Bus People: Friendly and Odd

As I waited for the bus yesterday, I sat on the bus bench outside one pawn shop and across the street from another.  An older man came along and picked up some litter that was in the bus shelter and I thanked him. “You’re a good man,” I said as he took it to the litter bin. “I do this every day,” he said, “but it comes back every time.”

When he returned from depositing the trash, he told me that when he had been waiting for the bus at 5:30 in the morning the driver didn’t see him and the bus just sailed past. I commiserated, but had to ask “Why were you getting the bus at 5:30 in the morning?”  He looked older than me, so I was guessing that he wasn’t going to work.  “I was going downtown for coffee,” he said. “I go four times a day. It’s something to do. The Commerce Building coffee shop opens at 6:00.”

I suppose that makes some sort of sense, but then again, maybe not. It takes half an hour to get downtown from here, so he must go downtown, have coffee, and return back just in time to go again. Four times. Every day.

All righty, then.

Edmonton Transit System Bus
Source: Edmonton Transit System

After I had gone downtown, had lunch, and done some shopping, I got on the bus to go back home.  It was about 2:30 in the afternoon and the bus was full of people trying to run errands or get home or both. Edmonton buses have space at the front that is prioritized for people with wheelchairs, or walkers, or strollers, or disabilities, and some seats can be raised or lowered to accommodate their needs. On this particular trip, when I got on the bus, there was a woman with both a broken leg in a cast and an infant in a stroller, two seniors, and a man with a wheeled shopping cart and two large additional bags, in that area of the bus.

                Open Strollers on Buses                     via Young Parents

Shortly after I got on the bus, a woman boarded with an infant in a stroller but no place to put the stroller. The man with the shopping kindly moved into the space at the back door of the bus where there was also a young man with a very large suitcase.  This made it possible for the stroller to be placed in the space he had vacated but it had to go across the bus such that it stuck out into the aisle.

Sure enough, a few stops later, we had another need for a priority seat; an elderly man with two canes, each with four small feet, boarded the bus. He seemed to have a lot of pain in his hips. With great difficulty, he maneuvered around the awkwardly placed stroller and found a seat.

Cane with Four Feet via RIDC UK

The trouble really started when he wanted to leave. First of all, he had great difficulty getting past the young man with the suitcase, but he did it. Then, the bus stopped a distance from the curb, which meant that he could not use his canes to enable him to step down. He asked the driver to move the bus forward and closer to the curb, but the driver suggested he come to the front where he could lower the “kneeling” bus for him.  However, the strollers and additional passengers meant that he could no longer navigate that path.

At this point, an impatient man at the back yelled: “Get a walker!”  I failed to see how this would have helped the situation, but the animosity was made abundantly clear. As the driver began to slowly move the bus forward and closer to the curb, none of us actually offered to help the man with the canes, but the man at the back yelled for the second time “Get a walker!” I turned around and glared at him, but I don’t think he was shamed at all.

The young man with the suitcase then asked the man with the canes if he needed any help, but by this time he had had enough of all of us, and he managed to leave the bus without assistance. He did, however, shout a sarcastic “Thank you . . .” but I couldn’t hear the end of that sentence.  I think I can guess what he said, though.

If I were ever to write a novel, it is these kinds of events and people that I would like to include in my stories. Actually, I’d just like to write about these characters; no plot, no arc, no denouement. Just people. I often come across interesting people when I ride the bus. Sometimes they are friendly, sometimes they are eccentric, and sometimes they are just hard to fathom. Yesterday, they were all three.



  1. Interesting blog, Anne. That would make for a very interesting book. Coincidentally, this was a story in the NYT this week: Lessons From 2,000 Hours on a Public Bus. Hmm, the link didn’t copy, but you could do a google search.

      • The article you mention is great, and I concur with the author’s conclusions. Riding the bus makes one very grateful.

        I would also like to recommend a recent article in the Guardian, “What would cities look like if they were designed by mothers?” It includes a section on buses that points out the limitations of the priority seating sections. They actually only accommodate about one wheelchair and one stroller, and all other needs and devices are just out of luck.

  2. Imam totally devoid of weirdness. I think this is why I may be a bit weird.

    The general set up out here is not really that conducive for riding the bus, though I did it for years in the UK.

    • Yes, I always thought you were weirdly unweird, Ark.

      We have a pretty good bus system, but it often seems inadequate for people with wheels of various kinds. I don’t know what the solution might be, but I’m grateful that we have the service, however flawed it may be.

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