Kelowna buses are sporting a bit less atheism and a touch more mystery this week.
For the better part of the last four weeks, advertisements spanning the broad side of two buses proclaimed: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Now, it’s the group that paid for the ads that are worrying, because their atheist tidings have been mysteriously removed.
“It’s pretty outrageous,” said Guy King, the Kelowna representative of the Centre For Inquiry.
“It’s really strange and unprecedented. This hasn’t happened anywhere else, and they’ve run all over the world.”
For the time being, centre members are just waiting for Lamar Transit Advertising and the City of Kelowna to come back with information about when and where the ads could have been removed.
“We’re not sure when the ads were taken down,” said King, adding that it could have happened as long as two weeks ago.
King also heard that the removal looks as though it could have been done professionally, and that’s caused him some concern.
City transportation representative Jerry Dombowsky, however, said that angle on the day’s story stems from a bit of misinformation.
“That was from someone’s over-reaction,” he said. “If professional means grabbing the ads and pulling them off, then that’s possible.”
The ads, he explained, are vinyl and not impenetrable to tampering and would come off from someone who peeled ambitiously, without tools of the trade and, for that matter, without malice.
“At this point it could be totally innocent,” he said. “It could be a mistake of timing. All we know is the signs are nowhere to be found.”
The city has asked the operator to track down where the buses were when the signs went missing, so they can interview staff that was on duty or find out if they were in the yard, in a secure storage area, when the signs went missing.
“The reality is, however, that we may never really know what happened,” Dombowsky said. “They just aren’t that difficult to remove.”
Even if the buses were in the yard when the ads were removed, that doesn’t indicate it was an inside job.
Debunking another piece of misinformation circulating, Amalgamated Transit Union president Les Milton said the buses are without security for a few hours each night.
That said, he can’t see why anyone would want to meddle with the ads, anyway.
“Nobody has had any complaints,” he said, noting that was the sentiment among drivers and passengers alike.
Of course, the latter group may not even know when they’re getting on the atheist bus, as the ads are on the left hand side away from the sidewalk.
“Other than that, we had a couple of guys who requested to drive other buses, and the company was good about it. The bulk of guys don’t think it’s any different than countertop and bathroom ads.”
In fact, said King, the response the Centre for Inquiry has had could be assessed as positive.
“It’s surprising how many people are very much in favour of it,” said King.
“There are a number of non-believers in Kelowna, and they’re happy to come out of the closet. That was one of our main aims really; to let other non-believers know they’re not alone.”
CFI has been told they could extend the run of their bus ads, only having to pay $210 to have them reprouduced. King said they’ll likely take the ad company up on its offer to extend the contract for as long as two additional weeks.