Morning commute

Burnaby, BC

There is a chill in the air, remnants of frost on the ground. It certainly doesn’t feel like April, or maybe it does. It is hard to remember what the weather was like from year to year. Especially if you move around a lot. At least it is sunny, which is a small consolation that makes you smile as you stand waiting for your bus. As seems to be a disturbing trend, the express bus mocked you again today by growling by mere moments before you reached the stop. Fine, the regular bus it is, seeing that it isn’t the warmest of mornings, it is better to linger a bit longer on the inside of the bus than on the curb.

This morning is a special morning too, bus wise. It is the first of the month, and now you have a bus pass. Although technically it is called a Farecard, the premise is the same, only this is also good on the Skytrain and the Seabus as well. Having this pass though is like being part of a club. It distinguishes you from the casual transit user and is a symbol that public transportation is a part of your daily life. You carry it with pride, your own private pride, knowing that you are saving untold hundreds by not owning or driving a car.

You inch toward the curb as your bus approaches, instinctively reaching toward your coat pocket for a ticket, but mentally catching yourself as you realize that you are past that now. No more tickets, you can just smoothly move on past the driver casually displaying your pass. No stopping, no waiting and holding up the line. Comfortable. You notice the bus is a bit more full this morning. Something a regular user would notice, someone seasoned. You find a seat and settle in. This isn’t a short trip down the block, you are going to the end of the line. It is a thirty-five minute trip on a good day, so you get to see many people come and go, passing by in the aisle. Most days you are lost in your own world, trying not to bother anyone including yourself. Today however you take notice; these are your people. Bus people.

No one ever seems very happy about being on the bus, especially in the morning. Waiting outside in the cold, or rain, or both. Then you get to board a large smelly vehicle and get to sit in someone’s personal space. And they in yours. Not a good start, and to top it off you are being brought to work… or school, but statistically it is somewhere you don’t want to be. So you notice a lot of distant expressions as people endeavour to pass the time with a minimum of interpersonal contact. Newspapers, iPods and novels are the transit commuter’s weapons against not only time but each other. Sad faces, tired faces, sleepy faces, and you wonder how others perceive you at this early hour. Do they recognize you as another comrade in their daily commute, or as that lucky bastard who managed to get a good seat before the bus filled up? Do they care?

Eventually it ends, and offering a sufficient yet not undue amount of courtesy you alight and head for your connection. As with many of the commuters at this junction in the journey, you are not finished. You ascend the escalator to the platform and once again smile inwardly (and perhaps a bit outwardly as well) at the crowd on the platform opposite yours. For yours is a reverse commute, against the major flow of human traffic. Your train arrives within a matter of moments and you step into the half-full car. As usual you eye one of the empty seats, but elect to remain standing. You were just sitting for a while and will be sitting much of the day, so you give your legs a bit of a stretch. The train ride is smooth and you attempt to stand there without holding on to the rails despite the signs recommending something to the contrary. The people on the train with you seem a bit happier than the bus people. Not much, perhaps only a single notch on some internal scale of the happiness, but collectively it makes for a more pleasant ride.

Two stops is all you need to reach your destination, and again you join a crowd as it moves collectively toward the stairs. Descent is followed by more walking and more forced cheer as free daily papers are thrust toward you by determined women in toques. You brush by with your head down, almost to your destination. You can see the office tower gleaming in the sunlight. You don’t really notice the shine when you are inside. Separated from the crowd now you feel a chill, no more collective heat. You jam your hands in your pockets; it certainly doesn’t feel like April. Maybe it does.