Life on a Bus in Quebec City

Life on a Bus in Quebec City

Here’s a local resident’s take on life on a Quebec City bus…


by Peter Stuart

I was at the bus stop this morning and something very surreal happened. I live in an area of town where there are lots of apartment blocks from the late 1960s early 70s era, and a lot of single people or young couples with and without children live there and commute to work every morning on the various buses that pass on my street. 

The funny thing is that a lot of people, both men and women, seem to get  up precariously late and cut it really close when it comes to catching their bus right across the street. I observe them at my bus stop every day: Some young women come out of their buildings completely un-made up, and spend the better part of 5-10 minutes at the bus stop putting their makeup on and fixing their hair. Like, do I have to watch you do something which you should’ve given yourself the time to do in the privacy of your own bathroom? 

Getting back to this morning’s incident: I get to the bus stop and park my carcass on the bench in the bus shelter beside a fairly big burly guy with a shaved head. First off he spends at least a couple of minutes taking out his mobile device with headphones and untangling the wires so that he can plug himself into it and shut out the outside world and retreat into his electronic cyber-type world of his own creation, replete with his own personalized choices of podcasts, techno-pagan boom boom music, or better yet, occult or Satanic, or Goth-like Heavy Metal, before arriving at his cubicle and retreating into another self-contained environment. 

Then the kicker. He stands up and proceeds to undo his belt, pants, zipper, and start to rearrange his various appendages and sundry articles of clothing so that they all fit in their proper place! Meanwhile, I’m studiously looking away pretending this is not happening. 

Luckily for me, and everybody else for that matter, bus protocol is a few notches more civilized than bus stop protocol. In the bus, there’s a very structured written and unwritten, unspoken set of rules that have been laid down by the transit commission, and advertized on the buses, in the papers and other media, including the internet. Also, over time, bus riders have come to agree on an unspoken protocol as to how to behave and not behave on a bus. 

For example, it’s quite clearly indicated on the inside walls of the bus to give up your seat in the first few rows of seats if an elder gets on or someone with mobility problems. Most people comply with this automatically, although some youngsters need to be reminded of it on occasion. 

Also, everybody knows that you’re supposed to move back when new people get on, and the aisle starts to get crowded. Generally people comply, but again, sometimes the driver has to raise his or her voice to get people to obey.

One thing which does not generally need to be enforced is the respect of each other’s personal space when sitting in close proximity to one another. Generally nobody hogs any empty seats with their bags or personal effects, and will willingly vacate their personal belongings from an unoccupied seat without being asked to, if the other person makes it clear by their physical movements that they intend on occupying that seat. 

Also, it’s considered impolite to stare into the eyes of the person sitting facing you, unless you know them and they want to strike up a conversation with you. Also, when the person in the window seat wants to get off, it is customary to simply get up, and not have to say anything to the person beside you in the aisle seat. That person is expected to make the necessary physical displacements to allow their neighbour to vacate their seat, without having to exhort them in any verbal or physical fashion. 

If a person who is occupying a two person seat is conspicuously obese or otherwise ungainly in size, it is customary not to make any overt or explicit effort to make that person accommodate a second person in the seat. Usually the other people find the proposition of sitting beside an egregiously obese person to be at the outset, distasteful at best, and will prefer to stand rather than be compelled to be sitting uncomfortably beside the obese person. 

If a person is for some reason unable to come up with the requisite cash fare for the ride, either because they’re short, or didn’t anticipate their electronic debit-smart card becoming ‘stupid’ and malfunctioning on the scanner, then it is customary for the driver to either cut them some slack and let them on, or if they’re convinced the person might be a malingerer, or is somehow trying to take the system ‘for a ride’, so to speak, the driver might ask the passenger to get off the bus, or persuade him/her to ask for a donation from a fellow passenger to make up the difference, which I’ve seen happen on more than one occasion. 

