Monday, October 12, 2009

Transit, dangerous appearel, and a tale of Pete.

Okay, I promised I'd write about VCON, and I have several topics lined up, but let's start with a warmup.

I've but a fair bit of effort into my halloween costume this year. Big credit to my father in law, Paul, and uncle... uh.. in law.. Mark.. is that a thing, uncle-in-law? and my fellow Optimist, Peter Gobbee. I lack in power tools.

Anyway, with all this fuss, I thought I'd get as much mileage out of the thing as I could. So it seemed like a fun idea to wear it to VCON. It's not huge and bulky, but for SOME reason, my wife thought it would be a bad idea to wear it on the bus. I won't leak much more about the costume, as I still want to surprise people who may read this, but suffice to say, for public safety, I agreed not to wear it during my trip from Pitt Meadows to VCON, 2 hours by bus and skytrain, near Burrard station.

Volunteer editor Adam Zilliax came though, porting the dangerous bits of the costume, as well as the books and other stuff I was going to setup at VCON. Thanks again Adam!

Dangerous bits aside, I wore much of the costume on transit, earning some odd looks here and there. And outside the Burrard station, from people on an open-top tour bus.

In the course of 3 days, I took 3 round trips, totaling well over 15 hours of travel time, once you include an extra hour I had to wait at Coquitlam Station at midnight, waiting for the next bus, and my sunday detour on the way home to meet up with Grace Endo at GF strong.

Highlights include my first trip across the new Pitt River bridge sunday evening, (whoopie, the day before it officially opened!.... whoopie.) and my first ride of the fairly new Canada Line train. Picture the skytrain, 30% wider, and ... clean. I mean, the skytrain isn't generally FILTHY, but the Canada line train was Star-Trek Federation clean. And it ran smooth and quiet, like the skytrain used to.

In the process, I did a lot of wheeling on new and 'hostile' terrain. From Burrard station to VCON was mostly downhill, which made for challenging but manageable trips back to the station in the evenings. Waterfront was downhill form VCON, but quite a bit further.

The low point of the transit adventures was the one day I took the 160 bus from Coquitlam to Burrard. The website said it was a shade faster than the skytrain.. and it was.. a shade.. but the stop-go action didn't help my pain situation. Worse though was the trip through East Hastings. You hear about the homeless situation there, you see it on TV, but seeing it for real really hits ya. Oddly, I felt a little like a tourist. "Oh, look at that hotel, I've seen it on the news a lot!" "Oh, that place is a notorious dive! I saw it on the news a lot!" "Oh, I saw that on the news, and that, and.."

In a related story, last wednesday on the way home, Michelle and I stopped at the 7-11 I used to work at to pick a few things up. I stayed in the van, since I wasn't needed, and it's a huge hassle to get out. In front of the store, near the doors sat Pete.

Pete's a homeless guy who's been in Maple Ridge for ages, though he's been seen quite far off. That was before he was in a wheelchair though. There's rumor and 'truth' about Pete. I've spoken with him a couple times. He's VERY quiet, and not super sociable, but he's friendly, and by all accounts, a harmless fellow. He's been pulled off the streets many times, and somehow always finds his way back. Conventional wisdom is that he refuses to stay where they stick him, but the rumors around him as so thick, it's hard to say.

At any rate, I sat in the van, watching people go around him and avoid him, mostly. A few said a few words to him, and he replied. I couldn't hear what was said. He never started a discussion with anyone, never bothered anyone. Michelle eventually came out, and leaned over to Pete, offering him something- what I later learnt to be a slice of 7-11 pizza. He seemed to take a little time to understand. He accepted it, and nodded. As we pulled out, Pete was munching away at it, seemingly oblivious to the world. What does he think about? Why has he been out there so long?

Alright, that ended up depressing...! Next time: Meet the vendors!

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