The Continuing Adventure of the 7: The Rogue Bus of Vancouver

Disclaimer: hey everyone, up till now my blog’s been just writing down random thoughts or making you drool over Euro-pics. This is just a creative piece I wrote about everyone’s favorite bus (HA) the 7. If you don’t live here, it’s pretty strange. Let me know what you think!

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The 7 is the strangest bus Vancouver still employs with a paycheck and a fix-up. The rogue bus. If you think you understand it, you’re just seeing one side of it: the careful shake up the Dunbar hill or the slice down 4th. You don’t know where it goes after it’s passed through downtown like thread loops through a needle. Where it comes when it comes out the other side. The large coughing factories of the far east, the weathered-withered hotels of the lower east, the hipster stretch of that ramshackle ave. in the near east. Most buses move around an L pattern or a [_]; this one goes where it feels, breaking in highways and eating up trees. The 14, 99, and 22– that clique of well-meaning well-judging ‘proper’ buses– all know the 7’s gone a little off its head since the transit glory days of the late 90’s. The city’s gotten just a little too big for it, they say; the glare from the Shangri-La’s always made the 7 just a little too blinded.

            But the 7 knows better. If busses could talk– could jump could yell, could raise their voices with a thick-smoked challenge– it would cry: you know nothing! You shiny busses think that by carrying royalty you carry the world. How little you actually know about this city!

            Inside the 7 is the Petri dish that is Vancouver. Just, not all at once. If you stay with it, listening to the chug and rumble across stone and gravel or over bridges, you might just begin to understand.

            You might start at Dunbar picking up the mothers and their children or the students and their fears. Keep going along Kits and you’ll gather the sunstroked beach heads with their boards or the tank-topped ladies with their hair in buns, Iphones in one hand and coffee in the other– extra skinny Starbucks latte to go, naturally. Over grand Granville into the wide maw of the still-in-their-package-kind-of-shine condos, up the lights and cabaret of the city’s busiest street. Enter the suits and their secretaries: enter that frenzied hustle of meetings, meetings, deadlines, graphs and a couple worlds on a few more shoulders. Listen close and you might gather a few words of that last annual summary; listen closer and you might just glimpse a world in a constant-state of  teetering over the edge.

             The newest introduces the oldest, as stone replaces glass and coffee-touting writers and studio artists replace the accountants and lawyers. The bohemians are in a constant state of transitioning between jobs: the coffee shop just becomes the restaurant just becomes that gig-you-pick-up-for-free-but-one-day-(right?)-will-become-your-main-gig-(right?). But each adjust of their thick rims resting on their noses: they’re pushing thirty and looking sillier and sillier with that denim vest and tattoo. What’s the sell-by-date on a dream?

            And the farther down Hastings, the more uncertain the air grows. Now comes the beards that are missing a razor not missing a fashion sense. It’s all strange drugs and stranger friends from here on out. You want to pretend you’re not bothered by the man who looks at you cock-eyed from the corner of the bus; you don’t want to think he’s interested in the blue sheen of the Iphone 5-C stretching out of your pocket. But you do, and the yellow bitten edges of his nails– like a mountain canyon caving into the sunset– seems to creep along your thing towards the pocket. You find yourself squeezing your bag and ignoring the pink-haired punkess to the left of you and the muttering lady in the parka to your right. If they’re not there they’re not there… if they’re not seen they’re not heard…

            Eventually they get off– even the homeless have jobs to make it to. The sun flits past the window of the bus, melting off metal and funnels– feeding into the factories fumes flames. Industry and fences and steelturners. The overalls with their moustaches and wide square lunch boxes. By now flashes of stars dot the metal in edges and rays, and the flashes of emerald flames from the smokestacks are like lighthouses on the shore of steel seas. The loneliness of everything the rest of us take for granted; the smell of flames and soot while the glass city looks on from behind.

            By now the night steals around you and drifts with the bus into nameless suburbs– shopping strip malls, high hedges, houseshouseshouses. The bus keeps driving until the endless people stop running stop building stop eating. It never does though. The wheels keep running as long as there’s road to run on: lights in every crevice, filling the corners and jagged edges of the world. Lights like the cough of a dying man into the cold last refuge of the darkness. You don’t know– anymore– where you are or why you came in the first place.

            Me, me I missed it today. It could have brought me right there, too. And somewhere out in the city amongst the mountains that bus is screaming blasting along at its rocketfuel pace. Because it’s so much more fun to imagine the poor or  those steelyards than actually see them. Because I missed the 7, and the 7 missed me. 

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