(an excerpt from a yet to be written book by @david_dehaas)
The 20. The bus all the other drivers warned me about. Don’t sign it, don’t trade for it, don’t even look at it. Well, guess what I got on a Saturday night at 2:30 in the morning? Yup, and it’s the super deluxe version, avec fromage. The N20. The late night version of the most notorious route going.
It did not disappoint.
I diffused a race war, solved a crime, got boarded by the Transit Police and I had a very strange encounter with a 90 something woman I picked up outside of a McDonald’s on Commercial Ave. This is mostly her story.
I had two more runs to go before I could call it an evening. Or was it a morning? When you start to mistake early morning joggers for people running for your bus the line gets very blurred. My first run would take me on a route down Commercial than east bound on Hastings till I hit the downtown corridor. The second would take me in the opposite direction back towards Commercial. I picked up an old woman outside of the McDonald’s, she seemed to be about the age of at least two of the surviving Golden Girls put together. She boarded my bus with a large fry in her hand and a comically slow shuffle that would remind my parents of a young Tim Conway.
Grandma Shuffles,“Excuse me driver do you mind waiting for my friend, he’s still in there.” I checked the McDonald’s and my time and decided I probably could. “Not a problem mam, we’re ahead of schedule, we can afford to wait for a bit.” Shuffles seemed happy with my response and at roughly the speed of tectonic plates shifting she took her seat.
After about 3 minutes had passed and no one had joined her I started to wonder. “Mam?” I tried to get her attention but couldn’t seem to. “Mam?” Nothing. Loudspeaker, “Mam, has your friend joined you on the bus yet?”
“Oh yes. Thank-you.” The seat beside her was empty.
“Okay, we’re going to take off now.”
After that I kind of lost track of her. The bus filled up quickly and before I knew it, it was standing room only. Half filled with the recreational drug users on Commercial and the other half with the hard core downtown crowd. The route hit every seedy bar on Canada’s most notorious street, the boulevard of broken dreams and intact meth pipes, Hastings Street. And because of that the bus often gets boarded by the transit police looking to keep the peace and protect the driver. Yeah right. All the transit cops managed to do was infuriate all the passengers on board by charging them full fare then leave me with a bus full of angry drunks. Before I knew it I was 15 minutes behind schedule and heading back towards Commercial with an over capacity, overly intoxicated bus.
After dropping most of my crowd off at the Skytrain Station without too many incidents I was surprised to see that Shuffles was still on board. In fact I ended up dropping her off directly across the street from where I picked her up. I think she took the 90 minute loop downtown just so she could cross the street. I apologized for the craziness and asked her if she was okay, her only comment was, “Too much excitement for us.”
She still had her large fry and she was still alone. I lowered the bus and she shuffled off into the early morning light.