" SpiritofSaltSpring:BC:Canada:GulfIslands:SaltSpring:Salt Spring:

December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve Journey 1

Some people like to spend Christmas Eve with family roasting chestnuts, drinking heavily in preparation to withstand the extended period of time they'll be spending with each other partaking in a variety of ritualistic traditions that remind them how lucky they are to live in the industrialized world because, hey, at least they can purchase stuff!

Exhausted from searching for the right presents, sprinkling the sugar cookies and surveying the house assessing what to take to the pawn shop on December 26th in order to pay January's Visa bill, they settle in for the evening waiting for the entertainment that's sure to come when the whole gang arrives and the dysfunction ramps into seasonal overdrive.

Been there. Done That.

This year, I thought I'd try something a little different. It wasn't intentional mind you. I have the white christmas to thank for my special little gift of December 24th.

Because of the bountiful gift of endless snowflakes being dumped on the Lower Mainland, I had to abandon the Mazda mobile and take to public transit.

I spent my Christas Eve afternoon early evening jam-packed into a Skytrain Survivor episode wishing someone would vote me off the joke that passes for transportation in Vancouver.

The world can come to the Olympics but one can only laugh cynically thinking of those poor suckers who will spend thousands of dollars on hockey tickets and who have a 50/50 chance of being stuck on the skytrain as the Olympic clock ticks away and they miss all but the third period (if they're lucky)! I'm thinking I should just consider renting out my Salt Spring place for all those Vancouverites who voted NO and just want to get the hell out of Vancouver when the Olympics happen.

I was at Colleen's on the East Side and with suitcase in tow, knapsack on the back, I got down to the Main and Terminal Sky train in less than 40 minutes.

The platform was packed. The first train whizzed to a stop. It was writhing like a human fish farm, little human mouths inches from each other breathing and speaking, sighing and wheezing, sneezing and swearing.

People on the platform scurried like hungry rodents squeezing into the centimetres beside the doors so they too could be whizzed to their holiday destinations. Then another train. Same thing. Jam packed. No room. Me, suitcase in hand, scurrying from one door to the next, no room to squeeze in like a little mouse who isn't going to get fed if he isn't going to get more aggressive. That was me.

Two trains. Then three. Then four. Swaying with my suitcase running here and there. One human fish farm after another arrives. The hot fishy breath fogs windows. Every single time, I'm not able to see even a spot to squeeze in. Then suddenly there are no trains. I've positioned myself right square in front of where the last train's doors opened preparing to fling myself into the compartment the next time like it's a mosh pit. Note to self. Must travel in Asia. Learn how to push and shove strangers unabashedly and mercilessly.

Finally, I squeeze in. But, the train is just stopped. There is a message from Skytrain Central. "We are experiencing severe delays due to a tree on the tracks and the snow. Another 20 minutes pass. A different voice. Ladies and Gentleman. Thank you for your patience. A computer malfunction means our switching system isn't working. Another 20 minutes.

With each message, I imaged Skytrain employees sitting around a table full of eggnog and chocolate, shortbread and rum. I imagine them handing the microphone around the table so the voice would change. I imagine them laughing hysterically after each announcement that thanked us for our patience, little crumbs from the christmas cake spewing from their mouths.

"Is this a psychology experiment?" asked one passenger. "Is this some psychology experiment from UBC to see how long we'll stand in a train that isn't moving?"

People were reading to each other, handing out chocolates, feeding each other, sleeping on each other, leaning parcels on suitcases. They're doing the crossword, showing each other YouTube videos, texting, calling. There's an echo around the train that says "Sorry mom, you guys eat without me. I'm not going to make it. We haven't moved in an hour. They don't know when they can get it going. I'll get there when I can." That was the voice mail message of the evening.

Finally, at about 4:50 pm the train moves. A cheer goes up. You'd think the Canucks had scored. The doors close. The train moves. Next station, same thing. Every station the train spends at least 15 minutes.

By the time I get out to Surrey it's 6 pm and I left for my little journey at 3pm. Where are the three wise men I wonder? Where's the little star of Bethlehem. That's how long this is taking. If it takes any longer I'll probably give birth the same way Mary did - immaculate conception.

When I almost get to the final skytrain stop - the final stop on the line - the train is stopped again. A voice comes over the intercom. This is Skytrain Central. If you have an alternate means of transportation please use it.
Please get off the train." I couldn't believe it. I actually laughed out loud. I'd endured this journey, had to sit beside a transvestite who claimed to be a male Joan Jett and now they were just saying Get off, abandon ship, we can't help you, the captain has bailed.

Did you hear that? said my brother when he picked me up in his four wheel drive. Did you hear that. They said, Just get off the train.

As one cartoon said in the paper, Everything will be okay at the 2010 Olympics just as long as it doesn't SNOW~!

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