Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can; all of them make me laugh.
W. H. Auden
Hurry Hon! I think we can catch it if we run.
So we cinched up our backpacks and off we ran to the free summer Stanley Park shuttle bus that offered “free shuttle service around the park stopping at 14 popular locations.”
Oh, and “The shuttle stops are easily identified.”
And sure enough, right on cue, as we raced into the Rose Garden, the bus squealed to a stop. We looked , smiled at the driver and climbed on.
And took off our packs and sat down. Because after a few hours hiking the Park’s walkway and seawall and North Creek and Beaver Lake and South Creek Path, our feet were sore.
So we caught our breath and enjoyed the view. First, Rhodendron Garden, and the Rowing Club. Then the Salmon Stream and Lost Lagoon.
Isn’t this great? Jim asked.
And it’s free, I sighed, sinking into my window seat, about halfway back, driver’s side, admiring the totem poles.
Hey- there’s our car! Jim said.
And sure enough, it was. And seconds later this sign, “Leaving Stanley Park.”
Little did we know.
Leaving Stanley Park
Next stop, the driver piped, Vanier Park. Then Granville Island. Enjoy three of the city’s best attractions all in scenic Vanier Park. What? Vanier Park? What happened to Stanley Park? I whispered to Jim.
Maybe he’s giving us a little bonus ride, he said with that grin. I was none too sure.
And as riders got on at the Vanier stop, the driver started asking for tickets.
That’s funny, I whispered again. We didn’t show any ticket when we got on. Maybe that’s because we raced right on, Jim said, his eyes growing wide.
Riders piled in at Granville Island and my anxiety was rising mile high.
No, you’re not in Kansas anymore. Or Stanley Park. We were probably only 5 miles away, but it felt 500 miles away. I slumped deeper into my seat and resisted looking up for fear of meeting the driver’s eyes.
Sure enough, at each stop the driver- or his assistant- punched tickets. But he hadn’t punched ours.
Or, by the matchless grace of God, even asked to see them.
We didn’t have tickets. We were free riders. And with each stop, my misery grew.
Then the bus driver looked back, ominously, I thought. I avoided his gaze and trembled slightly as he grabbed his radio. By now the din of the riders drowned out the driver’s voice.
But I thought I knew why he made that call.
Jim, do you think he knows? I felt like a mouse hiding on top of a carpet cat tower.
He might. Maybe he was calling the authorities.
Then, Be prepared to show your tickets at the next stop in Gastown. A new driver will be stepping on board.
I squirmed. And tried to look invisible.
What are we going to do, Hon? I almost cried. We have no money. Should we just go up and confess? Nah. Just pray it goes back to Stanley Park, Jim assured.
And the bus filled and a new very crisp, capable looking driver stepped in at the Starbucks in Gastown. I curled into a ball and heard nothing whatsoever about the sights in Gastown.
The driver took his place and the old driver got off.
I exhaled, Now our secret was safe.
Don’t Look Now
Abigail, whatever you do, don’t look up, Jim said staring down into his book. The new driver’s looking our way.
I grimaced, and slunk a little lower. I could barely see out the window.
Oh no! He just picked up his radio. He’s talking and he just looked at us again.
This was unbearable. I think I’d have preferred a night in the Vancouver clink to this.
I heard something about Grouse Mountain off to the right but I dared not lift my head to peek.
Abigail, I think they might get us at the next stop. Get ready to run. I turned my head the slightest inch to see another grin.
But despite myself, his grin made me grin. Then, the driver’s voice broke in.
Next Stop, Stanley Park
And after our nearly 90 minute (free) tour of Vancouver proper, the loop had closed. We spotted our car again. Then the Rose Garden. Now the bus slowed.
As soon as it stops, just run as fast as you can, Jim whispered.
I almost laughed as we grabbed our packs and rose. And with the most grateful and innocent smile I could muster, but without eye contact, I said,
Thanks for the tour. I couldn’t, and didn’t, say then that I enjoyed the tour.
But 15 years and plenty of retellings of the Infamous Stanley Park Incident hence, I realize that I did. I did enjoy that undercover, high-stress Vancouver loop.
I enjoyed it because of Jim.