It all began on a Friday afternoon about a month ago.
Well, not really. It actually began a month before that, with the decision to leave my motorhome in BC for the winter, rather than bring it up to the Yukon.
Driving that thirsty beast the extra 1,660 km from Prince George to Whitehorse might have helped keep the petroleum industry in the black, but it would be like declaring war on the environment.
Not to mention the impact on my already touch-and-go budget.
A season or three of combining a lot of walking with a monthly geezer’s pass on Whitehorse Transit for a mere $26 (a bargain by any measure) would surely benefit both my body and my budget – and nip global warming in the bud.
Besides, I reasoned, what were the odds of finding enough straw bales to make the RV habitable throughout a Yukon winter? Exactly.
On the particular Friday in question, I set out to catch a little Main Street culture. When the #1 Riverdale rolled to a stop at the foot of my street, I blithely hopped aboard.
That’s when my first bald moment of the day struck.
(Caution: unless your scalp sports the same lean and hungry look as mine, it is politically incorrect to use that phrase. We skinheads are easily offended.)
The driver was an affable chap in his mid-50s or so, the kind of operator who whistles like a Boy Scout while he drives, and honks and waves to folks along his route. I’ve since learned his name is Rollie.
I flashed a bright smile and my October pass. Alas, it was November 5.
Did Rollie boot me off the bus? Refuse to budge until I coughed up the $2.50 cash fare? Make a big fuss to belittle the befuddled? Nay, nay. He gently reminded me the calendar had turned a page.
(Rollie, if you get fired for this, it will be on my conscience for life. I swear.)
I made it downtown in time to admire Harreson Tanner’s excellent bronze Jack London and schmooze for awhile at the opening of Rolf Hougen’s fine display of historic photos.
A few hours, many errands and many miles by shank’s mare later, I stopped at the bank to withdraw the next day’s grocery money.
That’s when my second bald moment of the day came to light. No wallet.
I checked and triple-checked every pocket. I patted myself down repeatedly, like an over-eager airport security guard. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Oh great, I thought: another weekend subsisting on fried water.
Flash to Saturday afternoon. Somewhere near the Superstore, a bus rolled to an unscheduled stop in mid-block. The driver beckoned me over and opened the door.
“You were on my bus last night. I took your wallet to the office,” he apologized, “but I’m afraid they’re not open until Monday.”
Bear in mind that we had never laid eyes on each other before the previous afternoon, but somehow he had picked me out amongst the teeming throngs in downtown Whitehorse.
“Nice,” I thought. “At least I know where it is.”
About an hour later, I boarded the #6 Porter Creek en route to interview Pam Charman (please note correct spelling this time; sorry, Pam).
As I stood there dropping quarters into the fare box, a voice came over the two-way radio. It was affable Rollie, of course, talking to the dispatcher.
“You know that black wallet I dropped off last night? I just saw the guy get on the Ponderosa. Maybe the driver can swing by the office and pick it up.”
It’s a testament to local transit riders’ faith in the system that not one passenger raised a squawk when the driver swung right onto Tlingit Street and proceeded to manoeuvre his rig up to the front of the Whitehorse Transit building.
There was the dispatcher on the step, black wallet in hand.
Now, say what you like about Whitehorse Transit (and you do; come on now, admit it) – how it’s no help if you want to spend an evening at Yukon College, the Arts Centre, the Guild Hall or the Canada Games Centre.
How it’s no help at all on Sunday.
But I ask you: where else will you get that kind of personalized service?
Not on the Yonge Street subway line. Not on Portage Avenue, Barrington Street, or West Hastings.
On that, I’m willing to wager the price of a Whitehorse Transit geezer’s pass.