Riding the Greyhound: nothing like it
Canada, we just became a bit more far apart.
Monday’s announcement that Greyhound Canada — which, when you think about it, now needs a new name — is putting the breaks on bus service is western Canada come October. The decision, like most of these, are based on revenue.
Greyhound is citing a 41 per cent decrease in ridership since 2010. One could say the skid marks are all over the highway.
Yet, those of us in the three provinces where the buses will be forever parked — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — a part of Canadiana is, unbelievably, driving into the sunrise. Not the sunset.
Riding the Greyhound on the prairies was a way of life for many. Me, too.
Because I live with cerebral palsy, a driver’s license … well, you get the visual. I began riding the Greyhound when I was 13 to visit family in Grande Prairie.
A few years later, our family began spending summers in beautiful downtown, Meota, Sask., a 30-minute drive north of North Battleford. For the next 40 years, I made countless trips from Edmonton into North Battleford: in snow, rain, scorching heat and fog.
In fact, the last time I took the five-hour bus ride was last October for a family funeral.
Bus passengers, like people who take the train, often make new friends during their long trips. Anyone who travels a lot knows the value of having someone — even if it’s a someone they have only shared idle chat as the towns, the fields and the grain elevators pass by.
But, more significantly than that, is how people who can’t drive, and don’t like to fly, are going to get to where they want to go: a family gathering, visiting a friend or a medical appointment.
And what about the small towns? When the big Greyhound turned down the main street of a small town, excitement was in the air.
Because not only were people coming to visit, there was mail, and freight. That freight often has medical supplies.
There are many questions with Greyhound pulling out of western Canada. Fear is naturally falling on many.
We are, certainly, coming to the end of the road for Greyhound operation in the Prairie provinces.
It’s funny, isn’t it? Whenever we get news of something like this, we remember the good times.
I have many Greyhound memories. The drivers, and their kindness, tops the list.
Many of them asked me if I wanted a pop at a rest stop in Lloydminster. When they returned and handed them coins, they all smiled and said: “It’s on me.”
But, the image I am struck with this evening is that of my mother. The Greyhound rolls into North Battleford at 5:30 a.m. Mom took the midnight bus from Edmonton and my dad and I picked her up.
But, we slept in. Two hours. We rolled into the bus depot, and there Mom was: reading her book, sitting on her suitcase because the building is locked a minute after rolls out, looking for a ride.
That image might be common ground.
Our hope is people like those will be picked up and taken to their destination safely.