Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Bus Ride and A Special Room

I wrote this the night of August 24, 2012...for all those who can appreciate riding transit and BC Ferries.

I made a trip to Nanaimo tonight, right smack at the beginning of a sunny late August weekend.  The goal was for my car to stay behind, and I go on as a foot passenger, which is just so much less stressful and way more cost-effective than taking the car over, especially if you have a ride at the other end.  However, about midway through my work day, one of my colleagues let me know there was a two sailing wait--just to clarify to those non-BC residences who don't have to deal with the sometimes potentially painful ferry experience, that means there is a massive amount of people at the ferry terminal, all trying to get onto one island or another.  After hearing this news, a bit of panic set in given I was planning on parking my car at the terminal, but now concerned about available space.  In a brain-wave, I came the idea of leaving my car at work and bussing it--brilliant!  And so, with that came the reality of taking my very first bus ride in over 10 years.  

I'm green in every other part of my life, but thanks to working ridiculously far away from where I live, I've had no choice but to use my vehicle for commuting--either that, or it would take me 3 hours each way.  So naturally, given that public transportation was now apparent, I realized I had no clue how much it was, where the bus stops were, how to find the schedule, etc.  My wonderful associate, Kristen, was there to help me figure all of that out--of course she was in a mix of hysterical laughter and disbelief that I had no idea whatsoever how to board a bus on my own.  Within a few minutes, she had my trip planned and at 4:16pm I would be on my way to Horseshoe Bay sans car.

I now know why I enjoy my car so much--I have control, or at least there is the illusion of control.   There I sat at the bus stop, waiting...waiting for the bus to come.  4:16 pm came and went, and I started to panic at around 4:18pm.  I discovered there's nothing more disappointing than watching buses coming toward you, only to see that it's not your bus.  Finally, mine came.  I bounded onto the bus happily and got an immediate eye-roll from the bus driver--he could see I was a newbee.  I knew I had the correct change (we looked the cost up on-line) but I was thoroughly confused when trying to find where to put the change.  I also didn't understand that a ticket comes out of the machine (the drivers used to give you a "transfer" back in the day).  By now, the bus driver was just looking at me like I was completely crazy.  I took my ticket and quickly found a seat, but not before whacking a few people in the head with my giant Marilyn Monroe Betsey weekender (not the best choice to take on a crowded bus).

The ride was quite pleasant and it was really, really quiet, so when my friend Sheila called causing my phone to belt out the Sex and the City theme song in amongst the tranquil and scenic ride, people just stared at me in horror.  I quickly told Sheila I didn't understand the bus protocol for cell phones, so I would have to call her back.  Then, in shuffling through my bag, the handle got caught on the chord that you pull to ring the bell--I guess I was in the handicap seats so the chord was right next to me.  I didn't realize what I did so when the bus stopped at the next stop, everyone just stared at me, waiting for me to get off.  The teenage kid sitting in front of me actually said, "Ma'am, you rang the bell--are you getting off the bus or what?".  I told him I didn't ring the bell, but then he quickly retorted, "That's because you're sitting in the handicap section, but if the shoe fits..."  I had no words for him that would have not contained swearing of some sort and since I already was being considered a "problem" to the other passengers, I thought it was best left alone.  The teenager and I did make amends once I saw the GreenDay sticker on his backpack and away we went...comparing mosh pit stories and all.  And, sure enough, when we arrived at Horseshoe Bay, he invited me to a party...yes, I tend to attract teenagers regularly.

Finally, after I ditched the kid, I boarded the fabulous Coastal Renaissance ferry to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.  The ferry is one of the new boats in BC Ferries' line up from the Olympics.  It's funny, these ships were built after the foot passenger section of Horseshoe Bay terminal was renovated, so when the boat comes in, thanks to its sheer size, it looks like its just going to plow into the building and take everyone out--it's quite amusing to watch the tourists scatter in mass panic while I just stand there calmly.

Once on board, I immediately found my way to ferry's quiet lounge....or, as I like to call it, the "Special Room".  I don't know what I would do without this room--it is a sanctuary away from the plethora of screaming and out of control children, cell phones addicts, and just plain old noisy people.  Yes, you pay an extra $12 to get in, but it's worth its weight in gold.  

Unlimited delicious snacks, coffee, tea, and magazines.  And, your own washroom!  I was the first to arrive, and since I thought I was the only one in there, I exclaimed out loud "Oh Special Room, how I love you so!"  You can imagine the look on the BC Ferry employee's face (that includes eye-rolling) who heard my over-zealous verbiage as they appeared from behind the counter.  I will purposefully go out of my way and potentially mow down anyone in my path to ensure I make it to the SeaWest Lounge--that's the official name versus my literal and figurative terminology.  I love watching people walk by, curiously looking in to see what's going on in there--that's right, you stay out, this is the Special Room, clearly only for special people like me.

When the weekend was over and I had to head home, my experience was the polar opposite from when I left.  There's nothing like getting stuck on the piece of sh*t Queen of Oak Bay ferry that dates back to when I was 6 years old (I'll be 42 shortly)--there was no Special Room to take cover in from the insanity that ensued over the following 2 hours.  To top it off, there was also no car waiting for me at the other end either.  After waiting over half an hour for the bus to arrive, it didn't take long for me to realize that the bus driver thought he was Mario Andretti--all I wanted was to be in my car where, yes, often I think I'm Mario Andretti, but I at least have the skill to pull it off!

All in all, an interesting transit experience.  Is there a bus ride in my near future?  Maybe not.  Is there more eye-rolling as well as references to my being special coming my way--you better believe it...bring it on!

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