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Bus ride to nowhere



The plan was simple: I was going out to see a movie, and my mother was coming with me. We would take a bus to the cinema. What could be simpler?

The bus did indeed take us places, but not the places we wanted to go. I had already tried to go to the movie the previous day and failed. I was too slow getting to the bus stop, and I missed my bus. There would not be another one for an hour, by which time the movie would have started long ago. So, I decided to try again the next night.

At first, things went well. The bus arrived at our stop, at the Chilliwack Mall, shortly after we got there. I had expected to be waiting for a few minutes in the rain and cold, so this worked out quite nicely. My mom expressed confusion, asking me if this was the right bus. My response was a bit snappy. Of course this was our bus, why would she think otherwise?

Soon the bus left and crossed the street to the Cottonwood Mall. Then the bus just sat there for minutes on end, in clear violation of the schedule, which I had reference to in the form of a handy brochure. My mom and I complained and expressed our confusion at the delay. I scowled, fidgeted, and looked more and more visibly uncomfortable and frustrated as the precious minutes ticked by. The bus driver refused to take the hint, instead standing at the front of the bus doing absolutely nothing, wasting our time. My mom and I made up our minds to get off the bus after a certain time, beyond which we would arrive too late to catch the movie. If this twit refused to do his job, then so be it.

So naturally, we finally got moving just as the deadline came. Once we arrived at our destination, we would have just barely enough time to get over to the cinema, buy our tickets, and maybe get something from the concession stand if we were lucky. Of course, I made the arrogant and totally unfounded assumption that the bus would actually follow its route and would take us where we needed to go. This was not the case.

Things really started to go pear-shaped when the bus took a wrong turn and headed in the opposite direction that it should have gone. We were confused. Were we misreading the scenery? Was the driver deranged? No, the explanation was simpler, and one I should have suspected from the beginning: we were on the wrong bus. Apparently I misread the number on the bus, and also my schedule was out-of-date.

From that point onward, any hope of seeing the movie that night was scotched. Our plan was to wait for the bus to make a full circuit and come back to the mall, but as time went by, we only got further and further away from that goal. Instead the bus followed its long, circuitous route through a part of town we had never been to, nor were even aware existed. My mom tried to make light of the situation, cracking jokes. I was in a more cantankerous mood. I resented being taken, against my will, on this joyride to God only knows where.

My mom commented at the time that this whole episode seemed like a dream. Indeed it was very surreal. Perhaps you have dreamt about travelling through your hometown, but nothing is laid out like it is in reality. It was a lot like that. I thought I recognized certain areas, but it was dark, and the windows were fogged up, so it was impossible to be certain. We didn’t dare get off anywhere we weren’t 100 per cent certain of, lest we be stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. The bus’s route zigzagged through residential areas, making turns that were barely wide enough to accommodate the vehicle without crashing into the houses along the narrow streets. We must have gone up a mountain at some point, because our ears popped.

After what seemed like an eternity, the driver finally asked us where we wanted to go. The bus was now out of service, and was heading back to HQ for the night. He was stopping at the Chilliwack Mall, which suited us fine, and we got off there. After disembarking, I checked the time. An hour had passed. In that hour it seemed as if we had been taken everywhere and nowhere. We walked home in defeat, but not before stopping at the liquor store and buying a six-pack of cider to give us some comfort after this debacle.

Eventually I got to see the movie at a second-run cinema within walking distance of my home. Even if our original plan had succeeded, we would have had to take a taxi home because the buses would have stopped running by then.

These misadventures are the sort of thing public transit users risk, that people with cars don’t think about. When you must ride the bus to get anywhere, you are at the mercy of someone else, and you can never be sure if they will take you where you want to go, when you want to go. It’s all very stressful.

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