Thursday, 20 October 2011

An awkward October memory

In all my years of living in Victoria, the thing I probably knew best was that I had to allow myself an hour to get anywhere. It's a good rule in Hades, too. In Victoria, it was because you had to travel as if you were running along the spokes of a wheel; you had to go downtown to make a transfer, then head out again to your destination. (In Hades, it's because you're battling with delays and what is essentially a tangle of milk routes.)

The Resident Fan Boy's mother died in the early years of our marriage. She was, uh, not exactly my greatest fan, but I understood the very basics of in-law etiquette as set out by Judith Martin, aka "Miss Manners": 1) feign affection; 2) show up for state occasions.

The interment of Late Mother-in-law's ashes certainly qualified as a state occasion, even though only six people were to be present: Resident Fan Boy, Bereaved Father-in-law, Far-flung Sister-in-law (the reason for the interment taking place a month after LMIL's funeral which FfSIL had been unable to attend), Rector of BFIL's current church, and Rector of BFIL's former church in whose churchyard the said ashes were being interred. And me, who was not particularly welcome, but definitely expected.

I had a teaching assignment at the university that morning and the brief ceremony was scheduled for one o'clock that afternoon. I knew I could be home well before noon, allowing myself to change into appropriately somber garb, setting off by public transit with more than an hour to spare.

Except the bus that took me down the spoke, so to speak, to downtown Victoria dropped me off just in time for me to see the bus I needed disappearing around the corner.

I didn't panic. The next bus, a variation on the bus I'd just missed, was due in half an hour. It would reach the churchyard by a slightly different route, from a slightly different direction. It would be cutting it a bit fine, but I should arrive with a minute or two to spare.

The bus in question, in accordance with the unwritten rule in bus-scheduling, was a few minutes late, just as the previous bus had been a few minutes early. I kept a calm but steady eye on my watch as we approached the street leading to the church. I had about ten minutes.

To my horror, the bus continued past my street, barreled to a timing point several blocks behind my destination and turned off its motor. In the two years since I'd last taken this particular bus, there had been a route alteration. I now had seven minutes and was considerably more than a five minute dash away, even if I hadn't been wearing black pumps.

The bus started up after the driver had had his coffee and to my despair, headed back the way it had come. This time, it made the expected turn, and standing by the exit, clinging to the rail, I gazed out over the approaching churchyard and could make out the small knot of mourners standing with heads bowed. For a few depressed seconds, I seriously considered staying on the bus, but got out and hobbled along the gravel path.

The Resident Fan Boy filled me in later. Both he and his father are notorious for showing up places early. The RFB had got it in his head that six people were attending, and in the emotion of holding the urn with his mother's ashes, did a quick mental head-count, got the number six, and when asked if he was ready, nodded. It was only at the end of committal that his father sighed heavily: "I guess she isn't coming, then?" Looking up wildly, the RFB realized that the sixth person was the assistant rector. Not me. His wife. The woman dashing up the path with a rather flushed face.

He believed my story, of course. I'm sure his father and sister didn't.

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