NB: What follows is not meant as an indictment of all Translink bus drivers. Many are professional, courteous and skilled and do their best to move the public to their desired destinations as efficiently as possible. Sadly, other drivers are strangers to such traits.
The events related took place some seven years ago, before policies promoting density strained our public infrastructure and the scam had yet to burst its seems. A time when catching a bus on a spring morning was a reasonable proposition.
The 135 Burrard Station was my preferred ride. An express for its home stretch through Vancouver along Hastings, it made but six stops between Renfrew and my desired disembarkation at Pender & Howe. This self-powered option was ultimately preferable to the various trolley incarnations of the slow-boat-to-China -the #14 and the #16, particularly in the frequent circumstances when one of these were stuck immediately behind the other in an interminable public transport hell.
But with one driver in particular, the trick was getting on the 135. He was old codger, but built like a brick shithouse with a shaved head, graying mustache and aviator sunglasses. He looked every bit a sadistic drill sergeant.
The first time he drove past me –those mirrored eyes focused on some distant point far down Hastings- I stood there, dumbly watching the backend of the quickly retreating vehicle. Was it possible he could not see me in the clear light of a sunny spring morning? Was it possible it was out of service, with passengers? Was it full? Not even close.
The next morning: I spotted it cresting the hill at Lillooet. As it approached I detected no flagging of speed and brought my arm up in the universal sign for “Hey!” But it roared by with such force that I had to step back from the curb. I flash-registered the stony profile of the driver -my newfound nemesis, Sergeant Shithouse- before shutting my eyes against an induced windstorm of dust, cherry blossom petals and exhaust fumes.
A few days without incident gave me hope that the matter had been an aberration. I was wrong.
I started strategically varying my commuting routine, with the hope of finding purchase on some more welcoming sprocket of the local transport infrastructure. As often than not, however, I instead found myself standing at the curb, passed over by the 135, dismissed by its bald pated and impassive pilot.
I would try to attract his attention. I would wave semaphore-style, or raised my arms palms-up in a “what gives?” gesture: nothing; not so much as a turn of that taciturn head.
Another morning, with no change in the sound of the engine as the 135 came up the hill towards Renfrew, I played the only card left to the resigned-yet-fucked-off: I focused squarely on those mirrored lenses and gave the Sarge a salute -of the one-fingered variety. As he drove past, he turned to look at me.
A week had passed without incident, when the 135 pulled to a stop and I alighted and I found my friend at the wheel. Up close he looked like a slab of beef. Three other men, younger skinny guys in maybe their early 30s, stood clustered around him.
I paid my fare, and the bus pulled from the curb.
“You look familiar to me,” said he.
“Yeah. You look like somebody who flipped me the bird. You flip me the bird last week?”
He turned his head towards me, a big, round heap of granite, with a hairy lip. I saw myself reflected in his sunglasses, looking calmer than I felt.
“Last week?” I said. “It couldn’t have been last week.”
The guys standing there start laughing. Sarge turns his attention back to the road and I take a seat near the front.
Sarge is talking -brakes, speed, stoplights.
It hits me: he’s training them! Jesus Christ!
As we pull up to the stop at Nanaimo, Sarge announces, “It looks full back there. I’m giving this one a pass.”
One of the trainees looks around and sees what I see: a few empty seats. He passes this crucial bit of information along.
“Well,” says Sarge, “it looks full to me.”
And on we went.
For several years running Vancouver enjoyed the top spot in The Economist’s Intelligence Unit’s “Liveability Ranking” -a “rating of relative comfort” (sic) considering more than 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
Blah, blah, blah etc: it’s all bullshit. The Economist –a periodical with the relative rating of “dull” and a strong readership from those that tend to spend their Saturday night reviewing retirement plans- is hardly qualified to judge “liveable.” Nonetheless, it’s just the kind of blessing that shifty politicians peddling vague policies and their greasy benefactors can enthusiastically agree on: Most Liveable! Buy Now!
That was then. In 2013 Vancouver slipped to third spot, behind Melbourne and Vienna, and just a schmidge ahead of Toronto.
Now is not the time to lament our fate, but to desperately grasp at the next thing that could serve to move a few units before the whole show goes down the shitter. Surely we could lay claim and monetize some other distinction?
A few possibilities to consider:
According to SeekingArrangment, a service specializing in introducing women to wealthy benefactors, Vancouver is the sugar daddy capital of Canada. There are 3.86 sugar daddies per every 1,000 adult males in Vancouver, compared to a paltry 2.9 in second place Toronto –in your face, Hogtown! Vancouver: from gold minin’ to gold diggin’. Unfortunately, we’ve got some way to go topple Atlanta and its impressive SD girth of 5.98.
