Sunday, January 4, 2009

Last Stop

The decision to shut down a blog is a difficult one.

Life has become quite hectic as of late, and with a new baby due in less than 2 months there is no end in sight. I am thankful to all my devoted readers who have encouraged me in this endeavor.

I continue to ride the bus and to observe the people on it, and from time to time I still engage a stranger in conversation. This has been a growing experience for me, and it does not end with the cessation of posts here.

Also beneficial has been the discipline I gained in the daily posting (except weekends) to which I challenged myself. And my other blog will remain active indefinitely as it resonates more profoundly with the whole of my life experience.

Farewell, dear readers.

Here's my stop.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Taking a brief hiatus from the blogging.

There's my stop.

Friday, November 14, 2008


It's a wet, slushy day. He clunks toward the back of the bus, where I'm seated in the middle seat on the long rear bench. Young and somewhat punkish, he is obviously coming from work - his pants are dirty and well-stained with paint. He hasn't shaved in a couple of days and his face is lined with peachy stubble. A soiled black ball cap covers his thick brown hair. He looks angry and emits a "don't bother me" aura.

His choice of seat is the sideways bench over the wheel well, and he spreads himself out with his loose posture and expansive personal space boundary. Thirty seconds later, he changes his mind and sits instead on the same bench as me, but on the extreme left. Slumping sloppily, he stretches his leg over the arm of the sideways bench in front of him and places his shoe on the cloth seat.

This irks me, as whoever will eventually sit there will end up with a wet bottom. But what can I say?

He takes off his hat and waves it idly in front of him; bad hair day. Eventually he slouches further, taking his foot off the bench and straddling it with his outstretched legs. "That can't be comfortable," I think.

There's my stop.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bus Mafia

There are three of them lounging at the back of the bus - very young, olive-skinned men, no more than 20 years old.

I first notice them when I take my seat, as one of them is so relaxed he has his arm hung over the back of my bench. He reluctantly pulls it back when he determines that I won't tolerate it there.

I quietly observe their interaction for a few moments. They are loud, boisterous, and somewhat annoying. One of them, obviously the "leader" of the group, is literally lounging across a four-person bench, reclining on his backpack, arm propping up his head, like an ancient Caesar. He is clean shaven, except for an attempt at a moustache. At first glance it looks more like a smudge, but with closer examination I can see distinct individual hairs. About eight of them.

They're chattering away. For a moment I think it's French, but their inflection is far too violent. I conclude that it's Italian.

Eight-Hair is the funny one, judging from how the other two laugh at everything he says. I suspect it's vulgar humour and am glad I don't know Italian. Arm-slinger always laughs the hardest. The other one tries to inject his own funny comments from time to time, but elicits no more than polite spurts of chuckles from Eight-Hair and Arm-Slinger. I wonder how these three developed their friendship. Perhaps they're brothers; they look similar enough.

There's my stop. As soon as I get up, Arm-Slinger slings his arm over my seat again.

Monday, November 10, 2008


The young man, in a red jacket, black cap, and grey work pants, steps off the bus and makes a hasty shuffle down the ice-covered sidewalk.

He's carrying his gloves in one hand and a large Tim Horton's coffee in another.

The bus is still stopped, as the light is red. As the man reaches the street corner, he slips and falls. I hear a number of the bus passengers exclaim, "OH!" as they see him fall. Fortunately, he reaches out with his glove hand and stabilizes himself so it's not a total wipeout, but he's obviously somewhat embarrassed as he continues on his way.

The impressive thing to me is that he didn't spill his Tim's. In my days as a taxi driver, I've seen drunks be just as agile with their beer or whiskey bottles when they fall, often landing flat on their backs without spilling a single precious drop of their elixir.

There's my stop.

I step very carefully.

Friday, November 7, 2008


It's the first real snowy day. I'm late for my first bus and with my clear view to the bus stop from several blocks away, I see that it's perfectly on time, so I'm stuck until the next one comes along.

By the time it arrives, there are six other people crammed into the shelter. I scramble on board, but as I anticipated there is standing room only, until 2 stops before my transfer point.

When I board my second bus it is mercifully empty, as usual, and fills up, as usual, near the apartment buildings as the school kids jump on. Also as usual, none of the young people sit with me.

But then he gets on the bus: weighing in at close to 300 lb, he is medium height, middle aged, and obviously nursing a bum leg. With nowhere else to sit, he joins me. But he sits sideways in the seat, and tries to stretch out his leg while constantly nudging backwards.

It's amusing at first, but as he keeps pressing back, and I keep getting smudged against the window, I'm growing increasingly uncomfortable. It is with great relief and an internal "Yay!" that I see us approaching the school, and the kids begin to pile off.

There are at least a dozen empty seats now, including the priority seating with its ample leg room. But he doesn't move. And he keeps pushing back. I'm starting to get a little freaked out.

But it's soon clear why he didn't move after everybody got off at the previous stop.

His is next; there's his stop.

