My cross-Canada train trip adventure started on a cold winter night in the Edmonton VIA Rail / Greyhound Bus station.
The best thing in the station is the flashing blue Greyhound sign on the wall inside at one end of the building.
That would be the bus end, not the train end.
Like oil and water, bus and train passengers shall not mix. A security guard occasionally shooed straying bus people back to their own side, about 10 feet away. (Three metres. The metric system is going to be a real pain so let’s say three long paces.)
We, the train people, could see them, the bus people, and they could see us. Bus vs train. One of the bus people was waiting for her brother to get there by train. Her body was in bus but her heart was in train. It must have been soul-destroying.
The whole station is one not very large room with an all-seeing guard. The reasonably comfortable seats are not the kind you can pick up and use as a weapon in the event of a bench-clearing brawl. I felt very secure.
When I handed in my luggage at 10 p.m., the pleasant VIA Rail fellow said, “Your train’s been delayed two hours leaving Vancouver. Instead of midnight, it’ll be more like 2 a.m.”
OK. I had a book, snacks, a full stomach, and no plans for three days. What’s two hours?
When you fly, you’re stuck. In the departure lounge, it can be fun (I suppose) to guess who’ll be sitting near you on the flight. It can also be disheartening when there’s you and no one else except some screaming babies and a uniformed RCMP officer sitting with a big guy named Reno.
I felt so smug. This wasn’t a plane, it was a train and I would have my own private room. Heaven. No people for three nights and two days.
Then I heard Buddy.
Why do parents call their children Buddy anyway? Is it a nickname, or does it rival Liam and Emma on the list of Top Canadian Baby Names of 2015?
Train station Buddy was no more than a year and a half old. He couldn’t say too many words that I could make out, but he could make noise and whatever he had to say, his Dad, in his early 20s, understood. Not the other way round though. The Dad couldn’t convince Buddy to do anything Buddy didn’t want to do.
From about 3 a.m. to 3:30 (yes, the train was later than we thought), the Dad did get Buddy to sleep on a bench. He used his own big coat as a sleeping bag and held Buddy in place on the bench so he wouldn’t roll off in his sleep. That half-hour was it for Buddy.
During the whole seven or so hours of my in-station experience (we finally left after 5 a.m.), Buddy ran circles for all but those 30 minutes. He went up to the coffee machine at the train end, round past the secret door that only train workers can use, along the bench by the window, past the security guard, right down to the greyhound on the far wall of the bus end, and back again without stopping. Constantly. Being a child, he was immune to the bus-train separation rules and crossed the border freely.
Buddy kept this up for hours. He didn’t trip. He didn’t cry, and he didn’t stop.
Eventually our train arrived and we all got on in the dark. I didn’t see the two of them after that. They were in coach class where there are no beds.
I did the trip that way once when I was 22 and had no children to mind, just myself. It was torture. I need to sleep lying down.
Joe the truck driver from Manitoba told us at breakfast on Day 2 that Buddy and his Dad were doing OK and Buddy had not slowed down any.
We left Edmonton early on Sunday morning and reached Toronto on Tuesday night. At Union Station, I saw Buddy again. His Dad was trying to put a lot of luggage onto a not-big-enough cart. The Dad looked a bit robotic and sleep-deprived, but he was still as patient and loving to Buddy as he’d been at the start.
I went over to him and said, “You are a really good Dad.”
Buddy was still running.