Friday, July 24, 2009

Transitions in Transit

My workplace is moving offices in two weeks, bringing into sharp relief how much I prefer taking the bus downtown as opposed to driving.

I was only in my third day at my new gig at Alberta Pensions Administration (soon to be Alberta Pensions Services) when we were brought to a nearby hotel for an offsite meeting (complete with coffee and cookies) for the surprise announcement that we would be re-locating to "The Crossings at Windermere", west of the Henday, in less than a year. I guess the audio attachment of the gospel-sounding theme from "The Jeffersons" ("movin' on up/ to the east side/ to a deeeeluxe apartment/ in the sky-hiiigh") to the meeting invitation should have been a clue, but I missed it completely.

Obviously change is hard, or we would do more of it willingly, but humans are creatures of habit, so a lot of people were pretty choked about the whole affair. For myself, I was a little annoyed, not so much because it would be a quicker commute from Devon than from Castle Downs where I live, but because the bus is incredibly convenient for me: it stops not far from my house, there are no transfers and it isn't much longer than driving my car would be, especially once you factor in the search for parking. And with a couple of exceptions, all of my drivers have been very decent folks, a couple of them even having waited for me to trot the last block to my bus while I was running behind.

I've since made my peace with it, and will hopefully be shopping for a new car by the end of the year, aided by a relocation allowance from work and the possibility of a government-backed clunker trade in program that would net me $3500 towards the purchase of a new car for my 1994 K-Car with the peeling paint.

And while I am not going to miss the inflexibility, crowding and occasional physical discomfort of the people's chariot, there are some aspects I am going to miss, especially on the ride home.

Since I am one of the first three people on my bus at 3:57, I usually get my pick of the seats. Without fail, I grab the rearmost seat on the starboard side which nets me a wee shelf besides me to set my case, a little bit of extra leg room with a pseudo foot-rest, and a window to lean against if I want a short kip on the ride home (I guess I had better discontinue that habit once I am driving on the Henday; on the other hand, it is pretty clear other people do it). Even if the bus gets filled, I have a little wiggle room to my right instead of having my knee driven in to the back of the seat in front of me.

The bus affords me over an hour of dedicated reading time every workday, which in the morning is usually the Journal, but in the evening includes a number of selections from my own collection as well as the public library. As my wife will attest, I become practically oblivious to my surroundings while reading, with some exceptions such as loud noises or extreme deceleration, so this really makes the time spent riding home just fly by. I am thinking of digging out some books on tape (hey kids: 'tapes' or 'cassettes' were the audio storage medium of choice before CDs and memory sticks) as a pale substitute for next month's K-Car commuting.

There is a busker outside the Tim Horton's at Jasper Avenue and 106 Street with a shiny silver jacket who is always plunking away on his electric guitar in the warmer months (both of them)as we drive by. I don't hear enough of his playing to really make a judgment as to his quality, but he's got the biggest smile and is clearly enjoying himself as he plays, and there are enough people around to verify his joy is both honest and contagious.

The Khazana Indian restaurant has a huge photo montage on its wall, the center of which are two of the cooks holding up skewers of whole chicken with huge smiles on their faces. As a guy who loves food in general, chicken in particular and Indian chicken in specific, let me just say that I have never been half as happy eating chickens as these two gents are just holding them up for a photo. They never cease to make me smile.

I don't see him as much any more, but one of the houses on 97th Street around 115th Avenue has a dog who would, during the winter months, often lean on the back of the living room sofa and watch the people and traffic going by. Unlike my insecure hound who feels any detectable movement requires him to bark his fool head off, this laid back shepherd/cross-looking fellow just watches the parade, occasionally turning his head to follow a pedestrian. Eventually I came to anticipate his presence, and then began to lament his absence on the days he wasn't visible. He's a hairy beast, so I expect he has found a cooler venue for his late afternoon repose, but I still try to remember to look for him, if I don't have my nose buried in a book, and it is a pleasant surprise to see him from time to time.

Despite missing all these things, I am still largely looking forward to the move. A shiny new building and new graphic identity (corporate swag, huzzah!) will go a long way to replacing the things I will miss about my daily commute. Plus, my age may provide me with mid-life crisis leverage towards a cool ride for the first time in my life when I finally get the auto shopping under way this winter.


  1. For "books on tape" action, you may also want to consider investing in an iPod or similar music player. You can then also add podcasts to your listening library. A new(er) car may even support it direcly.

  2. second Totty's comments 100%. I too would rather read but am a card-carrying member of podcast nation. It's incredible what's out there to listen to.