To think that I had returned to the city and forgotten about Winnipeg Transit's reputation. I was once a fool.
Here's the haps: I gave myself a pleasant surprise this morning by getting out of the house quickly enough to catch the early bus to work, a 16 route that goes to within a few blocks of my workplace. Normally I miss that particular run and catch the bus ten minutes later, which is often considerably slower because on Osborne ten minutes can mean the difference between clear sailing and a dense, impenetrable jungle of sleepy motorists.
How lucky for me, then! How fortuitous! The bus flew through its routine, almost unfettered by the concerns of traffic or red lights, and the situation appeared as though I was going to be good and early for work. Perhaps, even early enough to get something to eat for breakfast that isn't in an individually wrapped bar format? Dare I dream?
So I was in my own little reverie, half asleep with tantalizing visions of potential nutrition dancing in my head, when the bus coasted to an unscheduled stop at the southeast corner of Fort and Graham. And the bus driver, without saying a word to anybody -- no explanation, no warning, no communication whatsoever -- grabbed his backpack from the storage space near his seat and just booked it off the bus as fast as he could go.
You might initially assume, as everyone on the bus did, that this would signal a shift change -- but a "shift change" implies that there was supposed to be a driver showing up to relieve this guy. No, nothing of the sort took place; everyone was left to sit on the bus in silence, watching the very important minutes flit away on those goofy LCD displays the buses have now.
First it was the express bus on the route, the 58, that drove right around and past our idling transport. (Yep, just idlin' away, motor running without a care in the world. Dear environment, fuck you; sincerely, Winnipeg Transit.) There were some murmerings of discontent through the bus at this sight, because the express bus comes about five minutes later, but it's commonly understood that those express buses can be pretty darn fast sometimes. Then most everyone on the bus basically squawked with dismay and vacated the bus as fast as they could, because the later 16 -- the one that comes about ten minutes afterwards, you will note, and the one that does its best glacier impression every time it comes up Osborne -- blew right by our abandoned bus filled with gullible saps like me who honestly believed that Winnipeg Transit can coordinate its employees.
Of course, the east side of Fort and Graham isn't even a real stop, and there was no way to get aboard this later bus. So if you were at Canwest Global Plaza near eight o'clock this morning for that Raise-a-Reader thing, and you saw a devilishly handsome man barrelling across Portage Avenue and into the Exchange District, that was totally me. Sorry I didn't stop to say hi! You can hypothesize from the above what kind of mood I was in at the time. (Would you believe I made it to work on time? I was as surprised as anybody else!)
In conclusion, I wish that Winnipeg Transit were a person so that I could wail on him or her for a while. We can arrange for a sophisticated computer voice synthesizer system to call out the main stops of interest for any visually impaired riders, but we can't have the driver bother to turn and say "sorry, guys, the next driver won't be here for another fifteen minutes"? Really?
Don't even talk to me about "world-class". Anybody who so much as hints at that adjective around me right now is going to eat a left hook to the head. Other Canadian cities enjoy elaborate and convenient transit systems, spanning multiple forms of transportation that intertwine to provide comprehensive coverage of timely transport to any given destination; Winnipeg has buses, and exclusively buses, driven by people who will strand an entire bus worth of people without so much as a word of explanation. I am paying seventy-two dollars and eighty cents a month for this.
Things are not all doom and gloom, however! Remember a couple of years ago when I went busking at the NHL exhibition game and made myself enough money for a few bags of cat food? Well, I missed the exhibition game at the MTS Centre last year (because I was earning a Master's degree in another province, which I think is a pretty good reason), but this year I'll be making the scene -- and this time I actually have tickets to get in!
And so can you! But how, you might wonder? Aren't they sort of expensive, considering that the game will be between the twenty-first and twenty-ninth best teams in a league of thirty? Well, worry not, selfriend! Blind luck compelled me to check the Ticketmaster site for the event today, and sure enough it turns out that there are tickets for $20 in the, shall we say, less desirable areas of the arena. They're up in the 300 level, around the corners that probably have stuff hanging in the way, but there are worse things to blow a twenty and a Thursday evening on.
So I'm going! And so should you, if you aren't doing anything. I'm not holding out a whole lot of hope for the view from these seats -- if they're twenty bucks, they're probably twenty bucks for a reason -- but I'm willing to believe that I'll at least be able to see part of the jumbo screen, and hell, the ambience alone should be a trip.
I'll see you there, sports fans!