circa 1976  Sense and Nonsense

Of all the job positions that I wouldn’t like to have, Bus Driver has to be near the top of the list. I have noticed cross-country bus drivers seem to be large or mean or sometimes both. Mean may be an occupational hazard but large is definitely an asset when it comes to dealing with some passengers.

From a passenger’s viewpoint of the back of his head and shoulders the driver may sometimes appear to be an easygoing little fellow. The sitting down position can be deceptive. On one bus trip two navy types sat a few seats behind me. I guessed that they were sailors partly from their loud, colourful reminiscences and partly because it was over-proof rum they were drinking.

Our driver ignored their sometimes abusive remarks. The only indication that he heard them at all was a slight reddening between cap and collar-line from time to time.

At our next scheduled stop, our driver slowly rose to his feet. He must have weighed 250 pounds! Like the Incredible Hulk he advanced down the aisle. I waited for the crash followed by at least one dull thud… instead I heard a polite voice suggesting that perhaps the “gentlemen” would prefer to patronize one of the town’s drinking establishments rather than continue their journey on the bus.

He departed with what was left of their bottle and the ensuing silence lasted for miles.

It is not always the rough, rowdy characters that aggravate the drivers. One southbound bus driver appeared to be extremely confused after leaving Quesnel, BC. In broken English he stubbornly insisted that “somebody” should have gotten off in that town. He interrogated those of us with children as to whether or not our “kid had a ticket.”

Finally, he stopped the bus and announced that he wanted to have a look at each and every ticket. The nice well-dressed young fellow up front was one of the first to present his. Our driver took one look and berated him with, “I don’t speak English that good but I sure as h….. can read it! This ticket says Quesnel – not Vancouver!”

His revenge was complete when after leaving the young man at a roadside service station, we met the northbound bus pulling in. “if that fellow wants a ride back to Quesnel. don’t give him one,” he growled at the other driver.

Riding a bus can be aggravating but between buses it can become downright boring. I recently spent two unscheduled hours wedged against the wall under the “No Loitering” sign in the Prince George depot. The place was a seething mass of humanity, suitcases, cardboard boxes and knapsacks awaiting mostly overdue buses to travel in all four directions.

Prince George is like a giant magnet. It attracts all manner of transportation but is often reluctant to let go. I have noticed Via Rail spends a lot of time in its tracks in that city as well.

No wonder the city is the fastest growing center in BC. No doubt some residents are still waiting for their bus or train to leave town!

To really appreciate buses one should ride the train from time to time.

On our last Via Rail experience from Edmonton I was unable to get reservations for sleeping accommodations and was told I was “lucky” to secure day coach seats. As it turned out, “lucky” was not an accurate description. I discovered that Day Coach is definitely a no-frills proposition. They wouldn’t even allow us to line up for the diner until 11o’clock that night.

The only luck we had was that we were travelling west rather than east. We passed the eastbound as it sad immobilized on a remote siding. Apparently, it had hit a bear and was six hours behind schedule. The children waved at us through the coach windows but their parents didn’t even smile. They eyed us wistfully as our train sped past in the direction from whence they had come.

Unlike bus drivers, trainmen seem to be a happy lot. I overheard some of them speculating about the damage the bear had done. One laughingly expressed amazement because as he said, there is no problem when you hit a moose. “There is just a thump and you are away!”

Perhaps, if they butchered out all the moose they hit, Via Rail could sell the meat in the dining cars and lessen their financial difficulties.

Meanwhile, I think I prefer to ride the buses. If the drivers are large and mean, at least I can understand why.

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