. The platform is empty, except for Tim Horton’s cups, newspapers, and the occasional puddle of urine where one of the Herd got too excited.
As Dante heads for the stairs, another herdmember exits the conveyance. It looks at Dante, and intelligence and a sense of wry amusement shine in it’s eyes. This is no herdmember! Another like Dante has survived the ordeal. We nod at each other. And Dante has hope for the future.
*The GO Train and Union Station are part of Toronto’s public transit system.