He is, possibly, the largest man in this postal district at this particular point in time. He must be 6’7” and 280. He’s not fat, just…big. He takes the same bus I do. The 124 out of Westmount. He joined the morning milk run last week. Young. Full of machismo and insecurity. Can’t sit still for a moment. Always wears the same Oilers hoodie and moulded-sole workboots. Battered old Stanley lunchkit with a Superior Propane sticker on the lid. And he’s got a really large head. Not disproportionately large, just…fucking big. He’d have trouble fitting that cranium of his inside an 18” pipe. He wears these bizarre white gloves. They’re a loose-weave cotton soiled with some sort of oil. They can’t conceivably provide him with any warmth. Don’t know why he wears them.
We’re in line to board. We get to the door at the same time. He lets me on. Flash the pass to the driver, Large Man drops coin in the slot. To my usual perch at the back. The rest of the hens and workadays filter on, each according to their habit. The textile ladies all sit together and gab. The solitary, penciled brunette takes her usual seat at the front. Gruff guy and bad hair guy all sit as per spec. Large Man follows me to the back and sits directly in front of me (in a seat that is perpendicular to mine). He shifts nervously and often looks back to me. Taps his feet nervously. I am lost in the swiftly returning sun and am digging on some maelstromic instrumental nebulae courtesy of Godspeed. If I didn’t have the ‘phones on, I’m sure he’d commit the cardinal sin of bus riding: Talking to a fellow rider. He seems the type.
He attempts no conversation. Just shifts in his seat and fusses. We negotiate 118th avenue and its tributaries with a pleasant usualness – enjoying the same old. The usual crowd get on at 118 and 142. Large man watches intently as the same old people file on as they did on Friday and the ninety Fridays before. He tends his newspaper, runs his palm over his head, adjusts his belt, checks his lunchpail again. Opens his newspaper, closes it. Nods his head to some unknown beat. Shifts his lunchbox again. He is starting to make me nervous. The fact that his stop is approaching might explain some of this manic behaviour. Then again, maybe he’s just on coke. Or a lot of caffeine. Far be it for me to judge anyone’s method of getting through this life, but he could stand to reel it back a notch this early in the morning. I don’t wake up until 149^th^ street and 123^rd^ avenue. He finally yanks the cord and heads to the back door with a dangerous, wide-swath stagger. I smile to myself at the fucker and his awkwardness. Barrels out the door into February’s finest. See you tomorrow, you big-headed meattank.
The Number Six at Southgate Transit Center, Edmonton, January 07
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?