The Scintilla Project Day Four — The Bottle Episode

A snowfall in the suburbs of Mississauga
The Scintilla Project

1. Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation; anything from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of the car on a family road trip.

— The Scintilla Project Day 4 prompt

It was like a bottle episode of your favourite sitcom — five of us trapped on a train for 5 hours with nowhere to go.

What could go wrong?

There’s No Business Like Snow Business

A photo of the January 1999 snowfall in Toronto, the most ever accumulated according to the city's records.
130 cm in January, 39 cm on January 2nd alone!!!

You’ll have to forgive me — it’s been 14 years since this went down, but it still makes for quite the tale.

The Great Snowfall of 1999 had Toronto crippled for a couple of days — despite the rest of Canada calling us wusses for being unable to handle 40 cm of snowfall, fact of the matter is that we carry 17% of the Canadian population in 0.07% of the landmass. No one could really compare what kind of problems come from the weather going haywire, because no one else was in the same situation — but it was bad.

From September 1995 through June 2000, you could find me at the University of Toronto Schools, being one of the lucky few who managed to make it through their entrance exams. Each morning, I’d be on a 7:30 train with a few classmates for the half-hour commute into school in the heart of downtown Toronto. We were used to things going a bit slower when Jack Frost came a-knockin’, but no one was ready for how badly Toronto’s infrastructure had been hit!

My parents have always been big on hard work and education — so much so that blizzard or not, my ass was definitely making its way to class!

A Tale of Two Cities


The first half of the ride was just fine, slowly making our way in from the ‘burbs — but hitting the west end of the big city brought our train to a stop… and all of our hopes with it. Seems that with the subway and bus systems to look after in the city itself, Toronto didn’t have as much time to  worry about anyone trying to make their way in or out — no one’s that crazy, right?

So there we were — 3 crazy students and 2 insane adults stuck on a train with nowhere to go — and no one knew how long it would last.

I can’t remember how the hours played themselves out, but what I do remember is that my lunch barely made it past the 2nd hour. We napped, we chatted, we rocked out to Discmans, and as no one was really rocking cell phones in ’99, entertainment was pretty limited! It was like being trapped in an elevator with unlimited space and washrooms. (Okay, maybe not at all like being trapped in an elevator.)

Four hours later, we started moving again. And five hours? Five hours later we’d be at Union Station, only to run into our buddy Matt… who’d tell us that school was cancelled.


Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.

And what did I learn from this?

The next time, Toronto find itself in the middle of a snowstorm it doesn’t know how to handle — I’m keeping my butt where it belongs.

In bed.

–case p.

Author: Casey E. Palmer

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey‘s spent the last few decades in pursuit of creating killer content. From novels as a kid, comics as a teen, to blogs and photos once he could grow a beard, he’ll use whatever’s around him to create amazing stuff. When he’s not creating, he’s parenting, exploring and trying to make life as awesome as possible for everyone around him. Because a boring life’s not a life worth living!

6 thoughts on “The Scintilla Project Day Four — The Bottle Episode”

  1. The train must have been heated. You didn’t mention freezing your butt off during the wait. And, yes, lesson learned: stay home no matter who calls you a wuss.

    1. To be honest, I can’t remember being cold — it could be because we wear so many layers in Toronto that we delude ourselves into thinking that everything’s a-okay with the temperature 🙂

      I’ve now learned that sick days aren’t a bad thing when you need ’em 😉

  2. Got to love the Caribbean mentality toward education. If your parents are immigrants, they see our education as a blessing and not to be taken for granted. YOU WILL GO TO SCHOOL UNLESS YOU’RE DEAD!

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