Arlesheim, Basel-Landschaft (BL), Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera/Switzerland

[1984 Nikon FE2 SLR 35-mm roll film camera, s/n 1816483, with Nikkor AI 50-mm f/1.8 lens, s/n 2336591, and 52-mm polarizing filter;
Kodak Ektar 125 (Kodak 5101 | Ektar 125-1) 36-exposure colour negative film]

© Copyright photograph by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, November 1991

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thoughts while riding SkyTrain

It is almost three o’clock. I am on my way to work. It is my evening job in a group home for two mentally challenged men. I didn’t go to my day job this morning, as Educational Assistant at an elementary school for the Burnaby School District. I booked off, sleeping into the early afternoon, exhausted after 42 hours awake.

Problem is, Tuesday evening no overnight staff showed up at eleven o’clock. After a half hour I called my supervisor to notify him of the situation. He did not respond, I left a message. I was a little peeved, stuck here and knowing I have to get up again at 6:30 am for school. No one else on our limited staff list was available. It is an awake position. I completed the night duties and routine. There is nowhere safe to dose with an eye open and an ear alert. These men have the potential for aggression or even violence if you let your guard down. So, I consoled myself with the fact I will earn some nice overtime pay (double time as I am full-time staff). I would somehow muddle through my school job in the morning.

The night was uneventful. I made it through the next day, drinking seven cups of coffee instead of my usual two, almost nodding off at one point in the early afternoon during math tutoring. And I returned for another evening shift.

Somehow I got my second wind. Mind you, I felt punch drunk, slightly reeling at times. I had the second staff immediately double check the medication I administered, as per protocol. I wouldn’t want to screw up such a serious responsibility just because I couldn’t think and work straight.

I remember all the long trans-Atlantic flights (sixteen so far) to and from Europe over the years, and the domestic flights across Canada. Memories of stepping off the airplanes in Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Genève, Paris, Milano, Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Toronto, Moncton, and Seattle. Then, still having another flight to catch, or the Intercity train, regional train, S-Bahn, U-Bahn, Métro, Tube, street bus, tram, trolley, or Greyhound and the equivalents. Travel that usually took 30-plus or even 40 hours door to door, bed to bed. I was always too excited and a little nervous (the pre-trip jitters no matter how much I love to fly, to travel) to sleep on the flight, almost never closing an eye or two for a few winks. I did not want to miss any of the scenery, the excitement, or miss out on any possible conversations with willing fellow travellers. Upon arrival I would stay up until a normal bedtime but in the new time zone, thus acclimatizing myself much quicker to my new reality.

And so, here I stand in a full SkyTrain car, a short three-station hop after a half hour on the street bus. I think of the Paris Métro and the Hamburg S-Bahn and U-Bahn, and the street cars, subways, and buses in many other European cities. Transit here has grown and improved in the twenty years I live in Vancouver. SkyTrain is a fast, efficient way to get around, downtown or into the neighbouring urban centres. More and more buses are being added to more and more routes. There is still much left to be done until we get even close to what European cities offer. They also usually have much bigger tax bases to draw on. Maybe in another thirty to fifty years we will have a rivalling, vast rapid transit network. Our SkyTrain is unique in that much of it is elevated above ground, fully automated, and without turnstiles (although this latter fact may change someday soon).

When in Paris I love riding their large Métro system, coming in from Charles de Gaulle on the RER, transferring to one of the many Métro lines. The older stations still sport the classic subway tiles. Exit and entry turnstiles and gates control ticket use and abuse between the street and the network. I love to ride lines from end to end, popping up in the many neighbourhoods, surfacing for a closer feel and experience of what each place has to offer.

When in Hamburg (my ancestral city) I find it swift and convenient to transfer from the Intercity train to the S-Bahn or U-Bahn, quickly arriving at the hostel near Landungsbrücken, or some cheaper hotel.

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