Heart of the City

It's always the same routine, because it's always the same journey.

You board the bus and hope for a seat on the first floor of the Megabus bus, preferably one where there are four seats looking at each other with a table in the middle because you'll be able to read even though you will not want to. Once you have found your seat, you hope that the seat in front of you stays empty so you can be able to stretch your legs, or that the seat next to you will so that you can put your laptop there, or that both seats stay empty. But of course, this doesn't happen. 

Then the bus leaves the terminal, and the driver, a 45-year-old Québécois who speaks with a thicker accent than you do, greets you in English, then French, and you settle in your seat next to a young teenager who listens to her music too loud, but at least isn't exactly hard on the eyes and in front of a young adult who seems fed up with life, doesn't care to offend others and will happily impede on your boundaries–where there was a table, there is now his jacket and backpack. You don't know whether you should listen to the latest episode of 'The Basketball Jones' or the 'Men in Blazers' podcasts, or whether you should continue reading Economics by The Economist. Instead, you decide to sleep. Soon, you realize that you can't fall asleep, because there's a young baby who cries from time to time two rows from your seat, and because that thirty-year-old woman from across the centre aisle who reads Kafka didn't close the door to the washroom properly when she went, and the door keeps knocking as the bus turns, speeds or brakes. Thuc. Thuc.

It takes about six hours to travel from Montréal to Toronto, or vice-versa, with Megabus. This means that over the past three years while I studied at Ryerson University, I have spent about 150 hours on those Megabus buses–and believe me, those are 150 of the least productive hours of my life. The journey is long, annoying, but always there's a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. During the first two years at Ryerson, I was happy to travel back to Montréal because that's where most of my life remained, but I would be ambivalent driving back to Toronto. I liked the 416, of course–good people, beautiful city, a lot of fun. But I was going back home to my friends and family in Montreal, and nothing beats that.

Now it's different–after three years, I have grown and changed a lot, and most of it is due to the City of Toronto. I'll always be happy to be back in Montréal but increasingly, I find myself more and more anticipating the return trip as well. Whenever I leave Toronto, I feel different now. Regret. A twinge, almost. I'm sad when I leave Toronto, because I would like to spend more time there–because more and more, Toronto feels like home to the native Montrealer that I am. Yikes.

Some things will never change–and one of them is that I will always love Montréal. This is where my family lives, where my six-year-old brother plays hockey like I once did and is growing up to be a rather amazing boy who looks up to his older brother, where my younger sister is quickly becoming a strong woman, opinionated and fearless, who bites into life with little hesitation, where my father inspires me daily to push further and further even if I might hate to because the destination will make the often messy road worth it, and where my mother continues to teach me everything that I know about care, respect and dedication.

Yet, some things do change. Toronto gets a bad rep in Quebec, but for no real reason–though it counters Montréal's European feel with an American flavour of its own, I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. Drivers can turn right on the red light, here, and will respect the pedestrians' right to cross because they know that they will do the same. Toronto took a chance on a French Canadian who had never studied in English and accepted him into its prestigious Journalism undergraduate program. This city has taught me a different lifestyle, based less on laissez-faire and choreographed chaos and more on order and personal initiative. It taught me how to love house music and gave me a glimpse into new cultures. It also gave me the opportunities to grow that I was so desperately craving, but not finding, in Montreal. Most of all, it allowed me to meet incredible people, many of whom are smarter, more handsome, or funnier than I ever will be, and all of whom I'm hoping to keep close to my heart for as long as I can.

Increasingly, Toronto feels like home–my home away from home, and ditto for Montréal. If nothing else, this has the advantage of making worthwhile both of the Megabus trips. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, whether I'm going to Montréal or Toronto. Win-win. Unfortunately, that tunnel before the light is quite long.

Back inside the Megabus bus, the door to the washroom keeps knocking, still. On such a long journey, most passengers plead the right to a calm and happy right not to give too hoots about anything that they can't control–call it a learned helplessness. They have learned that nothing that they can do will likely ease the pain of sitting in the same seat, with their knees to their chin, for six hours–and so, they do nothing.

Except this one woman. She's probably 50 years old, has gray hair, and is always sporting a smile–you even hear her talk to other passengers at some point, asking them how they are doing and whether they're heading for a vacation or back home. At this point, she stands up and, taking matters in her own hands, and closes the door to the washroom–properly. The door has stopped knocking. God bless her. Just then, another woman stands up and walks down the central aisle toward, yep, the washroom. She opens the door..

I can't wait to arrive.