I had some errands to do in the big city. Well, one errand really – getting my German passport renewed, which requires going to the German Consulate in Vancouver – but of course, it’s also the perfect opportunity for a Christmas visit with family & friends.
But this is winter. In Canada. Vancouver, from where I live, is on the other side of a mountain range – nothing on the order of the Rockies, but still, mountains; the highest pass is at 1728 m. And while I quite enjoy that drive in the summer in nice clear weather over dry roads (there’s nothing better than a solitary five-hour drive for concocting novelling plots), I utterly refuse to drive it myself between Thanksgiving and Easter. Because, mountains. In other words, snow.
And boy, was I ever justified in that policy this time. I’d booked my Greyhound bus ticket a couple of weeks ago, when there wasn’t a speck of white to be seen around my house. Then, a few days ago, it started snowing. And it snowed, and snowed…
So there I was at the bus depot, first thing in the morning as it was just getting light. Greyhound stations are depressing places. In this one, the women’s washroom has one stall with a broken lock, the next one with a broken toilet tank (it won’t fill properly), and a hand dryer that just sighs at you instead of blowing properly, but does so with great regularity about every ten seconds even when you’re not holding your dripping hands under it. So there you are, sitting on the can – “Whoooooh!” – pause – “Whoooooh!” – pause – “Whoooooh!”…
The bus was over an hour late leaving. The driver had got in late the previous night from driving the Vancouver route, and he needed his eight-hour break to get some sleep before he could get behind the wheel again – that’s the law. A law which I’m in utter agreement with, especially in this case. Buddy, I want you to get a good solid kip, before you’re carting me and fifty others across that mountain!
“I drove this road last night,” the driver said as we were pulling out of town, “and there’s nothing good about it. I’m going to take it slow.” You do that, buddy, you do that! “However,” he continued, “you’ll still see me passing a lot of the other vehicles, and that’s simply because this is the best-equipped vehicle on the road.” Very reassuring, that (even if he just said it to keep us calm and not-freaked-out).
So on we went, through a winter wonderland. Snow, snow and more snow – what you could see; most of the higher-up view was hidden in a thick cloud. Rows of fence posts with their comical little white toques; waterfalls of icicles streaming off rock walls; trees shrouded in drifts of cotton wool. Coming back down the mountain, not-yet-frozen streams still gurgling beside the road, the rocks in their stream bed converted to puffy feather duvets floating amidst the dark water.
I was profoundly grateful for that bus driver, who ferried us so safely and competently across. In the end, we were only an hour and a half late – his “taking it slow” made for no more than an extra fifteen minutes. An everyday hero, I was thinking. It might sound a bit melodramatic, but still. The lives of fifty people were in his hands that morning, on that snowy mountain road. And then, no doubt, he turned right around and drove another fifty back the other way. I sure hope he got a longer break that time.
Life, the Universe, and a Snowy Drive Over the Mountains. Things to be grateful for.