Without a doubt, the iconic, bright red streetcar looms large in Toronto’s identity. For a long time now! Horse-drawn streetcars arrived in Toronto as far back as 1861, later followed by the first electric-powered streetcar in 1892. Today the streetcar network covers 82 kilometres of the city, and the “Red Rockets” transport a quarter of a million people daily.
Streetcars run on tracks. And I recently experienced a (mis)adventure with these tracks that gave me an excellent lesson.
After work on a wintry January evening I headed towards the University of Toronto to make a presentation about Buddhism at an SGI club. It’s about an hour’s drive. I felt pretty tired as I’d just finished packing up everything on and around my desk in preparation for our office relocation the following morning.
I came to an intersection of two major streets. The one I’d been travelling on had no streetcar service; the one that Waze told me to turn left on had streetcar tracks running in either direction right in the middle of it. I proceeded to turn left, despite the dazzling headlights of oncoming traffic.
Suddenly and scarily, I realised that I’d turned left a few moments too soon. I was no longer driving on the road, but on a sharp downward incline of streetcar tracks with walls on both sides that grew ever higher, leading towards an underground subway station. Thoughts flashed through my mind. Was I on the right side of the tracks? What if I met an oncoming red giant? Would we both be able to stop in time to prevent it from crushing my car? And HOW THE HELL WAS I GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS PREDICAMENT?
Underground, at the bottom of the incline, my white Civic got a lot of funny looks from commuters and streetcar drivers. Not surprising. No cars are allowed in this area. And certainly not on streetcar tracks! As soon as I could, I got off the tracks and onto a paved surface, too freaked out to pay full attention to the arrow painted on the ground that pointed the other way. But I quickly found myself facing a solid wall dead end. Stuck, I thought, “I can’t get out of here.”
But then my higher mind, knowing that our thoughts (causes) create our reality (effects), kicked in. I deliberately countered that negative thought with: “Yes I can. I can get out of here.” I did a three-point turn at the dead end and drove back the way I’d come, this time taking the same direction as the arrow on the ground. It led me to a tunnel for buses that went up. Thank you! I took it, and then, to my intense relief, I was driving under sky instead of underground. I got out! I felt like a modern-day Persephone!
A month before this unnerving incident happened, I had put brand new high quality tyres on my car. My old tyres wouldn’t have had any grip on the down-gradient streetcar tracks. So that’s one thing to be very grateful to myself for.
And the other is that I had the presence of mind to notice the disempowering track my thoughts were going down, and to quickly get back on the right track with an empowering thought that took me where I wanted and needed to go — UP!