On taking the bus at 4:50AM
Posted by Nick Milne on November 9, 2011
I write this, oddly enough, while sitting on a train taking me from Ottawa to Toronto, with a number of short stops in between. This is the first time I’ve been on a train trip in living memory, and the experience has been uneventful so far. The window beside me reveals a blood-red sky, interrupted at points by dark, slender clouds. It is an ominous sight, but a beautiful one; beneath it lies what appears to be an enormous expanse of marshland, stretching as far as the eye can see (or so it seems; it’s still too dark to be really sure). I’d have been disappointed by anything else.
To get to the train station, anyway, I had to take the 95 Orleans bus, which runs all night and conveniently makes stops at some of the city’s major transport hubs. I walked out the door at 4:40AM convinced that the driver would have but a single passenger – me – but I quite seriously miscalculated.
There is a vibrant and gladdening culture that has sprung up on this route, and that it’s a culture rather than a set of coincidences was borne out by what I saw and heard over the course of the twenty-minute ride.
While not being standing-room-only, the bus was quite shockingly full. A man in paint-spattered jeans kindly moved his bag aside to let me sit down – my own large suitcase taking up a fair amount of the aisle, unfortunately – and gave me the sort of curt nod that unites those traveling at an hour before even God himself has risen for the day. I surveyed my surroundings: the seats around me were filled by people in a variety of uniforms – construction, newspaper delivery, military – and happy conversations were taking place at every turn. A young Indian man and an elderly, mustachioed Caucasian were in the midst of something that saw them laughing uproariously (I never did find out what). The younger man got off a few stops before the train station; the elder was still riding when I left myself. The easy banter between the two suggests a friendship forged in the unlikely environment of the bus itself, with the shared experience of a ridiculous commute helping to break the ice. It would be hard to imagine the two sharing such a connection otherwise.
There were things like this happening all over. A pair of women in the garb of waitresses (for different restaurants) were arguing over a crossword puzzle; a woman in the livery of the post office read a much-written-in paperback that looked to be The Iliad. The stop before the train station saw a roar of greeting and happy laughter go up as a portly fellow carrying a duffel bag got on; evidently he was known to all.
This is the world, or at least a world. It’s a life of which I’d like to see something more, and the twenty minutes I spent in it fascinated me more deeply than much of anything I’ve done in recent memory. I shall have to look into it more.