Perhaps we need to focus on our relative strength: speculation. As Vice notes, we’re well placed to serve as a cryptocurrency capital. Not only is Vancouver home to the first bitcoin ATM in North America, “it feels like the city’s patented mix of real estate market speculators, gaming industry nerds, recreational druggies and lefty counterculturists have created a perfect storm of bitcoin enthusiasm.” Bitcoin not speculative enough for you? This last February the world’s first Dogecoin ATM went live in Vancouver during the two-day CoinFest decentralized currency festival –you read that correctly.
Never mind “most liveable”, let’s cut to the chase: MOST EXPENSIVE. According to those that know the value of a buck -The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, again- Vancouver is the most expensive city in North America, edging out New York City by 6 per cent.
According to the Canadian UFO Survey, Vancouver reported more unidentified flying objects than any other city in Canada in 2013 at 116 sightings, beating out Toronto’s lucklustre 111. (Pffffftt.) Surely a buck could be made on having a statistically significant proportion of cranks and simpletons?
Planner and researcher Andy Yan notes that Metro Vancouver has one of the lowest rates on the continent of residents who are locally born. Only one-third of the residents of Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby were born in British Columbia. In this regard we handily beat such immigration hot spots as Montreal, New York and even Los Angeles. This proliferation of shallow roots explains much. Last year the Vancouver Foundation found that connections between Vancouverites are weak, that its difficult to make friends here, that people are withdrawing from community life. I see it every day, in the reluctance of bus riders to move to the back to accommodate their nominal fellow citizens waiting, often in vain, on the curb. Capital floods in, but social capital remains scarce.
And there it is: the Antisocial Capital.
VIVO: Media Arts Centre
Excerpts from: MOVE UPDATE (March 28, 2014)
Last May, VIVO was given notice that 1965 Main Street had been sold and was slated for demolition in 2014. We were given one year’s notice to vacate. Given the high rate of dislocation faced by arts centres in Vancouver due to ongoing redevelopment, VIVO is committed to purchasing its own property.
What are your plans or the new VIVO?
VIVO envisions a dynamic, organic and creative hub for interdisciplinary practice … some of our ideas:
Is there a chance that VIVO will close for good?
On February 28th, at SFU Woodwards, Bob Williams delivered the second annual Jim Green Memorial Lecture.
Formerly a city planner, alderman (as we used to call them), cabinet minister and de facto Number Two in Dave Barrett’s government, the CEO of Crown Lands and ICBC, the Chair of the Vancity Credit Union, and a barkeep, amongst other things, Williams was introduced as “a force to be reckoned with.” A political pugilist from the East side of town with a knack for being on the right side of history, Williams fought against the proposed wholesale destruction of Strathcona in the 1960s, and for the Agricultural Land Reserve, Robson Square, Surrey Centre, and countless other unconventional projects, leaving a trail of badly bludgeoned bureaucrats in his wake.
His latest battleground is the abandoned police station at 312 Main Street. Williams calls for the cleansing of the stain of the botched missing women’s investigation and its repurposing as an innovation hub for social entrepreneurs, artists, non-profits, and others -a legacy to the memory of Jim Green. The City prefers to gloss over its development monomania with the patina of high-tech: it plans to turn to turn the building over to San Francisco-based NestGSV.
A sharp blow to the solar plexus came in Williams’ assessment of our civic bureaucracy –specifically, the capture of their political masters. In place of hybrid committees of elected and appointed officials, which offer the elected direct access to information and public voices, the nabobs have engineered a separation between the two –reinforced by their near-total control over the data flow. Effectively isolated, if not neutered, councillors fall obediently into line.
To my mind, this goes a long way to explaining why our elected representatives would accept, prima facie, the Engineering Department’s assessment that 439 Powell is structurally unsound despite copious evidence to the contrary, or the mandarins’ assertion that a subway is the only viable public transit option for Broadway, or a factotum’s decision that two-week notice of public hearing is entirely reasonable to consider such weight matters as the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan.
At the reception following the talk I note that Geoff Meggs is in attendance. Jim Green’s ol’ buddy and the “smartest guy on council,” he doesn’t suffer any apparent lack of motivation or capacity for seizing the moment. And yet, here we are, building a nest for Nest.
Clearly, some are giants, while others heed the advice of apparatchiks that standing on the shoulder of giants is not advisable for reasons of safety, liability or some other limp dick rationalization.