Unasked for advice.
Last week I began teaching my final session of a novel writing workshop at UBC. I’ve loved teaching the class and have met many interesting and talented people. What I have not loved is the commute. The horror is split three ways. First is my trip on BC Ferries from Nanaimo to Vancouver. Second is the trip via Greyhound into downtown Vancouver. And third is my trip up to UBC via the ever painful Translink. Today I shall unburden myself on the subject of commuting via BC Ferries.
When I first began visiting the island, long before we moved here, taking the ferry was an adventure. One time some friends and I boarded the ferry, ate lunch in the cafeteria, and then subbathed on the top deck (the Lido!) round-trip to Victoria. That was in the days when I had shit-all to do. Now I am busy. Or I like to think I am. And the trip has turned into a burden of the first order. Yes, I’m grateful I have my health and know I shouldn’t complain about things like a relatively inexpensive and reliable ferry service. But one must also recognize that taking the ferry is a sure way to lose one’s health. It is a veritable stew of airborn viruses. Don’t believe me? Try taking it more than three weeks in a row and see how many colds and flus you get.
The ferry would be okay if no one else took it. This is the problem with a lot of public transportation. The public part. Now, I’m a hard core supporter of green transportation. But for me, I’d like to make that into an argument for staying home. Once you’ve taken the ferries for a while, you’ll see what I mean.
Ferries are where many kids go to test the limits of their parent’s endurance. The calmest child is apt to have a complete and total meltdown at least once per trip. Like a visit to the nurses’s station meltdown. This is tough for parents. It is HELL for the other passengers.
Also, some parents who take the ferry seem to lose whatever coping or parenting skills they brought with them onto the boat. I have a theory that a small but significant percentage of parents are actually on their way to parenting classes for the hopelessly inept. I understand that when your child won’t stop screaming it is tempting to dump her next to some random passenger and then disappear into the washroom for forty minutes to collect yourself, but I cannot approve of such behaviour. Just because I smiled at your child, doesn’t mean I want to spend forty panicky minutes hoping she’s getting enough air in between shrieks and wondering if you will ever come back and if not, how long will the adoptions process take.
However, the unskilled parents are nowhere near the most irritating people on the boat and they at least have an excuse.
BC Ferries is where a certain class of person goes to talk loudly into their cell phones about fake-sounding business deals.
“So you say we’ve taken an aggressive position in the offshore bollocks group? NO GOOD. Get back to me with some new figures and make ‘em sexy.”
That sort of thing. These people seem physically incapable of modulating their voices. Everything must be bellowed at top volume for fear that other passengers might not be aware that they are VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE engaged in CRUCIAL BUSINESS. This type of passenger is fond of coming by where you are attempting to nap or work to conduct conversations. On the rare day when I score a workstation, which is a single desk with an outlet for plugging in my laptap, I can be certain that a VIP will lean over top of my desk to carry on an ICC (INCREDIBLY CRUCIAL CONVERSATION).
That said, the VIPs are almost bearable compared to the UNBELIEVABLY POPULAR PEOPLE. These are the ones that have eight or more meaningless conversations over the course of one trip. They call person after person to say the following:
“Hey, asshole. Whatchaupto anyway? Cool. Nah. Nothing. Just on the boat. Yeah. Nothing. Tonight? I don’t know. Maybe. Whatever.”
“Hey, fartbreath. Whatchaupto anyway? Cool. Nah. Nothing. Just on the boat. Yeah. Nothing. Tonight? I don’t know. Maybe. Whatever.”
These passengers often put their feet up on the back of your seat because they have confused the boat with their bedroom, where, presumably, they go to have many thousands of other pointless conversations.
The way to avoid some of this is to hide on the car deck. I often bring a pillow and blanket and spend a useful or at least quiet trip tucked away in my car. The possibility of peace that exists on the car deck makes it that much more enraging when people’s car alarms go off because of the motion of the trip, b) people decide that the people sleeping in the cars around them would really love to hear their Greatest Hits of the 80s CD, or c) and weirdest of all, the people who do calisthenics. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been napping and someone has suddenly appeared beside my car and begun doing jumping jacks and Chi Quong maneuvers.
So for anyone who may be interested in Susan’s Rules of Ferry Travel, may I suggest the following.
1. If your kids are having a tough time, remember that there is an entire section of the ship that’s designated kid-friendly. There’s a playground and everything. Maybe other kids will help distract them. If you yourself are going to start screaming and crying (yes, I have seen this), perhaps you should go to the nurse’s station. Or take some deep breaths until it passes. Being a parent is tough. Being a parent on BC Ferries is strictly for heroes. There is help available.
2. If you are a committed cell-phone talker of the business sort, feel free to conduct your conversations in a normal voice. You don’t have to yell. Also, consider going to an area where people are already chatting animatedly, such as the cafe or snack area. If you are worried you might lose touch with all of your acquaintances over the course of the hour and a half trip, why don’t you write them letters? Seriously. It will surprise the hell out of them.
3. If you are going to spend your time on the car deck, feel free to keep your music turned down low. For your ears only, as they say. And if you get a sudden, uncontrollable urge to do jumping jacks, head out onto the outer or top decks. Take in the sights. There might be dolphins! Or whales! Just imagine doing jumping jacks and burpies, brisk sea wind whistling through your hair, as dolphins cruise along beside you! Now that’s living.
Remember, none of us likes the public, but we can can all do our part to tolerate them.
Susan (Grumpy much) Juby