Friday, 27 August 2010

Sorry I might be

What I've rather missed about my annual Victoria stay is what I call "The Yoda Buses". For the past fifteen years or so, buses which are returning to the garage have flashed this message in two parts: "Sorry I am" then "Not in Service" reminding me of this gentleman from Star Wars:
Alas, I have seen no Yoda buses this summer. Instead, I have been confronted with the unwritten rules of the Royal Oak Exchange.

The Royal Oak Exchange is where Royal Oak Drive meets Elk Lake Drive north of Victoria. You really need to know exactly which bus you want because it takes ages to cross this impossibly busy intersection, which is a mess of advance greens, to the side of the road from which the bus you need may depart. If you fail to hit the button on time, you miss your walk signal and must wait through the whole damn cycle, unshielded from the wind, rain, or blazing sun, while watching your transport drive off without you.

Unless they are one of the 70-number buses that pass between downtown Victoria and Sidney, the buses drive into their section of the Exchange, discharge their passengers and change their signs to "Not in Service" while the drivers take a break. This means you have to wait until the route number and name light up again before you know if it's the one you want. Apparently part of the game is dashing for the bus as soon as it identifies itself because the number's reappearance is a signal of the vehicle's imminent departure.

I discovered this one hot and oppressive Saturday afternoon. I arrived to find two buses waiting on one arm of the Royal Oak Exchange, one lit with a "30", the other "Not in Service". Having read my trusty schedule, I understood the 30 to be leaving in 14 minutes while the "Not in Service" (presumably a masquerading No. 6) would leave a few minutes earlier. Either route would work for me that day, so I wanted to catch whichever bus would be leaving first. While I was double-checking the posted schedule, the 30 suddenly started up and left. Startled, I turned and exchanged looks of disbelief with a girl sitting in the shelter.

The bus driver sitting on the steps of the "Not in Service" bus watched us with relaxed interest.
"His signs were on. That meant he was about to go."
"According to the schedule, he's not due to go for more than ten minutes."
"Oh, that. Don't pay attention to that."
"Uh, well, I do use it to plan when to show up..."
"Well, when does it say?"
I fumbled for the right page.
"You mean you don't know?"
I'm a West Coast girl, so I recognized the tone and knew not to take umbrage. He was playing around.
"Look, it's the same time that's posted up there."
"And what time is that?"
"You mean you don't know that either?"
"Well, I don't have the schedule memorized!"
"Well, the written schedules are wrong; I wouldn't pay any attention to 'em."
I gave him a mock glare. "So any schedule is wrong?"
"Well, there's a car rally going on, so all the 30's and 31's are being held up, so he's probably way behind."
I decided not to mention that his delayed buddy had been reading a large novel for five minutes before suddenly taking off. This didn't need to escalate beyond banter. As I said, I'm a West Coast girl.
"So you're the No. 6?"
"I might be."

Please tell me Victoria bus drivers aren't becoming like Ottawa bus drivers....

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