No one knows what the body can do. -Spinoza

Monday, July 6, 2009

Angels in the City

route 24 Ouest along Sherbrooke

I rode the bus in Montreal for the first time on this visit just a couple days ago. The local public transportation system includes over 1600 active buses, and the world's first rubber-tired subway system, together transporting over 361 million people uses per annum. It's an impressive collection of figures when you consider the current system only formed in 2002, the year the conglomeration of municipalities housed on the island of Montreal joined together to create one mega-city with the historic Montreal at its center.

The night before my bus ride, I'd fallen asleep at my friend Shiloh's house after a night out of karaoke, and outrageous outfits in the Village. The problem with the next morning, besides that I wanted to get back across town to the place I was housesitting in order to get some work done, was that I was wearing a shirt that barely covered my bum and a pair of Margiela's that reached mid-thigh. This was hardly attire to cross town in broad daylight. I borrowed a skirt from Shiloh, and a pair of jellie shoes, then rolled up the boots and put them into my bag. Standing outside, I waited for the bus along with a few town's people used to the wait, and a couple of impatient tourists. Finally the bus arrived.

It's at least a 45-minute trip heading West through downtown from the Eastern side of the Plateau, to the English speaking side of town, Westmount, where I was house sitting. A little less than half way into the ride I made it to back center seat and sat for the rest of the trip. The center of the city is known as Saint-Laurent, a street running North-South that divides the East-West street designations, and is known for dividing the Francophone and Anglophone sides of the city as well.

Just after passing into the Anglophone side of the city an older gentleman with some difficulty walking made his way onto the rather full bus. He walked his way back passing all of the disabled-friendly seats that anyone would have been required to open up for him, and persisted all the way to the lifted platform seating at the very back. There was a seat open next to me on back seat center, and another just at the entrance of the platform. He passed the first open seat and kept moving in my direction. Finally, he arrived beside me, leaned forward, and smiled. "Can I sit on your lap?" he said. "Of course." I responded, smiling back. He leaned forward and whispered to me, "You're an angel." he said, then sat down beside me smiling. Not familiar with crossing this part of town by bus I was unsure of where my stop would actually appear. Immediately after sitting down the man started quietly announcing to me each approaching cross-street, as if he could simply feel that I needed his guidance. "This one's Guy." he'd say. "Here comes St-Marc." Then finally, just before my stop, he raised his voice a little more and said, "Atwater. Here you are." I smiled at him, wished him a good day, and walked off the bus, an angel in Westmount met by an angel on the bus.

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