Greyhound Canada is calling it quits today, bringing an end to a decades-long era of long-distance bus service across Western Canada.
While there is a partial replacement service ready to roll between Kelowna to Vancouver, it won’t provide the nearly the breadth of service that the good old Greyhound did.
For me, it’ll be a loss.
Sure, I own a car and drive to the Coast to visit family. When I can get a good deal on an airfare, I fly. But, especially in winter, my backstop is the bus. It has been ever since I was a young man.
In fact, my most memorable trips across this province, and into Alberta, was on the bus.
It’s a story of how a head-strong young man lost his job over a bus trip, only to get it back and in the process cross off a bucket list item before he even knew he had a bucket to fill.
In the early 1980s, I was a struggling student, toiling away part-time as a clerk at a construction equipment rental store in North Vancouver as was worked my way through journalism school.
I decided to use the week of summer holiday I had to visit an old friend in Calgary. Despite arranging it all in advance and getting approval from my boss, he decided at the last minute I had to cancel my plans because he wanted to go away at the same time.
Being young and impetuous, I was indignant. “No way,” I said. “I’ve already paid for my bus ticket.” It was true. And I had scheduled the trip with one very important thing in mind, I wanted to see the Rockies at dawn.
But my boss was equally insistent and said I had to chose—my job or my trip. Sounds silly now, but the lure of a 14-hour bus ride, a lack of sleep and, as it turned out, a seatmate who, thank God, not only had the good sense to bring a bottle of booze with him but was willing to share, was just too strong. So I said, “I quit.”
“Don’t bother,” my boss shot back. “You’re fired.”
And that was that for my future career in construction equipment rental. Or so I thought.
But when I got back from Calgary, I got a phone call from the owner the company offering me my job back. Turns out he didn’t know about my departure until after I was gone. And he didn’t agree with my manager’s move.
So I took him up on his offer and headed back to work with some trepidation. How would my manager react? When I showed up for work, I found my manager was the one who got fired.
I have no idea if I was the reason for that or not. But the story I tell myself was the owner liked me more than him.
So, every time I think about bus trips, I think about that time.
As for the trip itself, what I saw driving through the Rocky Mountains on that bus has stuck with me ever since. Seeing the sun rise over some of the most majestic mountains in the world is truly breathtaking. It was a stunning vision that etched itself in my memory.
So I’m going to miss the ‘hound.
I guess it’s true what they say, every dog really does has its day.
Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News.