Before Eeyouch could afford even a grungy Suburban, public bus transportation was the only way for people in those communities connected by road. Experiences that reflect that era come to mind as I ready myself for the chiropractically challenging and gruelling haul from Montreal to Val d’Or on the red-eye express. Memories are permanently burnt into my cranium, like coming off a long haul bus smelling like the guy next to you and talking his slang just to get him to understand you for the last 12 hours. Or the intimate closeness that made one form friendships that you knew would never last beyond the next stop.
Midnight expresses from night to early morn would create a pheromone bond amongst most passengers, but I’ve witnessed and avoided those who would walk on with a two-four and a loud voice, stirring fear in the few who occupied only one seat and kindly referring him to the back seat near the muffled roar of 350 diesel horses. His presence created near havoc with those who dared go to the toilet, making everyone slightly squeamish after a few hours of jostling in the non-air conditioned coach.
He was Gus, the guy you somehow were afraid to know. Other types of passengers, on the other side of the rainbow, would suavely and wisely choose the seat next to the prettiest girl and convince her that he was doing research for a big time movie, where they required extras with her type of appeal to sit in the background. Of course, he wasn’t the director, but did have the right to induce a “cut” if his young acting protégé missed a hidden cue.
Then there are the grannies, who somehow control all aspects and attentions of the driver, usually taking the seat within shoulder tapping distance. The matriarch of the bus, while nodding off, would allow the now sedated rowdy Gus and his party to come to reason and the lull and droning of the tires would transform half the people into sitting contortionists with the ability to balance their tired heads at 120 kilometres per hour.
The bus driver, midway through the darkness, would inexplicably slow to a halt without reason and stop. I’ve seen these types of occasions on a few bus runs, and could never, ever figure the reason for the stops as I would see nothing that would indicate a purpose. Many years later I realized that not stopping could mean crashing into an oncoming train. So much for road awareness.
Of course, there are always the bus stop breaks or bus changes, where 48 people would eat and cram down food a-la-mode. Often a seedy bar, which could intoxify an entire bus-load of hockey players in half an hour, would supply a quick fix for the needy. Back in the day, smoking was allowed on the coach, until it was allowed only in the back rows, and then eventually completely phased out when tobacco became known for its side effects.
Eeyouch, back when the bus was the only affordable link next to the train, would often be picked up way-side, their tree-blanketed cabins barely visible from the road. More often than not they were a regular ticket whom the driver knew well. Today, most people drive their own vehicles to get around, but a few communities own long haulers that are draped with comfortable amenities, designed from experience earned from many a hockey tourney or group vacation. Public transportation has now long since become the practical and economical mode of transport for guys like me, and I hope that I never, ever have to meet a chiropractor as a result.