Photo: Kosalan Kathiramalanathan

VIA Rail commercials cause existential crisis amongst students

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By Shakir Rimzy

VIA Rail’s “why don’t you take the train?” commercials are causing a rise in the  amount of reported existential crisis amongst students.  

The commercials, which have been a response to VIA’s dwindling ridership, use latent conditioning, hoping to persuade more  impressionable Canadians to buy overpriced train tickets.

Students, who are believed to be amongst the most easily influenced in society have reacted strangely to this kind of marking. Rather than an increase in ticket sales, as VIA Rail had hoped, North Americans everywhere are experiencing a rise in existential dread and personal crises.

Shiva Rahman, an aerospace engineering student at Ryerson University, was found in the fetal position inside Union Station looking at the train tickers go by last week. He says that he found himself there, apparently “just pondering,” for two days on end.

“I never really thought about it before,” he said. “Why don’t I take the train? No one has ever asked me that before, so I didn’t have an answer and told myself I’d take a walk to think about it. But I must have thought too hard, next thing I know I’m at Union at 2:00am with a mickey of vodka and a Tim Horton’s cream cheese bagel in my hands.”

Rahman who lives on campus and is from Chicoutimi, Quebec has never taken a train before in his life.

“It’s all been buses and cars for me. It made me wonder, “What’s inside, why is it so special? Why haven’t I taken one?” He said, eyes bright, twitching slightly.

No one has seen Rahman since the interview.

Professor of psychology at Ryerson Peter Jordan speculates that the question “why don’t you take the train” is a trigger of some sort, forcing students to confront the sad, morbidly uncomfortable reality that “they are in so much debt that they can’t possibly take a $300 ticket to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, not that anyone wants to go there, but it’s the principle of the matter.”

The commercials, which have gained a sizeable amount of traction, typically feature two people in a awkward situations. One person criticizes the other The response: “Why don’t you take the train?” The situations differ, from a woman in the winter being asked why she isn’t wearing a coat, to a father asking his son why he insists on playing his music so loud, both of which are answered with the line in question.

“I think the fact that the question is asked so bluntly is causing students to ask that question themselves, and their answer to that question can send them spiralling into uncontrollable self doubt,” said Jordan.

Ryerson’s counselling service has also seen an increase in the amount of appointments about trains.
“I’m used to dealing with things about axles and grinding gears. Sometimes the desire to jump on and off trains—that we can deal with—but metaphysical question of “why” has really challenged my team,” said student services coordinator Valeria Romani.

Romani insists and encourages anyone feeling pressured by the commercials make an appointment with student services. Her and the rest of her staff, she says, are on the right track when it comes to tackling this issue.


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  1. You really should check your facts. VIA’s ridership is actually increasing year-to-year.

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