by Srosh Hassan
Transportation is such a crucial part of our lives. It’s the veins that keep the blood of our city pumping. It fuels our ability to work, live, play, and wander. It’s a flow of movement so established in its way of making things happen, that we really only become aware of it when something goes wrong. It’s the common denominator of most of our days and although there are several ways to travel, none seems more beautifully connecting than bussing.
Understandably, magical isn’t the word that comes to mind for most, and truthfully, it can be a frustrating experience to not travel the way you would like to. I acknowledge that bussing isn’t the safest, most comfortable, accessible, or grandest mode of transit, and as an able bodied person, I recognize that privilege. However, even after countless missed or broken busses over the years, I still feel like it’s got overlooked merit. With public transportation as my primary mode of transit, I truly believe the common experience of transport by bus is one of the most special things about this city. Rarely can one find a group of individuals all Going Somewhere.
Incidentally, I’m typing these words on a bus, and as someone who has lived in different corners of Edmonton and even outside of it, I’ve come to see the different passengers this city carries. After a while, if you really look, you see the same souls treading paths similar to yours every day. Often, I wonder how they travel through life. What do they see? What do they hear? Are they too, thinking about if I’m thinking about what they’re thinking about? I have struck many conversations at bus stops, and each felt like it was with a friend. I’ve met some of my close friends today on busses, and on more than one occasion, I’ve essentially shared my life story and dreams with strangers, and been fortunate enough to hear theirs. What I used to believe was an isolating and worrisome part of my day has become one of the ways that I feel closest with the people around me. Travelling by bus has made this city feel smaller for me. Every bus ride is a journey, every ticket stub a time capsule.
Busses are places of connection as much as they are vehicles for travel. I have seen the most heartfelt of reunions, and the most serious of deliberations. I have seen intense conversations over the silliest of topics, and sophisticated debates about world events. I have seen the concern Edmontonians have for one another when someone wakes up a sleeping passenger before they miss their stop. I have seen the kindness of every stranger that caught up to another stranger to return their dropped hat, or glove, or wallet. I have often been that grateful stranger. Words don’t really do justice when I attempt to describe the way a bus feels kinder and more hopeful when a child in a stroller smiles at the passengers on the bus, and they smile back. One of my favourite memories of the city is easily a late August evening crossing the North Saskatchewan River and seeing the color of the vibrant sunset seep through the windows of the bus. That evening, as if in a dream, I witnessed every single face, old and young, awake and weary, turn to look outside at the mosaic of our Edmonton sky.
Seeing people outside of our cubicles or classrooms on our separate journeys is a humbling reminder that we’re all in the same boat, or literally, in the same bus. Even in their most crowded states,when people from all walks of life are standing side by side for dear life in the hopes of getting to work on time, the morning commute doesn’t feel so lonely anymore. With winter quickly approaching, and arguably already here with the early snowfall, I expect more closeness in the months to follow. Once on board, the warmth of strangers always feels better than the brisk frost outside.
With every passing day in this large and beautiful city, I consider myself lucky to have shared these seats with you. Every interaction I’ve been privileged to have at one point or another on these snowy streets is held by the common thread of the busses that carry them. Although we go our separate ways and get off at different stops, it’s always one hell of a ride.
Srosh Hassan | Insight Editor
Illustration courtesy of Alvin Yu