On the Edmonton Bus

Thursday, December 4, 2014

I am standing at the back door, as the Jasper Avenue bus passes by the disused Paramount Theatre, and shudders over the slush towards 102nd Street. As the bus stops, two individuals who become audible behind me continue their youthful conversation. She: “So, then, you’re in recovery, too.” He: “Yes. It sure is a different world out there.” She: “Yah. It was such a nightmare.” We all disembark and go our separate ways.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Edmonton Oil Kings Logo

Edmonton Oil Kings Logo

Quite an accumulation of afternoon alcohol on the Jasper Avenue bus today. Also, a surfeit of very dark eye liner and muddled men losing their sagging pants. Several still recognizably black Oil Kings t-shirts well beyond their best before date. One of the wearers, somewhat in complaint, commented to a disabled passenger embarking into the crowd: ‘not the best time of day to get on with a wheelchair,’ apparently unwilling to allow that the condition is not elective, despite there being not the smallest sign of ghost passengers on any travel manifest. Seldom a lack of theatre in our town of transients.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014



First Ferrari sighting of the season. Guy in suit gets out. Shaved cranium. Heads for Starbucks. I get on the bus for downtown. An hour and a half later, on the bus back, the same Ferrari is now parked two blocks from Starbucks. In front of the botox clinic.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Keith Richards

Keith Richards

This morning, heading to the heart of downtown, I swear that the guy across from me was Keith Richards’s twin, right down to the physique, hair, headband, and clothes. Only his shoes betrayed his poverty. As the bus rolled past the basilica, I was wondering if I should ask for an autograph, or, failing that, a cigarette.

Well, it’s happened at last. This afternoon, heading west from 109 Street, I help a blind man onto the bus. The bus is packed, but in a few moments someone gets up to give the man a seat. A moment later, a young man also offers me a seat. This has not ever happened, and I’m not keen that it has. I adjusted quite well some time ago to being called ‘sir,’ but this will take a more testing adjustment. I thanked him, though; when I, so to speak, declined.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Jasper Avenue, Edmonton (Courtesy: www.connect2edmonton.ca)

Jasper Avenue, Edmonton (Courtesy: http://www.connect2edmonton.ca)

I’m on the 135 bus, which is one of most sociologically interesting in Edmonton. Hence, I take it as often as I can, and in preference to the other lines that service Jasper Avenue.

Early this afternoon, I get ready to disembark at the stop before my stop, and go to the front door, as the bus is very full. So crowded, in fact, that at each stop the driver looks into his rear-view mirror to ascertain that all those who want to disembark have done so. At this stop, having conducted this check, and preparing to put the bus back in motion, a short man, 60s maybe, white-haired, white-skinned, barrels his way from the centre to the bus, yelling “don’t you dare leave till I’m off the bus.” He carroms off my left side, shoots a fierce look at the driver, who is young, 20s, and dark-skinned, and clambers off the bus. The driver mutters something inarticulate, more in surprise than irritation. From the street the older man turns round, waves his right fist, and spits “Don’t you type dare talk to me that way.” And wheels away.

I say to the driver: “Well, that was pleasant.” He says, “It’s part of the entertainment for the day.” I say, “At least you don’t have to pay Netflix.” He says, “That’s true.” I say, “And it’s personalized.” He responds, “Yes. Uncensored, too.”

We wish each other good day as I leave the bus at the next stop, which is mine. A friend in Halifax recently wrote me that if there’s one thing he’d wish for it’d be that people be nicer to one another. He thinks if he solved that one, he’d get the Nobel Prize.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Quran. (Courtesy: www.waag.azhar.org.uk)

Quran. (Courtesy: http://www.waag.azhar.org.uk)

Not as cold as the weekend, when it dipped to -37C, but it is snowing, CityTV blaring a great emptiness of content (“Albertans are hardy folk, you know. Now here how’s you make caramel sponge cake.”) at the corner of Jasper and 102nd Street. When that transporter of the outriders of local sociology, the Number 5 Westmount bus arrives—and it is a line I like to ride for the unusual wealth of unusual human behaviour it carries—, I get on and greet one of the regular drivers, and sit next to a very tall, easily 6’8″ white man in his late forties, powerful frame, brown mustache and goatee, clutching a half-empty bottle of Orange Crush, and talking into his cell phone. “Didn’t think I was going to make bail. Even my lawyer wasn’t sure.” When he disembarks, a young white man, mid-twenties, sideburns, beaded bracelets on his right wrist, takes his seat, opens his iPad, and resumes reading the Quran in Arabic.

Friday, November 8

Cursive letter in English, 1894 (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Cursive letter in English, 1894 (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

My bus is travelling along Jasper Avenue. A tall man, late 40s, carrying a satchel, gets on and, when seated, takes an envelope from the satchel. The envelope contains a glossy card of an owl, and inside the card, folded in quarters, is a letter of one page. It is handwritten in neat, tight, straight script. Given the usual apocalyptic saturation of smartphones among the passengers, this is so unusual that I actually watch him read. A sense of nostalgia arises for what once was commonly so personal. When the bus reaches my stop, I peer over his shoulder, wondering if the letter is from some part of the world where the Internet lacks eminent domain. Encouragingly, the letter is in English. Then the back door opens, and I’m back in the land of distracted driving.


