Dear OC Transpo…

I’ve just sent the message below to OC Transpo, Ottawa’s public transit service. It was written as a result of an oddity I witnessed this morning on the bus ride to work:


IĀ boarded a #20 bus this morning (not sure if it was A or B) on Portobello corner Nesting at approx. 7:25 a.m. A woman was driving.

It occurred to me, at a red light on the corner of Albert and Kent, waiting to get off at the Kent stop, that the driver was reading a novel. I apologize for not noticing the title, but as the light turned green, she placed a grey plush elephant bookmark on her page and set the book aside. Or was it a grey mouse? It’s hard to tell, what with the head being so much smaller than actual size, and there being no body. I guess if it was a mouse, the size difference would be considerably less, though.

Anyways, I was hoping you could enlighten me on OC Transpo’s on-board reading policy for drivers. Are novels acceptable reading material? I must say this surprised me a little. I would think that the attention required for driving would impede on the concentration needed to actually follow any well-developed storyline. At most, perhaps magazines with short articles – like People magazine, or a fashion magazine with lots of pictures. Perhaps those fall under Green Light reading material?

Do you offer special training to drivers so they can both drive a busload of paying clients to and from their families in peak traffic time and read books simultaneously? Either way, please accept my sincere congratulations, since I evidently showed up to work in one piece and was able to send you this message.


Nadia Zwierzchowska


I’ll let you know if I ever get a response…


A gassy situation

As I’ve stated in a previous post, I bus to work. It’s an environmentally friendly travel alternative; it costs less than paying the exorbitant downtown monthly parking fees; it reduces traffic-induced stress; and it also gives me a little bit of time to myself, morning and night, to enjoy a good book. Any parent can appreciate how little time there is for reading at home.

So I was recently on the bus, riding to work. As usual, I’m in my own bubble, reading some old-school sci-fi novel.

As a side note, I’m an absolute sucker for classic sci-fi. Can’t get enough of it, from Isaac Asimov to Frank Herbert to William Gibson to Orson Scott Card. There’s just something absolutely fascinating about how these writers can paint such vivid pictures of the future, however much they differ in both what the future looks like, and how far that future is. And what a great exercise in exploring the human psyche within the confines of their respective realities.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, in my bubble, reading.
Generally, I pay very little attention to other riders. In fact, I notice very little around me when I’m reading. Luckily, my subconscious keeps track of where we are along the bus route. Only three times has it failed me altogether, and I’ve gotten off past my bus stop and had to double back on foot.

That morning, the bus was pretty crowded. But since I board the bus at the beginning of the run, I almost always get a seat.
Anyways, about 10 minutes into the ride, a rather disgraceful smell assaults my nostrils. Someone had passed gas, and judging from its pungency, it was someone in my direct vicinity. I gave a quick gaze around me to see if I could somehow identify the guilty party, but no luck.
Unpleasant, but it happens. I went back to my book.

A few minutes later, the putrid odour returns. This time, I looked around, conjuring up my best “Does anyone else smell that repulsive stench?” facial expression, trying to spot anyone who might be looking around guiltily. No one. Whoever the culprit, he’s smooth. (Enter cheesy jokes and puns here)

About 10 minutes later, the fumes returned to vandalize the air once more. At this point, although I couldn’t be certain, I believe it was coming from the young man sitting directly on my left. Just in case, I lifted my head again and looked his way, wrinkling my nose at the rancid smell, in the hopes that he realizes I’m on to him. I figured that surely a dirty look would put a stop to this cruel and unusual punishment.

Why would someone repeatedly cut one, on a bus full of people? I don’t believe for one stinkin’ minute (see? cheesy pun) that he doesn’t notice it. Perhaps he enjoys the smell of his own flatulence? Or perhaps he thought he would explode if he didn’t let it out?

At this point, I was reluctant to breathe at all, as I imagine much of the bus load was. Air good, toxic gas bad. Just before my brain suffered lack of oxygen, I gratefully got to my bus stop and hurried out, expecting a black cloud to seep through the bus doors.

Inhale, exhale. Ahhh, nothing like a refreshing breath of downtown pollution to clear the lungs.