The number seven rips up and splashes water on my already mustard-stained leg. There is the faint smell of pot on the bus, like the guy at the back in the mirrored Oakleys just extinguished his reefer before he got on. Coulda been the case, but maybe it’s the mother at the front of the bus, with her dirty stroller and sleeping babe. No worries. I find the smell of day-old chokesmoke comforting somehow, like everything is mellow and OK. There is also the lingering dank of BO emanating from a certain large man sitting mid-bus. I see this guy around town quite often. He may have a deeper medical problem ‘cuz I see him around the Edmonton General almost every time I ride the bus past there. BO is the second most common of bus smells, bested only by the smell of dirty diesel. When you get a line of people all standing and hanging on for dear life by those plastic hand things, all with their under arms fully exposed on a 30 degree day, it gets a little ripe. Maybe a lot ripe, depending on the neighbourhood.
There are pleasant smells, usually provided by the fairer sex on certain days and only on certain routes. The steel-toed route that I take in the morning is graced with female presence, but few of them, if any, wear any perfume – perhaps not wanting to tempt the wolves. Make no error, those wolves are tempted by female finery. Then again, who among my male brethren aren’t? Occasionally, if the moon is waning and the midnight dew point is just right, a woman will walk on the bus wearing just enough perfume (probably too much) to give every single rider a little taste. Those fleeting sensations are enough to make any weary rider’s day. Some days, that’s all a person has.
Usually it’s the diesel. The black smoke that pours from the galvanized stacks on the sides of busses. Dirty and mean, this smoke can freeze your lungs and ruin your breakfast in one fell swoop. Those dusty clouds are a signature of sorts. The autograph of the moving city. The puff of the everyday. The exhalation of the blue collar.
The Number 81 Bus
StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.
The city is Edmonton. It's a subject, not a passion. E-Town is almost universally derided by outsiders as an unlivable tundra wasteland populated by oil-hungry redneck conservatives who despise the arts. All of that is true. But it's not the whole story. There is beauty here. Dusty snowfalls. Brilliant summers. A stunning river valley. A diverse arts community that flourishes. It's a place that inspires a gray relationship - not all good, not all shitty. For that reason alone it is lovable, for what is life but a grayscale?