Cyclist (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

Cyclist (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

How to be maimed. It’s rush hour downtown. My bus is travelling south on 103rd Street, no more than two feet behind another bus, both negotiating the turn through the thickets of pedestrians and cars onto Jasper Avenue. A cyclist, coming from the east on Jasper, crosses against two lanes of traffic on 103rd, goes over the centre line, cuts off another lane, and passes between the two moving buses, and returns to Jasper through the crowds. First I think why would a person want to risk getting crushed. Then I think, why take this dangerous route when he already had the right of way on Jasper. I wondered if he had a good orthopedic surgeon in mind. The bus, fortunately, had good brakes, and an even better driver. The cyclist was, however, wearing a helmet.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The short, dark-eyed man wearing a deer-stalker cap who changed seats every few stops, in a nearly empty bus.

The young Aboriginal woman, Tracy, who was having a psychotic episode, while her brother gently coaxed her from the rear of the bus to its rear door and so to the side-walk;  while the bus driver waited patiently, and, it seemed to me, with compassion.

The Chinese lady who kept wrapping and re-wrapping her boxes of chocolate marshmallows three bags’ deep; and when she left the bus, did so once again at the bench at the bus stop.

The old man François, with grey-blue sightless eyes, and originally from near Rosetown, Saskatchewan, and who had lost a cousin to sudden death just before the cousin was to be married, and who had lost a younger brother of 13 years in a light airplane accident, and who was riding the Jasper Avenue bus to Capilano to buy a new squeegee mop at Wal-mart. And George, across the aisle, in trim jacket and with well-barbered hair, who was asked by François if he could assist him to his destination and in his purchase; and who said yes, and then suggested it would be less demanding if the mop were bought at Save-on-Foods at Jasper Avenue and 109th Street; and who took François off the bus at that corner, had him put his arm in his, so to guide the blind man to the store, and there to make the purchase. The two had never met.

Tuesday, October 9

Young aboriginal woman, 20s, concluding a cell phone conversation: “I’m on my way now. Marina’s still in a halfway house.”

Tuesday, October 2

The young man in his twenties, of Asian Indian extraction, making the sign of the cross when we in the bus passed the basilica on Jasper Avenue. My wife was reminded of how in the Montreal of her youth women would sign in the same manner and men tip their hat as their equivalent gesture. As there were thousands of Roman Catholic churches in that city, hats were seldom untouched and hands seldom motionless.

Monday, August 20

The middle-aged man in the last seat by the window, holding his prayer beads in his right hand, and kissing a cross that hangs from his neck every time a Hail Mary completes; while holding a package of Player’s cigarettes in his left. When he rises to leave at his stop, one can read the back of his t-shirt: “I love the immaculate conception.”

The aged, gaunt, unshaven man in the last seat by the opposite window, wearing a worn jacket in the 30 degrees’ heat, staring blankly through the sun onto the street. After a while he picks up a free news-sheet from the seat in front of him, and then stares blankly at the paper.

The tall young man with a white cane who makes a beeline for the same rear seat, selects the middle spot, folds up his cane, pulls out his iPhone, and begins to read.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A persistent rain. Passengers studiously without umbrellas.

Angel with mobile phone
Angel with mobile phone (Photo credit: Akbar Sim (terribly busy))

The lady with the irregularly auburn-dyed hair, striving to look impeccable, as if she were in downtown Prague or Vienna, too many rings searching for noonday light, who adjusts her well cared-for leather coat carefully before disembarking.

The brown-skinned young woman, wearing jeans constructed of patches and metal rings, with a splash of golden sparkle on her eyebrow, next the embedded red pin.

The tall Sikh youth, dark-eyed, white turban over hair and comb, listening to music on his phone while his Caucasian friend, blue-eyed, who boards a stop later, talks too loud as she speaks to him.

The young male dressed in fatigues and inexpensive leathern jacket, who adjusts his fatigue-patterned haircloth so that it is just over forehead and the knot plain but unobtrusive; pewter-shaded double earring; putting on his sunglasses to escape the glare of the rain; working on unsuccessful sang-froid; as if desperately in need of a motorcycle.

The aging Chinese woman, hair grey and straight, disembarking with her somewhat younger acquaintance, whose hair retains some colour, who carefully clutches her faded black totebag emblazoned with a repetition of the word ‘Amsterdam,’ all in white but for one in yellow.

The middle-aged Caucasian adult with long, flowing, soft brown hair and over-abundant moustache, who, momentarily feeling somewhat too conspicuous, reaches for his cell phone, with which he does naught.

The writer, absorbed by his observation of the other passengers, who almost misses his stop.

One thought on “On the Edmonton Bus

  1. Pingback: News Now and Then | CulturalRites

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