I gave up owning a car the moment I retired. Why not! There was a bus stop right outside the front gate, and another just across the road. For seven years all I had to do was to battle the regional district to deal with the water-logged gullies and the erosion of the grass between the pull-off and the ditch between our fence and the actual stop. It took six and a half years, but when they finished replacing the water lines and re-paving the road, there they were – two brand new, shiny pull-offs in all their pristine glory. Life doesn’t get any better.
And it didn’t!
For the 14 years that I had lived on the Dike Road I had grown a community by taking the bus. I soon became familiar with the brain-damaged, the crippled, the handicapped wheelchair, walker, crutch-wielding, walking stick, visually handicapped cane-using citizens of the area whose enjoyment and social survival were made easier by having access to the bus. The drivers knew them by name and stop and they reciprocated by sharing stories with their buddies who carefully taxied them to their medical appointments, the shopping malls or coffee shops in downtown Courtenay.
And then there were the students. It was a mix of both college and school-aged students from all over the globe who rented space rooms or basements along the Dike. My all time favourites were the Brazilians, three of who came for supper with us, and with whom we have followed as they returned to finish their schooling back home, get engaged, married and one is a mom already.
In September, 2018 things changed. St Joseph’s is no longer the hospital for the Comox Valley. Ridership fell. The bus routes changed. Now we have a niggardly service that belies the fact that Dike Road is one of the busiest roads in the entire valley. My community has been dispersed and I have almost completely lost touch with the community that I once had.
I have changed my doctor, my pharmacist as well as a host of routines that I had cultivated over years of comfortable retirement. There is no longer a bus to sweep me off to the medical clinic on the corner of Cliffe Avenue, or to City Hall where I used to purchase my monthly bus pass. I now wait for the days when my wife is off work so I can take the family car, defeating my green initiative of giving up my own vehicle.
I also almost never drop in to Carderos, Mudsharks, Bigfoot or any of the other little coffee haunts that I used to frequent on an almost daily basis. Ushering at the Sid Williams has become a nightmare because the buses don’t run at a suitable time any more. My several blocks of up-and-down exercise along Fifth Street have been replaced by a dash across parking lots at either the Driftwood or Comox Malls. I am resigned to taking a 45 minute scenic tour of the Valley to get to downtown or home because it is quicker than the formerly 10 minute ride from the Museum to home.
Don’t get me wrong; I am grateful that there is a bus service in the Comox Valley. I have struggled to adjust to the new reality, as I have had to adjust to the current occupant of the White House, but the impact has been significant, at least to one insignificant individual. I know how valued I was because the young man from Victoria who was employed to sell the changes never even bothered to take out a pen or piece of paper to acknowledge or pass on my concerns. At least I still have the drivers to chatter with.