Public Transit – Bravo or Bust?

oc bus lineupOn most days, I drive my little compact SUV into the office, a quick 3km jaunt, taking an average of 6.376 minutes. On nice, sunny, summer days, I may instead, be seen venturing out to work on my bicycle, equipped with my helmet, messenger bag, and sporting my professional work attire, avec biking shorts sous ma jupe, (I’m practicing my French!  Translation: biking shorts under my skirt) for my quick “superwoman change’ and taking an average of 11.827 minutes plus 1.592 minutes to lock up. And, on rare occasions, when the Big D loads his mountain bike on the back of the Sportage, he kindly deposits me curbside.  angrybirdcookies black shadowThe walk home takes an average of 29.72 minutes. (Including the pit stop at the BOKO bakery on Elgin Street, for Moukie’s favourite Angry Bird iced cookies). And in the winter, there are other times, when I take the bus home (12.831 minutes) … as I happen to, just the other day.

For the bargain deal (note the hint of sarcasm), of $3.30 CDN I will partake in the time-honoured tradition of utilizing public transit.  second cup revisedI suppose in many cities, $3.30 is a rock bottom deal, but I would prefer to spend my funds on a daily decaf non-fat butter pecan latte at Second Cup.   Yummmmm … butter pecan in liquid form.  This winter I’ve had more than my fair share of bus rides.  (Ohh…was that when the Big D lost my set of keys to the car you ask?  Why ‘yes’, yes it WAS the only set left after he lost HIS and not had them replaced … hmmmm…. coincidentally, it was also the same time we were out in the freezing cold with Mouks and the pooch for a New Years Day snowshoe excursion; and, you would be correct in noting that it was this particular instance in which we had to have the car towed to the dealership, and had to wait almost an entire week until we got a new set made….uhhhhhh…. Yeah.  Mmm Hmmm.. That was then.)  So, this winter, I’ve frequented the bus a number of times. And here are a few things I’ve observed:

  1. People at the bus stop rarely look you in the eye in this fair city.
  2. $3.30 is a stupid amount of change, but a great way to get rid of your coinage.
  3. A ‘thank you’, can go a long way, so I make sure to say a kind word to the bus driver. He can kick you off… right? But not for jamming all your pennies in the money-box thingy, can he?
  4. People don’t say ‘excuse me’ much.
  5. And what’s with taking up TWO seats??!!! Is there any particular reason why your bag warrants its own seat during rush hour?!! I think not! So… move… either your dumb bag or entitled ass – over.
  6. The majority of the world is attached to a digital device. Like, almost literally. I think implants will be next… If someone isn’t listening to music, they’re texting, talking on the phone or checking emails. Just an interesting little observation; I’m not offended.
  7. That smell has to come from somewhere – and it sure the heck isn’t me!!!
  8. There is a wide age range of people taking public transport.
  9. Does it look like I want to jump over a mile high pile of snow to get out of the back doors in THESE boots??!! Thanks so much, but I think NOT!
  10. And yes… of course I loved being splashed by that giant puddle! Heartfelt gratitude for your consideration!
  11. Gotta love that the city silenced one of their drivers for singing on the bus. (Again… sarcasm, but true story). There goes the value-added for your whopping $3.30. Seriously? The guy is stuck there, on his little perch with nothing but the road ahead and a bus load of people … what’s the problem with spreading a little happiness? Check out this link oc transpo driver silenced   Note the video at the bottom of the article, with him singing.
  12. And the City actually had to debate blasting a LRT tunnel through downtown?!!?  ‘Cause our roads are sooo spacious with the backlog of buses, taxis, cars, scooters, motorcycles and bicycles sharing the road while trying to flee the downtown core during rush hour. Not to mention the amount of pedestrians waiting for said transport. I mean, really, does a major city actually NEED a subway system?!  DOH! 
  13. Presto! Auto pay passes… still aren’t fully operational. Shocker. They were only supposed to roll out, I dunno…. a year ago?! Nice idea – poor implementation.
  14. Oh yes… let’s not forget the GREAT idea of double-decker buses in a city that gets freezing rain and ummmm record snowfalls. Yup. GREAT idea. THAT was a c-l-e-v-e-r.
  15. And, similar thoughts on the accordion (articulated buses)…. though, it is a little fun to sit in one of the seats in the middle; kinda like a low-grade tilt-a-whirl when you go around a corner.

oc transpo Collage

And each day, as I sit in my downtown office, overlooking the busy street, I hear the rumble of the buses, the squeal of their brakes, and I can even smell the slight faint stench of their exhaust through my sealed window; and despite all the frustrations and idiosyncracies of public transit, I am still brought back in time to the sweet thoughts of buses and babies, and the song I sang repeatedly to Mouks when he was just a wee young lad:

“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round… The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town…”

“The money on the bus goes ‘clink clink clink’, ‘clink clink clink’, ‘clink clink clink’… The money on the bus goes ‘clink clink clink’, all through the town …” 

…   …  …

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My father’s love lives on …

sherri with dad 1972 cropped and adjusted It’s crazy to think that 15 years ago today, the life of one of the most important people in my world, was suddenly over. Gone. Just like that.

I remember getting the call that he had almost died. I don’t remember the words, but I remember the fear. The tears. The anguish. And, that I was here. In Ottawa. Sitting in my little cubicle. Living my life, while my dad was fighting for his, and I didn’t even know it.