This Is Winter

Snow is peppered on the grass outside my work as I begin my journey home tonight, but it's sleet that's currently falling and collecting in the depressions normally reserved for rain. It's deceptive, this cumulative sleet - there's no discernible visible difference between a mere surface coating and two inches of depth, so I get my right foot quite wet as I make my way to the bus stop.

Mercifully, today we have here, for the first time, a real bus shelter. From May to September, we had nothing. Then they put up a shelter with just two walls on the narrow east and west sides of the shelter, which made me wonder how effective it would be against the cruel north wind when winter hit.

But that one is gone today, replaced by a bus shelter than any bum would be happy to call home. There are already three other people inside it when I get there, and a fifth arrives shortly after me so it gets rather cramped. We're in good spirits though, as Old Man Winter has finally shown up and we find that, as always, we're up to the challenge. We joke about Toronto needing to call in the military when they got snowed on in 1999 (that never gets old!).

The bus is there on time and we eagerly pile on and find seats. As I gaze through the fogged up window beside me, I think about how much we Canadians hate winter, and love to. It's our toughness, our mettle tested, our boast to the world. Only Russia shares this badge of honour with us, but they always seem so sad. We laugh, frolic in the snow, and think up sports around it.

This is winter. This is Canada.

There's my stop.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Voyage of the Bus Rider

Our paths cross at the street corner opposite the stop from where my bus ride home begins.

He's an older man, with long white hair, covered with a black toque with grey trim. He wears a black fall jacket and blue jeans. The light turns green, and we start across the intersection. "Can you believe there's a winter storm warning for tonight?" he asks. The stiff wind is indeed full of winter's bluster, and ominous clouds from the east are hastening over the city.

"We've had it pretty easy so far," I reply.

"Yep," he agrees. "It's been a nice fall. Say, did you hear about that accident this morning?"

"The two police cruisers that collided? Yeah, what happened there?"

"I'm not sure," he says. "It was bad though. The engine of one of the cruisers was literally in the front seat, from what I've heard."

"With speeds like that, you can be sure there was a high speed chase of some sort. The intersection was still closed this afternoon when I went by, and they had spread sand everywhere. Probably a ruptured gas tank."

The bus arrives in short order and we board, both taking seats near the front. He reaches into his bag and pulls out a book.

"Can you believe I'm actually reading this?" he laughs, pointing at the title: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of the books in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.

My face lights up. "I just read that a few weeks ago! It's a great book."

"You can sure tell he was religious though."

"Oh yeah, for sure. Those books are highly allegorical."

He nods, locates the bookmark, and resumes his reading.

He's enough of an interesting character that I almost press him to continue the conversation, but then I think better of it - if anybody had interrupted my recent journey through Narnia, I would have been seriously peeved.

Instead I read my Discover magazine.

There's my stop.

All By Myself

My second bus home appears at the stop about a minute late. It's jam-packed with raw humanity, but as this is a major transfer point, about 2/3 of the passengers spill out, like sand from a broken jar.

As I board, I notice a man who had been forced to stand near the front takes the only (newly) empty 2-seat bench for himself, so I join him in hopes that the rest of his bus ride is short and he'll soon disembark himself, leaving me the seat all by myself.

Then, at the next stop, another half of the current passengers get off and another bench is emptied. I spring into it, abandoning my previous plan.

There's something about me which makes me the last person anybody wants to sit with on a bus. No matter if it's an old woman, a young lady, a teenage boy, a middle-aged man... they all opt not to sit with me, a 30-something white guy. Here's what I think they're thinking when they see me:
  • Old woman: "Ooh, he looks far too handsome to want to sit next to an old lady like me."
  • Young lady: "Like, if I sit next to him, he is so going to hit on me. Whatever!"
  • Teenage boy: "That dude is lame."
  • Middle-aged man: "If I sit next to him, I'm going to be reminded how young I'm not."
Some days this irks me; today it does not, so I decide to make the most of my solitude. But eventually the bus does fill up, and finally the person who sits with me... is a 30-something white guy.

Very funny.

There's my stop.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Standard Time

The first thing I notice when I get off work and walk to my bus stop is that the sky is vivid with the amorous hues of a prairie sunset. Soft purples and wisps of red-tinged white clouds slide slowly across the fading dusty blue of the sky. My view of the sunset is remarkably unimpeded by the city, as I'm looking directly west down a low-traffic street. The drab power cables and obnoxious, tallish buildings in the background do their best to cast a damper on the living sky, but its sheer height overwhelms them and makes them look all the uglier.

There's my bus.

It's not until I've been riding for about 10 minutes that I realize I only saw the sunset today because daylight savings time ended this past weekend. For the first time since I've started busing in May, my bus ride home is subjected to the shroud of darkness. It's not long before it's fairly black out, and suddenly the press of the crowd on the bus makes me feel a little claustrophobic.

It's like we're a compressed capsule of flesh hurtling through the night, origin and destination unknown. I desperately long for the peace and relative quiet of the bus stop, never mind at home.

There's my stop. Phew.