It was damn cold today. October, more than August. I heard snow flurries were spotted downtown yesterday. Even for this northern clime, this is beyond ridiculous for August. We have had maybe a dozen hot days so far this summer, if you can call it a summer… hardly worth it. I tell ya, if it wasn’t for grandparents, I would have moved away a long time ago (but that is another post).
Which brings me to today’s subject. I now take the bus to work. Before, I had a five minute bike ride through my very own suburban, middle-class neighbourhood. Now, I have a 45-minute ride from that neighbourhood to the dingiest, most central of the downtown core area. Blocks from the Low Track red light district, nestled amongst crack houses and shooting galleries, where desperate, crack addicted 14 year olds peddle their wares. You must keep in mind that I am one of those shamelessly white, middle class, sheltered little girls who was shocked and appalled to find out, not a few short years ago, that the drug of choice here is cocaine. And I still don’t have a hot clue how or where to get it.
So you get an idea about the characters I might see on a given day on my way to or from work. Today, I saw:
The usual assortment of honest, hard working first-and-subsequent-generation Canadians, on their way to menial and low-paying jobs in factories and convenience stores. I imagine them to work fourteen hours a day and drag themselves home to their clean, well-kept homes in run-down neighbourhoods (right next door to the crack houses, because real estate in that area is cheap), so they can pay for their childrens’ university education;
Giggling teenaged girls who have sedentary lifestyles, frosted lipstick, jiggly bellies, tight, too-low pants that reveal colour-coordinated thongs, and with contraband cigarettes in their purses. I imagine that about one third of them will end up pregnant before they are 20 (a made up statistic, but I wonder how far off I am, up or down), as a result of half-conscious plots, borne of low self esteem and the conviction that no one will ever Love them;
Sullen teenaged males, asserting their independence, whose jeans hang precariously and in a gravity-defying manner from the bottom curve of their buttocks and who speak English in a way that is completely foreign to me but meaningful to each other. I imagine that many will end up incarcerated or addicted to something, and have parents who are insufficiently concerned for their welfare;
A young mother of two small boys, maybe three and four years old, all with sunglasses, one child with his thumb in his mouth, the other with his finger up his nose. The mother was reading a book called “A Rational Approach to Behaviour Disorders” or something. I imagine her to be single but patient and a good parent, sleeping on the couch in their cheap one-bedroom apartment so the boys can have the bed, struggling her way through career college so she can provide a good life for her boys, in spite of their absent deadbeat father;
Another teenage boy, decked out in black nail polish, with his earlobes stretched around 1-inch black plastic discs, with tatttoos and chains and piercings and various and sundry decoration of clothing and body, doodling with a pen on a lined recipe card (he moved to a different seat so I couldn’t see what the drawing turned out to be), whose most annoying feature was the tinny thrash drumming that squawked from the headphones dangling around his neck. He got off the bus in a nice suburban neighbourhood. I imagine that he went home to his black-painted, romantically subterranean room in the basement of his parents’ nice bungalow and then, with his angst amplified for effect, ate chicken and rice with them at 5:00 and had a pleasant conversation and I think his name might have been Norman or Walter (which might possibly be the source of his angst, moreso than the mere fact of his age);
A few odd people, obviously walking purposefully somewhere, but slowly, deliberately casually, as if time was not an object, and I imagined them to be on their way to their favourite watering hole, but knowing it was not yet open, and meandering so that they would not have to line up outside but would arrive just as the doors were unlocked, so as not to appear too anxious for that first happy hour draft.
Of course those were some of the more interesting people. Who knows, maybe I sat next to someone stalking the girl ahead, or a convicted sex offender, or someone whose cat had just died. That’s the coolest thing about taking the bus. Even when you finish your book half way home, there’s always something to look at, if you use your imagination.
Having said that, I am now going to look for a new book to read.