Making rail friends – and breaking bread – on the GO

If you’re a regular GO train rider, it won’t take long to recognize two polar opposite commuters: the solitary and the social. We give a friendly nod of appreciation to both during this special time of year, but can’t help leaning in closer to hear what’s being said by one gregarious circle of constant travellers. Sit back, and feel free to sample the potluck.

They ride the same GO train heading in the same direction – but with two different social styles along the way.

The solitary passenger can be found in the Quiet Zone, or perhaps silently minding their own business on lower levels of the train with headphones and eyes focused on their phones. They may also look around but avoid eye contact.

Trips on GO become a private affair, with few interactive cares.

A group of customers smile at the camera, as they eat food and toast glasses.

The ‘GO Peeps’ during holiday celebrations. (Fannie Sunshine photo)

Then there’s the social rider. You find them far from the Quiet Zone – although they might be heard even up there as they heartily start conversations or chime in on one in progress. This can be a one-time thing or, because GO train customers tend to be creatures of habit and stick to the same coach, it might turn into a regular occurrence.

The social rider also tends to attract other affable transit customers, to become journeys of social discovery – so think of them as ‘rail relationships’.

Before you know it, the minglers become GO buddies – even if full names remain a mystery for a while.

And GO buddies are something Al Eisele knows something about.

Eisele, a married credit manager, has been commuting on the Milton line since 1995. He has a preference for the accessibility coach and his spot is in the middle quadrant of the lower level.

Noting the hour-long ride from Milton GO Station to Union Station in the morning and back in the afternoon can be a bit ‘boring’, Eisele has struck up constant conversations with those who sit near him – and those chats have continued for more than two decades.

Eisele’s GO gang is made up of about 25 people, with some riding in the morning and others in the afternoon.

“It’s fun,” he explained of the connections made on the line. “There are no (topic) restrictions and usually no filter.

“And we agree to disagree.”

Not only does the gang share what’s going on in their lives, but they also celebrate birthdays, retirements, babies, and holidays – both on and off the train.

And celebrating was what Eisele’s train clique was doing on a recent Monday, leading up to the holidays.

For the second year in a row, the morning GO gang held a potluck – yes, onboard their train – complete with holiday decorations and treats, including cookies, beef patties, and quiche.

“We’re on the train for 40 minutes and that’s time we’re hanging out with our friends,” said fellow GO gang member, Iain, adding their significant others have been included in gatherings off the train.

Iain, and transit friend Roberta, didn’t want their last names used.

The group stays in regular contact through their WhatsApp chat – aptly named ‘GO Peeps’ – and makes sure to look out for each other when the unexpected happens, such as the fire near Dixie GO Station in August that shut down train service at Kipling GO Station.

“We made sure everyone had a ride home,” said Roberta, who has spent the last three years riding with the train gang.

Such a bond may be difficult for non-GO commuters – or even solitary riders – to understand, but Eisele shrugs off any negativity.

He reasoned: “They’re just jealous.”

Story by Fannie Sunshine, Metrolinx media relations and issues specialist.