A memorable birthday ride on the GO

Fellow GO passengers offer surprise birthday party on board the train during shared commute

Ayesha Zubair still can’t remember everything about what happened on her 25th birthday. It began with boarding the GO train accessibility coach in her wheelchair, as always, before a whirlwind of excitement began.

“I remember getting on the train and everyone was like ‘Oh my God, Happy Birthday!’ It was loud,” recalled Zubair. “Everybody was involved. The Customer Service Ambassador was involved and people that even didn’t know me got into it.”

Ayesha Zubair and friends from the GO train wearing hats from of a charity they contributed to

Now 28, Zubair has been commuting to Union Station every weekday since 2012. Riding with GO Transit was a given, since she lives close to Agincourt station and feels safe and comfortable maneuvering her wheelchair on board.

It didn’t take long for Zubair to bond with the friendly commuters sitting in the accessibility car. When asked how she met these folks, she said people are naturally curious when it comes to another person’s disability.

“They would ask questions such as ‘How fast can your wheelchair go?’ It is weird how much of an ice breaker that is but that is usually how it starts,” Zubair said. “It is just a couple of people that were just friendly and they are at the same place, at the same time, all the time.”

The people she met started coordinating travelling time and the train quickly became a meet-up spot. One day, Zubair and her fellow commuters had a conversation about birthdays and everyone saved each other’s dates on their phones. Zubair assumes as soon as she got out, the group started planning the upcoming celebration.

A couple of days before her birthday, her GO friends were really eager to know what train she was going to take on that particular day. Then, when the day arrived, someone texted her to make sure she was going to make it on time. Zubair thought it seemed a little suspicious but it wasn’t enough to trigger anything because they would usually coordinate. Later on, she got on the train as she usually would, and was met with the big surprise.

“We were pretty loud. I think people in the quiet zone probably could hear us,” Zubair said. “There were brownies, cupcakes, napkins and cutlery. I can’t believe how organized it was. There was a lot of sugar and salt involved. The fastest train ride ever! It was a bit of a production!”

The group also raised funds for a charitable organization that offers inclusive physical activity and education.

The next day, on her way to work, people were wishing Zubair a happy belated birthday while she was crossing the street. At first, she didn’t think it was meant for her, until people stopped in front of her, waving and asking how her birthday went. She said it was very odd and worthy of a movie scene.

Zubair felt like her story is proof that travelling on transit can be a unique social experience. She said it exposes you to people of any age coming from different backgrounds and working in different industries.

“You would never put all of us together in any other context other than the GO train,” she said. “I can’t even imagine what possible scenario would have to happen for us to meet.”