So all in all, folks are quite civilized. There just seem to be some strange creatures on my street who seem to have persistent ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ whilst waiting for the bus. Well, at least once they get on; they’re fully clothed and made-up. It would be rather shocking if some of those specimens showed up for work half-naked in their birthday suit. 

Well, pretty soon, that won’t even be an option. It’ll be bloody cold out, and all thoughts of wardrobe adjustments at the bus stop will be relegated to the dust bin of history. Well, at least until nest spring, when all the Nordic bears and other critters come back out of hibernation for another shot at fun in the sun. 

Have a good one folks!!! Never a dull moment on public transport!!!

Browse: Home / , , / St. Laurent Frappé

St. Laurent Frappé

By on August 9, 2011 | Edit


by Peter Stuart

I was at work in Old Québec the other day and being the eco-conscious geek that I am, I usually bring my plastic or steel re-usable water bottle filled with good old tap water to refresh myself as I give guided tours to the many visitors to Quebec City. 

However, memory being a faculty which is sometimes ‘facultative’, as we say in French, meaning it comes and goes, I forgot my water bottle at home and felt compelled to purchase an evil globally gorgonesque corporate bottle of H20 from the vending machine downstairs. 

As I arrived at the appointed location, I found myself faced with two very youngish English-speaking tourists, seemingly a couple, debating the virtues of Dasani or Aquafina bottled water before making the very morally-charged choice of spending a buck-fifty or two dollars to quench their thirst.

The young lady seemed to be the dominant figure in the debate, with the young dude just seeming not to give a crap about which type of water to get. He was thirsty and wanted something to drink and found his girlfriend’s complex weighing of the pros and cons of Coke or Pepsi-manufactured bottled water to be totally retarded.

So, being the good and helpful tour guide, I decided to intervene, and offer some assistance in their weighty process of aqueous discernment. I bought a bottle of Aquafina, because, for me, it’s only a dollar fifty and the Dasani is two bucks and I don’t like the shape or colour of the bottle as much, but I didn’t say that. As I shoved my coins into the machine, I said that ‘one brand is tap water from Brampton Ontario, and one is tap water from Mississauga Ontario, so either way, you get Ontario tap water’. This didn’t seem to sit well with them. The girl piped up and said ‘isn’t the Dasani slightly carbonated and mineralized, whereas the Aquafina is demineralised?’

At this point, the long-suffering dude chipped in his two cents worth and said something to the effect of ‘I don’t care what kind of water it is I just want water!’ So I read my bottle of Aquafina to help the girl consolidate her decision-making process, since she was obviously in charge. The bottle said: ‘For Québec, Aquafina comes from the public distribution of Montréal.’

Well. This sealed the deal for the girlfriend. ‘Oh! She said: Foreign! So they bought the Aquafina!!! I could just picture these two showing up at a swank Québec hotel like the Chateau Frontenac and ordering bottled water, and the server would tell them, ‘well Madame, I have a St. Laurent Frappé from Québec, and a lacklustre lake Ontario liquid from Brampton’.

And the girl would likely say: Well which do you recommend? And buddy would say with his best high-end French accent, ‘Well Madame, the St. Laurent Frappé from Québec is definitely more exotically foreign than the lacklustre lake Ontario liquid from Brampton’. ‘OK, she would say, I’ll take the St. Laurent Frappé’. ‘Well Madame, I see you’re a person who is a lover of fine things with a refined sense of taste.’ ‘Thank you Monsieur. I always try to sample the local food and drink choices when I go abroad’. ‘Excellent decision Madame. As they say these days: Think global, act local, n’est-ce pas?’

I’m sure Coke and Pepsi would agree. As for me, I think I’ll go back to work and try to make some money from some tourists who are a little more with it than those two were.


About the author:

Peter Stuart is a freelance journalist and writer based in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He has a degree in Canadian Studies from the University of Ottawa.
He has written Op-Ed pieces for the last ten years for publications including: Le Soleil, La Presse, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph and Impact Campus.
Peter writes in both French and English, and is currently working on the publication of his first book. 
You can read more of Peter’s work by visiting his blog.

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