More Bus Blues

Clker-Free-Vector-Images / Pixabay

I’m back with more bus blues.

As a public transit rider in Calgary, I usually make it to my destination without incident.

Now and then, however, I find myself witnessing an unseemly scene. Perhaps you do, as well. A while back, I was on the bus at the LRT station, on route home from my folks’ place. The bus was parked and would soon depart.

A fortyish man boarded and sat in front of me.

Before long, he loudly demanded that the driver get off his phone and resume his route. He peevishly pointed out that the bus was two minutes late in departing. A young woman seated in front of him turned around and seemed to give me a dirty look. I bobbed my head in the guy’s direction. Then he said to the driver, “what are you looking at me like that for?”

The woman told him to shut up.

“You shut up,” he retorted.

Though outwardly calm, my adrenaline was in high gear. Other riders seemed unfazed, but they must have felt some distress. I don’t recall the driver’s response, but he remained stoic.

Public transit follows schedules – which are not always exact – so buses and trains cannot simply depart upon hurried passengers’ needs.

Fortunately, the hothead settled down and soon turned his attention to his cell phone. While the public use of mobile devices has proven dangerous in many cases (phoning/texting/reading while driving/walking), sometimes they make good pacifiers.

I admired the tolerance of the driver, though I wish he would have retorted.

Granted, Calgary’s public transit system has undergone changes which can be disruptive for riders and workers. New routes have been added and road construction has led to detours.

Sometimes transit users and drivers – much like motorists, pedestrians, etc. – are at the mercy of the weather. Calgary is a fine city but is not always prompt when it comes to snow removal and salting/sanding the roads, as you may know.

On a particularly wintery March day in 2018, I was on the bus going to a family get-together. As I recall, there had been major traffic disruptions reported that day, but my on-line check of the bus schedule had shown no delays.

My bus was cautiously making its way up a snow-covered hill. I was the only passenger. To my dismay, I saw a bus stopped at an angle further up the hill. I just knew it was out of commission.

My bus continued its ascent. I soon surmised that it would be unable to pass the stranded bus. I was stricken with a dreadful oh-no-we’re-going-to-crash sensation.

Guess what happened?

That’s right. As I cringed, I heard the awful sound of metal side-swiping metal.

My mind wanted to do a double-take; as if it was not accepting the mishap.

Almost involuntarily, I stood up and approached the front of the bus.

The driver calmly told me that he would be unable to proceed. He did not ask me to remain at the scene as a witness.

I wished him good luck and got off. I did not see anyone who was injured; including the driver. On the sidewalk, I passed a woman who was appeared to be angry at the driver.

I hurried home on foot to call my mother who was expecting me. It was one of those rare cases where I wished I had owned a cell phone (I now have one). I made it to my destination in reasonable time, thanks to my step-father who gave me a ride.

I never heard about the accident in the news, even after checking all media; TV, newspapers, etc. Likely, there had been too many accidents to all be reported.

Currently, according to Global News Calgary, Calgary does not budget for buses to be equipped with snow tires.

But traffic accidents often have costly results: personal injuries, damages to vehicles and homes, etc., and time off work. And one cannot put a price on human lives.

Early in November 2018, winter had seized Calgary in its icy grip. I was at the bus stop on my way to an appointment. I had checked the bus schedule online but with the weather and city transit’s changes, I wondered if my bus would arrive, reasonably on time. The fact that I was the only one waiting was not encouraging. I had only taken that specific bus route once before.

Encouraged, I saw the bus approaching; I made sure that my transfer was readily accessible from my pocket. But when I beheld an unexpected number illuminated on the front of the bus, my crest had fallen.

The bus slowed for me, but I waved it along.

But then I noticed the expected route number on the back of the bus, as it drove away. I realized that it was my bus, after all. I did not know what the other number meant. Perhaps the vehicle number?

I am no Usain Bolt, but I gave my sprinting ability the old college try. The snow on the sidewalk did not help, but fortunately, the bus soon stopped at a red light. I reached the bus’s door and knocked. Smiling sheepishly, I asked the driver to please let me board. For an instant I thought he would refuse, but he obliged.

As I presented my transfer, we both spoke at once; he, asking me why I did not get on at the bus stop and me – a bit winded – apologizing because I was confused about the route number. He adamantly replied that there was no confusion.

Easy for him to say; he was the driver.

Though grateful that he had stopped for me, I privately felt that he could have been a bit more understanding.

I didn’t pursue the matter further, lest he evict me or become distracted and have an accident. We ended up thanking each other and I took a seat. Somehow, my first time on that route had been easier. I would wager that other riders become confused in similar situations. It must be worse for those who are less able-bodied; who are unable to sprint to a bus or to discern the bus numbers.

When I got off, it was not at the designated stop – presumably due to road construction. I had to squeeze between 2 parked cars to get to the curb. Again, I wonder how people with mobility issues cope in these situations.

Later that month, I was on my regular bus heading home. The female bus driver didn’t seem to know the route but a female passenger willingly – and accurately – guided her. The two chatted like old friends. Other riders seemed unperturbed. It was kind of the woman to help, but I felt uneasy. Not only did I fear an accident (though the driver was careful) but I feared that the driver would have asked me to take over navigating once the good Samaritan got off. I have an appalling sense of direction – even to give directions in familiar territory. If telephone booths still existed, I would probably need search-and-rescue.

The bus driver was friendly and grateful for the help. My ride ended without incident, but I don’t think she should have been soloing; transit authority should have guided her.

Still, I appreciate Calgary Transit.

Safe riding.