The other day I lined up at the OC Transpo booth at the Rideau Centre to buy my first bus pass in decades. It was a very long lineup that snaked its way through the corridor and the lobby of Sears. I passed the time people-watching.
The peddlers caught my interest. First I saw an ancient Asian woman approaching people in the lineup and showing them something. She didn’t approach everybody, and I wondered how she chose her targets. I tried to see if there was something all her targets had in common, and after awhile I realized she was only approaching visible minority men. Interesting. But what was she peddling? And why were they all turning her down?
Eventually she approached the man in front of me, so I got to eavesdrop. She was selling a bus pass. In very broken English she said her daughter had bought her a bus pass and she had bought herself one, so now she needed to sell one. The man in front of me studied the bus pass carefully and then gave it back to her and shook his head no. Maybe it was a counterfeit bus pass.
“You afraid?” she asked.
“No,” he said. She moved on.
Then I saw a tall young man doing the same thing, trying to sell a bus pass. He wasn’t having any better luck than she was.
After awhile it occurred to me that the person behind me seemed to be rubbing up against me a little more than was necessary. The lineup would move a bit, I’d take a step forward, and the person behind me would take a bigger step forward and rub up against me. We were both wearing winter coats, so it wasn’t too terribly intrusive, but still. I wasn’t sure if it was deliberate or not – lineups can be deceptive that way, since everybody’s personal space is diminished. Finally I turned around and looked at this person. It was a person of indeterminate gender. It was very big, with what appeared to be an enormous bosom in a parka, but it had scruffy whiskers. The face seemed rather soft and blob-like and slack-jawed. Interesting. Creepy, but interesting.
Eventually I found myself near the front of the lineup. A man came up to me and said “I don’t want to stand in this line for three hours, and I’m moving to Toronto.”
I looked at him inquisitively, waiting for whatever proposition he was going to make, while the blobby person nudged up against me again.
The man pulled a handful of bus tickets out of his pocket. “I want you to cash in my bus tick-”
“HEY!” shouted the Official OC Transpo Bus Ticket Vendor from behind his counter, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT HERE!”
“I did it two years ago right here!” declared the man.
“WELL I WASN’T HERE TWO YEARS AGO AND YOU CAN’T DO IT NOW!”
“I’m not lining up for three hours, I’m moving to Toronto and I don’t need these tickets!” replied the man.
“GET AWAY FROM THE LINEUP! LEAVE HER ALONE! IT’S AGAINST REGULATIONS!”
“Screw your fucking regulations!” snarled the man.
And then the Official OC Transpo Bus Ticket Vendor leapt out of his booth and came out among us and started ranting about a by-law and security and harassment and the Safe Streets Act, and threatened to call the authorities.
“Damn,” I thought to myself, “Just when I get to the front of the lineup, everything has to skid to a halt so the Official Bus Ticket Vendor can play cop.
I have to admit that I didn’t take sides until the Safe Streets Act was mentioned, and I have a bias against that particular piece of legislation because it’s used to harass and intimidate street people and I have a soft spot for street people. Not that this particular guy was a street person, and not that I even liked this particular guy, but it’s the principle of the thing, you know?
I considered throwing a wrench into the works by asking the Official Bus Ticket Vendor if he could do something about the blobby person of indeterminate gender who seemed to be getting excited by all the commotion and was now rubbing its front more vigorously against my back. But I didn’t, because I was next in line and the whole experience was almost over, and maybe the blobby person wasn’t even a pervert but was just chromosonally challenged.
Meanwhile, the man with the tickets was spitting mad and challenging the Official Vendor to call the Montreal cops. I don’t know why he wanted the Montreal cops, since the Ottawa cops were so much closer, but anyway.
I turned around to look at the blobby person again, and when I turned back the man with the tickets was skulking away and the Official Vendor was stomping back to his post. I bellied up to the counter and bought my bus pass. Forty minutes had passed since I had joined the lineup, and the ancient Asian woman was still trying to sell that bus pass.
I have a feeling she’ll still be there when I return to buy my December bus pass. I can’t wait.