I look back on that time as though I was watching a movie in slow motion. I can hear the sob escape my lips, and see the desperation in my tears as deafening silence engulfs the office. Sixty people stop cold. No movement, no sound as the heavy hush falls. In my movie, I see my good friend rush over, grab my hands in hers, and my voice shakes as I tell her. Silence. Gripping fear. Real, desperate heartache. I hear my voice talking to the doctor, to see what shape he’s in now. And hear his deep soothing tone tell me “You’ll never regret coming, even if he was to get better”. breaking_hearts blog And… it is at that split second… that very specific moment in time, that I feel the ‘crunch’ of my heart cracking; it’s jagged tear echoing in my ears. I will never experience life the same. He won’t be getting better. This the beginning of the end. A piece of my heart will always be broken. Forever.

In a blur, I take the next flight home to Edmonton, where my best friend is waiting to take me to the hospital. I remember sitting outside in her car, sobbing. Again. Trying to muddle up the courage to see him. The hollow “click clack” of my shoes resonate against the linoleum floor of the empty corridor as I sneak into his room after visiting hours. I remember holding his hand in mine, the raised purplish veins under his skin, and the familiarity of his kind, gentle, warm touch. I can close my eyes still today, and see the same hazel eyes looking back at me, and hear him tell me “I almost didn’t make it today”. How the words hurt to hear, but the relief of being with him, even for a few minutes, hours or days were of comfort. He must’ve made a joke, because I remember smiling a real smile, not a sad smile. He had that way about him. That charm. That gentle soul. The one I still miss.

As the days passed, and we were all around him, I felt the warmth of his love mixed with the fear of losing him. Of never being able to see him again. To ask his sage advice, to sit with him in silence and watch the squirrels on our deck, to lay beside him, match his breathing and hear the ticking of his mechanical mitral heart valve pumping the blood in and out, or to hear the unexplainable joy in the sound of his laughter and telling of witty jokes.

dad alesiaThe day he died, my sister and I were trying to coax him into eating his lunch. My niece was just a baby (the apple of his eye), and my sister and I were both on the verge of bursting into tears, because it was just too hard. It was – too hard. It was hard for each of us, in the same ways, yet differently.  But mostly… it would’ve been the hardest on him;  in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend… or face.  My mom and brother were talking to the doctor… my sister had taken my niece to the lounge… and I sat with him, and tried to convince him to eat something. I heard the rasping of his shallow breathing, saw the very distant far away look in his flecked hazel/brown eyes, and knew something was… wrong. I remember desperately trying to press the nurse’s call button – and choking out a plea for help – and then running down the hall as fast as I could to find a nurse. I could feel the pounding in my chest, the panic and the feeling of wanting to scream as loud as I could; but not being able to.

By the time I had found everyone, he was with my brother and had taken his last breath. And … I had missed my chance to say goodbye … to hold his hand and reassure him so he wouldn’t be afraid and to tell him how much I loved and admired him. In my heart, I knew that he knew all the love we each carried for him, but… my heart’s regret is that I didn’t just stop and hold him… that I ran to find help… and that for a fraction of a second he may have been alone.

On the way to his funeral, we were all sitting in the car, and I can’t remember which one of us said it, but it was his classic line. “I’m okay… you okay?”… And I remember looking at my mom, and I think that was the first time we were all able to smile. And it was because we felt him with us. That he would always be with us, in the big and small ways. And that in moments such as this, we were reassured that he would always be a part of us.dad alesia and me

It took at least 6 months of deep hearted sobs every day, which tapered to every few days, then weekly, monthly and now, fifteen years later, in moments when I least expect it. The tears will trickle, and I can feel the ache of that hairline fracture that remains in my heart.

In our culture, we celebrate the lives of the people who have passed. At a young age, I was introduced to open casket funerals. I was five when my dad’s dad passed away, and I was scared to view his body at the funeral. My dad gently took me by the hand, and reassured me that everything was going to be okay. He led me past the pews, up the long red carpeted aisle to the coffin, where we stood in front of my grandpa’s body. My dad reached out and touched his hand, and took my hand to do the same. Nothing happened, and I remember distinctly that any fear I had , dissipated. We had annual gravesite visits at Provody; where baskets of food and Ukrainian bread lit with candles are laid on the graves, and they are blessed. The baskets are then given out, in memory of our loved ones, and the lives of those who passed are celebrated. As a young child, I knew that death was a part of life. And to this day, it brings me comfort knowing that each and every day my father’s life is celebrated in everything we do.

dad in boat croppedThe crack in my heart is still there, but it is healed by his memory; filled with joy from the time I spend with my family, and blessed with the love I see in my son’s smile when he laughs and expresses himself in ways that remind me of my dad, even though he passed before Mouks was born. It makes me think that my dad lives in more than just my memory, that he really is a part of each of us.

My dad worked hard, laughed heartily, enjoyed life, and loved deeply. He lived his life with integrity, joy, humour, trust, kindness, generousity, optimism and enthusiasm. It is my wish that I can live my life with the same abandonment. That any obstacles I am faced with, I can rise above them, and see the hope for tomorrow, the beauty in the moment I am in, and appreciation for the life I have been given. And to know, that no matter what, we’ll all be okay.

“I’m okay…..you okay?” Johnny Huculak

dad collage 2