Day 723: Strangers on a train

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Back on Christmas Eve, I took the subway home and the driver came over the loudspeaker in a super cheery voice and said, “Hi, I’m Mike. I’m a Pisces and enjoy long walks on the beach. This is the happiest train on the Bloor-Danforth Line and I can prove it. Look around. People are smiling.”

And they were at that point. Even me.

At the time I thought “Mike” was just sharing some holiday joy. Little did I know that this driver is on a mission to lift the spirits of the complete strangers riding his train. And that he was prompted to do so by a tragic event that happened on one of his shifts.

I learned all this when a friend rode his train, heard his greeting and was so moved by it that she posted about it on FB along with a link to this CBC story about the driver, Michael Sage. (And I am SO glad she did. Thanks, Susan!)

Here’s an excerpt:

It’s hard to imagine how anyone who spends his days driving through long, dark tunnels would be cheery. It’s even harder if that person is a TTC driver who’s had the experience of someone being killed by running in front of his moving train.

But that’s Michael Sage – or the Smooth Operator, as many in Toronto know him. If you’ve ever ridden the Bloor-Danforth line, there’s a good chance you’ve heard him.

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, this is Michael, your Smooth Operator speaking,” is a typical greeting to passengers. “I’m a Pisces, I enjoy long walks on the beach and I am my mother’s favourite child.”

Sage says he invented the character as a way of coping with the tragedy on the tracks that occurred during a shift one Sunday last April.

Sage was working the afternoon shift when, out of nowhere, he spotted a young man in the tunnel running toward his train.

By the time he realized what was happening, it was too late.

“It was the worst day of my life,” Sage recalls.

But after a couple of weeks off of work, he decided he would feel better doing his job than being at home.

That’s when “Michael the Smooth Operator” was born.

“It was hard when I first came back so I found using a little bit of humour made it easier to get through the days,” he says. “Sometimes I tell jokes, sometimes I reveal embarrassing moments.”

But what began as a way of trying to ease his own pain turned out to put a smile on customers’ faces, as well.


“It makes me feel like I’m contributing something really positive in life,” Sage says. “And I think that’s what we all want.”

Here’s the rest.

I’m thinking Mr. Sage is aptly named. I’ve been keeping him in mind every time I take the subway now. It’s helped me slow down and be more aware of those around me instead of rocketing into the subway car like I’m on The Amazing Race.

The other day I even stopped, took my earbuds out and listened to a busker playing the worst violin solo I’ve ever heard. But he was giving it his all so I gave him a thumbs up and added to the tips in his open case.

Maybe I should’ve said, “Hi, I’m Deb. I’m an Aquarius and like long walks on the beach….” 🙂

p.s.
It was Mozart’s birthday the other day, so here’s a Mozart Adele mashup to celebrate!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Day 723: Strangers on a train

  1. tristan

    What a heartwarming story, thanks for posting. I have a bus driver who sings to us all sometimes, makes my day. I should probably tell her that next time.

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