Why Mike is a Curmudgeon: Note #2 (Fresh Air)

After several years of riding public transportation, I’ve given up trying to understand a particular phenomenon, and have decided to just complain about. I simply don’t understand what people have against fresh air. My complaint centers on Calgary’s old C-Trains that should not even be in service anymore: they are above-ground electric trains with lots of windows and no air conditioning, fans, or vents. They merely have heaters for our winters, and tiny windows that can be opened by riders as needed when it gets warmer.

The fairly robust phenomenon that I am concerned with happens as soon as the temperatures in Calgary raise above 15 degrees (Celsius) or so, as we get closer to room temperature on the outside. These trains become greenhouses, and start to get hot (the heaters still sometimes kick on for some reason, but that’s a whole other issue). As the temperatures begin to climb, mind-blowing as it is, people DO NOT OPEN THE WINDOWS. Temps get higher and higher, people get very crowded, and some take their jackets off and are visibly sweating. But the people who have window access also have seats, and they just sit there, perfectly content. Oh sure, they may be warm, and the air may be getting stagnant with the mingling aromas of a hundred sweaty people, but what the heck, let’s just leave those windows closed and deny people any fresh air (or any air movement at all) for a good 15 to 30 minutes.

I am no longer shy about this: when I get on (if I do at all: when temperatures get above 20, my general policy is to wait for a newer, air conditioned train) I immediately look to see what windows are open, and I directly ask those close by me (who have seats by the windows) to open their windows. Their look is always one of surprise, and I have no idea why. It is HOT, it is STAGNANT, and it will GET WORSE. So YES, PLEASE ALLOW SOME FRESH AIR IN. Even if you are the type of person who wears sweaters to the beach and still complains of being cold, you can at least appreciate that not everyone is like that, and still appreciate FRESH air – even if a little “cold” – is better than STINKY, STAGNANT air – right?

I can understand in borderline cases (regarding temperature) why people don’t think to open windows, but unfortunately this happens no matter how hot it is. We’ve even had people faint on the hottest of days, which results in a delay for everyone on the whole train system. I stepped onto an old train on a plus 30 degree day (this was the last time I broke my policy) to find it well above 30 degrees inside, and, of course, not all the windows were open. I yelled down the train: “we don’t want anyone fainting – PLEASE OPEN ALL THE WINDOWS!” The people around me gave me looks of “thank god somebody asked,” while the people sitting beside closed windows gave a look like, “Oh yeah, I guess it IS hot in here isn’t it?”

So thanks for letting me vent (ha ha) – and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE: if you are in charge of a window at any point in your life, exercise that privilege by OPENING IT. Society thanks you in advance.