Atwater Metro, which connects the Alexis Nihon mall and Dawson College, lies
beneath Montreal’s bustling downtown core. For the past eight years on many occasions, I
have traveled downtown to enjoy the action, and over that span, developed a meaningful
connection with the Atwater Metro.
The Atwater Metro has its downsides. Upon walking into the metro, it’s
impossible to ignore the powerful odour of urine and cigarettes. With the unpleasant and
sad combination of the sleeping homeless and urine puddles in the corners, one can
almost taste the offensive smell. Senses tend to go on overdrive, witnessing people moving around quickly, loud voices chattering, the roaring sounds of trains. There are times where you can catch wind of a conversation and listen to the interesting dialogue between students dreading going to school, or the morning argument someone had with their mother. In short, the Atwater Metro is a boisterous place! Despite the smell, homeless people using the space as a bedroom, and silly conversations, the Atwater Metro oddly feels “homey”.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to gather my family in the metro to eat dinner or
hang out there with my friends. That being said, the surrounding chaos feels normal for the world
we live in and I am comfortable in it. Life can be overwhelming, and at times, presents challenging obstacles. Ironically, every step I take into the chaotic station calms me and my senses. Being in the moment actually makes me feel as if the craziness of the real world is toned down, and it comforts me.
I have been taking the Atwater Metro route since I was ten years old. When
visiting for the first time, it’s easy to be taken aback by the surface-level disorganisation. For close to ten years, very little has changed. Although I was too young to understand where the smells were coming from and why everyone in the metro was wearing a backpack, I was still
observant and processing.
The population found at the Atwater metro is very diverse. There are privileged students that can often be heard saying things like, “I can’t believe I have to walk through this gross metro to get to school.” In parallel, I often hear the homeless asking people to “go to the ATM machine and take out money for me.” In a 30-meter radius, there are students complaining about trivial details while other people only have survival and satisfying their hunger in mind.
As the years go by, I continue to be adventurous and travel around the city. I
can’t help but notice the same crowds wearing backpacks, long-bearded men, and the
same pungent smells. For me, the sights and smells haven’t changed, but my
perception has. How we see the world changes as we grow up. We gain insight
and a greater understanding of the game of life. As a result, we may draw different
conclusions from the exact same scenario. For me, the Atwater Metro is representative of how my own perspective has changed. I have empathy for the homeless and
their predicaments, and a low tolerance for entitled students. Furthermore, experiencing
the sights and sounds at the Atwater Metro helps me feel grateful for all that I have in
my life. It serves to motivate me to achieve my goals.