Image courtesy of Atomic Taco
At the time of this writing, I have no car. I am on the verge of the edge of the precipice of buying one. I’m not entirely thrilled with the prospect. The expense is sort of forced, for one, which I resent. And another, I think individual car use isn’t exactly a 21st century strategy, what with the end of the age of cheap fuel in sight (that’s me being optimistic) and the rise of global warming a very real concern, no matter what the right wing, oil company-supporting TV pundits down south say.
Buying a car will present some advantages, I must admit. I’ll get to see my Mum a lot more than I do, and the Girl her Nana. I suppose too that certain simple pleasures will be enjoyed, too. It’ll be nice to play music while I drive, and to not worry too much about things like rushing to bus stops and budgeting huge amounts of time to getting not very far, all things considered, due to a lack of public transit coverage between my house, and the Girl’s Mum’s place.
The Girl herself will be happy about all of this. She’s been on me to get a car for years. But, I can’t help but be a little wistful anyway. Since her mum and I split, a lot of the bonding time between the Girl and I have been on and around catching buses and riding SkyTrains. Her perception of where I am compared to where she is was measured by the mantra “A bus, a SkyTrain, and another bus”.
We’ve taken several routes to get to where we need to go. When the Girl was attending Happy Farm Daycare in Surrey, we took a walk down a shady lane, across a schoolyard with an absurd amount of chain-link fences criss-crossing it that made it resemble more a prison than a school, and onto the 321; King George Station, onto the front car to see the track flowing outward before us. From here, it’s onto New Westminster Station (with much curiosity about Columbia Street Station, where we got off to get a toothbrush one time). Then, a bus; the 123 Brentwood, to my house.
154 bus: a "Sweet Chariot" (image courtesy of Stephen Rees)
The 340 from North Delta is one of (only!) three buses that cross the Fraser from Delta and Surrey and onto my side of the river, only one of which, incredibly, actually stops at the SkyTrain on the Expo line during regular service hours! This route was something of a Sweet Chariot to the Girl and I on trips from one side of the river to the other, and therefore much beloved. I used to call the Number 15 bus in London that – the Sweet Chariot – when I lived there, taking me from the East End (Poplar) to Central London (Charing Cross Station).
There is something about your bus that delivers something that can’t be replicated when you just climb into your car. It’s that feeling when you’re tired, it’s raining, or it’s getting dark, and your bus comes along, when you feel that the universe is taking care of you.
Other notable bus routes as ridden by the Girl and I: 155, 154, 101, 106, 312, 319, 100, 99B-line. They are Sweet Chariots, all; Scott Road stn, New West stn, 22nd St stn, and on and on.
The Girl has complained about trotting to bus stops, of being rushed, and forced into a bus schedule. I know how she feels. But, one thing that’s come out of that is the experience of riding buses and trains with fellow citizens, of taking advantage and being the benefactor of what I consider to be one of the hallmarks of civilization; accessible and affordable public transit.
But, I do have to get a car.
The logistics of seeing the Girl during weekday evenings, and of guaranteeing that the time I spend with her, especially during the week, is no longer characterized by me watching the clock rather than enjoying that time, is becoming something of a concern. Given the state of the transit system right now, it’s just not sustainable for me to keep schlepping to the bus with her and all of her luggage, and getting her over the river in a narrow window of time afforded only by limited service after the sun goes down.
22nd Street Station: a transit hub for the Girl and I (image courtesy of Dennis Sylvester Hurd)
But, in the two years I’ve managed it, The Girl has become a seasoned transit rider. She’s fascinated by maps, and routes and always asks where we are and where we’re going whenever she sees one. She knows that certain lines take us into town, and others take us over the bridge. She knows how to manage her bag, and where to place it when she takes her seat. She sits still. She looks out the window. She takes in the scenery. Despite her protestations, she loves the journey, the quest.
I don’t know how this will affect her as she grows. But, I hope it will encourage her to be unafraid to explore the wider world, taking a pack on her back and going out to see what she can see. Who knows? Maybe the Number 15 bus in London will be a Sweet Chariot to her, too, as it was to her Dad.
But, one thing that transit has taught me is that it’s OK to wait. It’s OK to share space with other people. And it’s OK to spend time in thought, or deep inside a book, as bus wheels and train tracks hurtle underneath.
It’s the zen of public transit, the art of revelling in solitude in the middle of the hustle and bustle. It is, in a way, a way to peace of mind. So, whether she goes no further than a few stops in all of her life, I hope that she gains this.