Wandering through my music, iTunes plucks Gordon Lightfoot from among the throng. Suddenly I am back on the bus from Burnaby to Ladner. If you’ve ever been, you know there’s something magical about the half-year when it doesn’t rain in Vancouver. The landscape whispers green and gold as everything exhales.
It seems everyone is running late when the bus suddenly… breaks.. dow-n-n-nnn. People get grumpy and worried in the normal, quiet, Canadian way. You know, you can feel the tension but everyone is feeling “fine, how are you?”
Except for, let’s call her Beth. Beth, let me paint her for you as my mind did for me, is a 50-someting office worker, complacent in a happy-go-lucky way about her middle management job somewhere in the numberless cubicles of public service. She’s been this way since getting “carpal tunnel” in the late 90s, shuffling from department to department as successive higher-ups saw she overlooked more than oversaw. But she has a good heart and she’d be the first to help you in a pinch. Beth is oblivious to everything, learning long ago that taking care of number one is kind of important. Overweight — but happy! — and quick to correct (but sincerely), she’s a hoot at the bar and makes you excited to reach her age of gruff independence.
Beth takes command.
“Who likes some radio, eh?”
We shuffle uncomfortably. You just don’t make announcements like this on the bus.
“How about some Gordon Lightfoot, huh?”
“I love this guy.” And so we listen to Beth’s portable radio. Three thrills through and suddenly: a replacement bus. The magic mutes. A holy hush, thick, languid, welcome. Wordlessly, the experience dissolves into memory as each stranger melts into the golden afternoon.
I reach my stop, glance at Beth and nod cheerfully, thanking her for this human moment. Looking at me she doesn’t see me, immersed in her own summer side of life.
But I am happy.