Vancouver
4 min

Embracing the sensuality of human traffic

Like gay bathhouses, public transit is a great equalizer

Having a steamy affair in a cheek by jowl subway car with a beefy Boricua papi —a desperate fantasy with racial undertones? Nope. I was in my twenties, in New York, working under the table, and living in the Bronx.

Mr Campbell’s January announcement of a 12-year, $14-billion plan to expand transit in the province is a fantasy. He apparently doesn’t have the cash; he will get it from —good guess —you!

To cap it, Dale Parker announced that TransLink board meetings will be held behind close doors. The democracy of the higher powered is fantastic.

I’ve never learned how to drive. What comes to mind? Loser! Or some could say I’m a driven princess, a romantic fool, a staunch environmentalist, or a city slicker raised under rubber tires. Inevitably, there is a judgment passed. There has to be something wrong with a person like this, right? Like illiterate, or virgin, or something.

On the move, one has all kinds of experience, cradled in the swaying of the wagons, redolent of armpit and sweaty brow, you know, the loose morals of the moving classes get even more lubricated.

Who cares which way the other passenger swings when we are all about to go to hell in a handbasket stuck in these tunnels for minutes on end? You don’t clench honey, you release.

The French have a fancy term for everything; they call it “frottage” and frottage used to get me alive from Lexington Ave to St Lawrence Station in NY. I never wondered if that was a gun barrel. I simply backed into it stoically looking to my weary feet for solace.

Such small mercies probably tainted more garments than Monica Lewinsky did —scot-free. In fact, human traffic is often sensual.

Vancouver is fast losing the Victorian demure of quiet passengers sitting orderly in quaint squiggling trolleys. Now I see the herds of new Vancouverite SkyTrain passengers indignant at being crammed, hardly able to read their parboiled free newspapers, or listening to our pods entangled in some giggly international student’s Hello Kitty knapsack, the rank 6 pm breath billowing up our noses.

Like gay bathhouses, public transportation is a great equalizer.

As Vancouver becomes fragmented between the have-wheels-will-travel and the have-nots, public transport is a cesspool where we have to wade every day – twice – if you don’t have a Hummer, a Mini, a co-op car, a bike, or a put-put.

It will get better, they say. We will have more police, turnstiles, yipeee! To do this, they have increased the fare. One more squeeze at the silent cattle.

The SkyTrain, the buses, the SeaBus, the TransLink have nothing to envy in the Transantiago in Chile, the Transmilenio in Bogotá, the Buenos Aires Subte, the U-Bhan in Berlin, the London Underground, le Metro du Montreal, or the Muni in San Francisco. What we may be lacking is a sense of enjoyment about it. C’mon, why not apply a touch of queer (non)sense to such an obnoxious human hauling system?

Think gay bathhouses again. Throw in a couple of flat monitors, some gym equipment to keep them entertained, barely a daily cleaning, and pack them in. The point is to make money on you.

But no, you are a philosopher on-the-go. You aren’t a drone minion working nine to five! You think about this situation, you see how exciting it is to share this commuting time with your fellow citizens. Right?

In the 20 Victoria bus things keep hot all day long; it used to be only busy in rush hour, this no more.

The bus used to crawl up the road in a long-winded paseo throughout the city. Today, the itinerary is shorter and edgier.

Feel the agitated pulse of the city, take the Victoria line, and you will cut across several social layers, urban landscapes, and pull in at all the most important stops: the Drive, the Downtown Eastside – and our wannabe Rodeo Drive, the glitzy Robson Street.

I recommend this to visitors (no to tourists). Try the 20 Victoria bus, that jerking Noah’s Ark where multicultural becomes reality: brown women with thin necks and eyes like deer; stout, short hairy youngsters like coyotes; redhead leopards; lemmings everywhere; huskies with grey eyes like frozen lakes; bears; fat ostrich; inscrutable ducks; and an aviary of strange birds comes along for the ride.

There are glances exchanged, loud talk of street friends reuniting, feuding lovers, babies growling, people hacking their lungs loudly, reeking hangovers, and shady business deals at the back.

There may be a perverse delight in seeing how we all have to endure this. No matter how high the horse of our hygienic standards is, public transportation is a great social equalizer.

The traffic of desire can leave you breathless. Haven’t you been pinned down on the SkyTrain against the window pane of a wagon like a fluttering butterfly by a woman one hamburger short of being George Stroumboulopoulos’ twin (I want that ride!) or under the nostrils of a man looking like Hedy Fry?

Gang handled by celebrity look-alikes, I make it sweaty and disheveled to the busiest corner of the city, Broadway and Commercial.

Any reprieve?

Buses and trains save us the aggravation of having to negotiate what some days turns out to be heavy traffic on the Drive sidewalks: kamikaze teens on skateboards, wide people, large designer strollers carrying little emperors old enough to sprint (the coming generations have no incentive to walk), accessory dogs walking their owners and entangling their leashes on your feet, and a cavalcade of disabled people on scooters speeding flagrantly.

Think about it. If gas prices keep rising, markets keep tumbling, you might end up joining the likes of us, infantry people.

I don’t mind it a little rough at times. All I ask of you is to be gentle at first, and we both may get a mighty good ride.