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! I think we can catch a ride if we run.
So we cinched up our backpacks and raced to catch the Stanley Park bus. It offered, “free shuttle service around the park stopping at 14 popular locations.” The Rose Garden was close.
Oh, and “the shuttle stops are easily identified.”
Sure enough, right on cue, as we burst into the Rose Garden, the bus squealed to a stop. We smiled at the driver and climbed aboard.
Come On and Take a Free Ride
We took a seat halfway back, took off our packs and took in the view. First came, Rhododendron Garden and the Rowing Club. Then the Salmon Stream and Lost Lagoon.
Isn’t this great? Jim asked
And it’s free, I sighed. After hours hiking the seawall, and the North Creek, Beaver Lake and South Creek Paths, our feet were sore. I sank into my window seat, driver’s side, taking in totem poles.
Look, there’s our car, Jim said. I nodded. Seconds later I saw the sign. “Leaving Stanley Park” it read.
We had no clue.
Come On and Take It by My Side
Next stop, the driver piped, Vanier Park. Then Granville Island. Enjoy three of the city’s best attractions—all in scenic Vanier Park.
Vanier Park? What happened to Stanley Park? I whispered to Jim.
Maybe he’s giving us a little bonus ride, he said with a grin. I wasn’t so sure.
As riders entered at the Vanier stop, the driver asked for tickets.
That’s funny, I whispered again. We didn’t show any tickets when we got on.
Maybe that’s because we raced right on, Jim said with a shrug.
Riders piled in at Granville Island. My anxiety was rising. We were going farther and farther from from Stanley Park. It might have been five miles away, but it felt like 500. I slunk deeper into my seat and looked down for fear of meeting the driver’s eyes.
The stops were becoming more frequent and at every single one the driver—or his buff, uniformed assistant—punched tickets.
But no one had punched ours. Or, by the matchless grace of Jesus, even asked to see them.
Because we didn’t have tickets.
A Free Ride
We didn’t have tickets. We were free riders. And with each stop, my dread grew.
Then the bus driver looked back ominously. I avoided his gaze and trembled slightly as I watched him grab his radio. By now the din of the riders drowned out the driver’s voice.
My misery grew. I had little doubt why he made that call.
Jim, do you think he knows? I felt like a mouse hiding on top of a carpet cat tower. With Mr. Meow lounging just below.
He might. That call may have been to the authorities.
Jim had barely finished when we heard,
Be prepared to show your tickets at the next stop in Gastown when our new driver steps on board.
No doubt now. I squirmed a little lower. And tried to look invisible.
What are we going to do, Hon? I almost cried. Our wallets are locked in the car. Should we go confess?
Just pray, Jim assured. Jim, for the record, likes Westerns and showdowns.
I did pray. The bus was packed by the time the crisp, new driver stepped in at Starbucks. I curled into a ball and heard nothing whatsoever about all the magnificent landmarks in Gastown.
The new driver buckled in and the bus inched forward.
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 guy’s looking our way.
I grimaced, and slunk a little lower. I was pretty much on the floor. If I lifted my shin I could see out the window.
He just picked up his radio. He’s talking. He just looked at us again.
Walking through thistles barefoot or cleaning vomit was preferable to this.
I heard something about the famous Grouse Mountain off to the right but I dared not lift my head high enough to peek.
Abigail, I think they might take us into custody at the next stop. Get ready to run.
I rolled my eyes far right and tilted my head up the slightest bit.
Then I saw Jim grin. Then, the driver’s voice broke in.
Next stop, Stanley Park.
Run For It
After our nearly 90 minute (free) tour of Vancouver proper, the loop had closed. The car appeared, and then the Rose Garden. The bus slowed.
As soon as it stops, run for it, Jim whispered.
I almost laughed. We stood and grabbed our packs. With the most grateful smile I could muster, I said,
Thank you for the tour.
I couldn’t, and I didn’t, say then that I enjoyed the tour.
The Moral of the Stanley Park Story
The moral of the story?
Jim knows I’m prone to introspection and I don’t laugh enough. So Jim makes me laugh.
Marry someone who makes you laugh. If you can’t do that, find a friend who makes you smile. Or better yet, be that friend. Make ’em laugh. The wisest man was right, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”
Because life is rife with nerve-wracking surprise and uninvited inconvenience. It’s about 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make of that.
I’m not much of an adventurer. Roller-skating and downhill skiing are extreme sports to me. I’ve never been one to seek an out a fast ride or rock climb.
But as I write this 20 years and many retellings of the Infamous Stanley Park Incident later, I realize that I did. I did enjoy my agonizing, undercover, free ride.
Looking back, I see that I enjoyed the adventure because Jim was by my side.