Cross Town with Carl Dow

Cross Town with Carl Dow

Successive acts of kindness from the strained and the busy have reinforced my faith in humanity

'I turned and started to walk, tripped, and fell face down'

It was certainly a bad day for me to go out and about. The weather outside was frightful, but duty called.

I had to get to the bank to pick up a document that I had to fax forthwith.

Fortunately, the stop for the bus heading west was an easy summer’s day half-block away. Only this was winter. It was cold, and we were having one of the worst storms so far this season.

Using my companion cane I limped to the stop. I speak with affection about the metal cane because it’s been with me for a good two decades. I bought it at shop that serves disableds.

It breaks down five times into an easy bundle of about eight inches long and was therefore easy to store in the trunk of my motorcycle. Me, my cane, and my motorcycle covered many thousands of interesting miles.

  OC Transpo bus #5001 in 2008. Photo by RealGrouchy, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

But now it was winter and I was standing in the passenger shelter warily eyeing the snow bank I would have to cross when the bus arrived.

Slowly and carefully I managed the snow bank under the patient eye of the woman driver who was about 30 years old.

I got off one stop later after a long block to make my connection with a southbound.

It was a kneeling bus and the driver lowered the right hand front corner. I managed to reach the boot-flattened narrow trail through the snow bank and on to the unplowed sidewalk. I turned, started to walk to head for the intersection, then tripped and fell face forward.

I hadn’t been watching where I was stepping and I tripped over a chunk of ice about the size of a basketball.

Through the years I had played a lot of hard body-contact sports. I learned to instinctively fall soft. That way you may get bruised but your chances of not breaking anything are much better than even.

As I was trying to collect my wits to get back up on my feet, the driver had come out of her bus and was standing beside me.

Are you hurt?

No, I said, ignoring the blood on my stinging little finger on my right hand.

Let me help you up.

No. It’s okay. I can manage. Then I paused and said, well since you’re here, I accept.

So it was one, two, three, hike(!) and I was up.

She asked if there was anything she could do for me. I said no, and thanked her very warmly for her concern and help.

I walked to the corner about a bus length away, crossed the street and then another short block south under the Queensway to catch the southbound.

The driver lowered the bus to make it easier for me to climb up. As I showed him my transfer he said, your finger is bleeding.

I said, it’s nothing. He said, let me put a bandage on it. I was genuinely surprised. I said, do you have any? (Like he would offer me one if he didn’t have any.) He said, sure. He got out of his seat, pulled out a first aid kit. He said you’re going to need two. And he put on the second.

I took several more bus trips that day.

Once the driver passed the stop by half-a-bus length, he said, I won’t stop here against the snow bank. I’ll let you off at the corner where it’s plowed.

Getting back on, the driver lowered the wheel chair ramp so that I could easily walk across the snow bank.

Dealing with the public is one of the most challenging of jobs. Doing that and driving a bus, especially in a winter storm, obviously must be a lot more trying.

It has been my pleasure to be on the receiving end of the respectful kindness of Ottawa’s public transportation drivers.

Reinforces my faith in humanity.

Happy Trails.