One thirty. Pitch black outside and here in my room, too. It’s been warm enough to keep the window open in the evenings now and the only sound is a bit of whistle from the wind and the odd car driving by. Alarm goes off but I’m already awake. My body knows what it needs to do.
My duffle bag is already packed. All I have to do is make a coffee and get dressed and take the bag with me. My shift starts at two and I live just around the corner from the station so staying in bed this long is actually a luxury. Some of the guys tell me they get up at midnight and one. So in that way I am lucky.
I drive the three twenty Yonge Blue Night. This was the dream job. Took a long time to get in. After highschool I worked a few different jobs, a clerk at we’ll-buy-your-old-gold place, a truck driver for a local shipping company. But I settled in and stayed five whole years at Starbucks. Starbucks! I met and dated a girl that used to come in there. She helped me with my resumé and finally I got in. Now I’m a bus driver.
Sometimes when I’m driving the bus I see old customers from the Starbucks. “Hello there!” They say with a sincere smile of recognition. “You’re driving a bus now! Good for you!” They’re nice, I suppose. It’s nice to see a familiar face. But then they go their way and it’s the other assholes, one after another, all night long. At the coffee shop and now, I meet a lot of people. And it seems I owe them all something. Before it was a free coffee for too long a wait in line. Now it’s my life, my mind, my soul.
I make a lot more money now, of course. I have more security and all that. But it’s always just enough because Starbucks paid the rent and now the Toronto Transit Commission pays the mortgage. There is always the same left over for living. Just a little. Anyway there isn’t much time or even desire for living with a schedule like this and thankless, tiresome work like this.
One time this guy got on, about my age. It was about four in the morning. He was drunk. They mostly all are at that time. He was stumbling up onto the bus and I said, “Watch your step, sir.” He said, “I’ll watch my fucking step you fucking prick!” Sure you develop a thick skin and remember not to take it personally and get used to it, but it still leaves a small chip in the soul. If you’re still human underneath it all. If you still remember your humanity.
I pull out of the station at exactly two. You can’t even be ambitious or a keener and work faster or ahead of schedule because then you mess up the arrival times and everyone lets you know how you ruined their lives. You just do your job, exactly as prescribed, and take the shit. The constant shit.
First stop. Second stop. Third stop. Faceless, speechless forms shuffle on. Oh, some smile and say hello. They do. Most say nothing. And some tell me to fuck off or myself or my mother. It’s always different and it’s always the same.
“Do you go as far as Union?” She asked. She got on at St. Clair. There was just her. She was wearing an open three quarter length tweed jacket over some sexy skirt and shirt combination and stockings that reached just over the knee. She had those thick lips and high cheek bones that older too-rich women try to achieve with their frightening and unsuccessful plastic surgeries. But this girl was too young, looked about twenty-five, if I had to say. So it had to be real. Her beauty, I mean.
“Last stop is Union station,” I replied. I smiled a bit but the days of flirting and hoping were long over at this stage. Eight years of little to no success taught a man to learn his place.
“I actually need to go to…Wellington Street. Do you stop there?”
“I can stop there for you. I’ll announce when we arrive.”
She smiled and said thank you and sat up front in one of the seats you are expected to vacate should an elderly or handicapped person get on. I looked over and she gave me another smile. This time I smiled right back. I hoped no old or disabled people would be getting on. I know what I said about the not hoping, but it would be damned nice to look at those stockings for a bit.