Monday, February 6, 2017

Car Free in Sudbury, Day 11: Sunday Shopping

Sunday. We had survived a week without a car, but we'd had some help. Alice's birthday was a huge success on Friday evening, in large part due to the help of Sarah's friend and her shuttle service. Saturday was a ho-hum day – I was out and about in the downtown, at a training session for Financial Agents put on by Elections Canada, and then at the downtown mall buying Sarah's Sunday School craft items. But we knew that a test was coming – one that we had been dreading. Food at Riverside Manor was growing scarce. It was time for us to sally forth from our place of refuge, and to hunt down our dinner and snack food items.

It was time to get the groceries.
Getting my duck(lings) in a row for the walk to Church.
Sunday. That was our day. Since we were already committed to using a Family Pass to get to church (or rather, to grandma's house, where we spent a half hour watching kid's TV before walking the rest of the way to church and thus not repeating last week's mistake of arriving too early), we decided that we were going to get lunch and groceries on the road. Our Destination: the New Sudbury Centre – for lunch at Taco Bell and groceries at Wal-Mart.

Once again, we found ourselves taking the scenic tour of the South End by riding the 502 Regent / Four Corners / University the wrong way (well, 'long way') from the stop across the street from the church. When we arrived at the downtown transit terminal, we hopped on the 402 Barry Downe / Shopping Centre to head to the mall (as an aside, look, Sudbury – we need to get our act together on this whole “Barry Downe” “Barrydowne” thing – one word or two, let's decide, once and for all – maybe through a municipal referendum. This kind of stuff drives me nuts. And while we're at it, let's settle on a single pronunciation for each of Auger and Levesque streets).

After a relatively uneventful lunch at the New Sudbury Centre's newly renovated food court (and look, you have to know our family to understand just how rare and special an “uneventful lunch” at the food court really is), we headed to Wal-Mart for groceries. We had our re-usable bags and sacks with us. We thought we were prepared. There had been talk about purchasing a bundle buggy at Wal-Mart, but we decided to brave it, and the groceries we would lug.

We finished our grocery shopping at five minutes to 3. The reusable bags were packed by Sarah, who is a pro at this sort of thing. Just 4 bags, that's not too bad. Veronica can carry the TP. Great. We can do this. It's easier than we thought. Why were we so scared? I mean, we've got eggs and everything packed in there. Let's get going.

OK, what bus can we catch, and where can we catch it? The 305 Lasalle / Peppertree stops on Lasalle, so we'd just have to walk through the parking lot and cross the street at the light. It heads straight back to the transit terminal. But it arrived at 2:54 – too late for us by a minute! OK, so how aobut the 402 Barry Downe / Shopping Centre that we took to get to the mall? The stop is at the wrong end of the mall, so carrying our groceries might be a bit of a hassle, especially since you can't take Wal-Mart buggies through the mall. Anyway, what time does it arrive? Oh. 2:52. Hmmm...not so good.

How about the 241 Howey / Moonlight / Shopping Centre? It's got a weird looking route – the transit schedule's map shows it coming into the New Sudbury Centre's parking lot. I wonder where the stops are, because I've never paid any attention to the bus stops at the mall when was driving the car. Anyway, before we try to figure out where it might stop, let's figure out when it will arrive. 2:52. Huh. So there are just three buses that run between the New Sudbury Centre and the transit terminal, and they all arrive at virtually the same time – and then nothing again for an hour. That's....pretty messed up, if I do say. Who thought this was a good idea?
Alice on the Wal-Mart Snow Mountain.

So there we are, with our groceries all packed away, standing at the doors of the Wal-Mart. With about an hour to kill. Not exactly cool. There's no way we're going to lug these groceries around the mall. So we decide to hop on the next bus, and just ride it. We'll be out of the way, and the kids might get a kick out of seeing a new part of the city – or fall asleep.

We took our time getting our winter gear on. Snow pants. Boots on the wrong feet. Boots on the right feet. Jackets which never seem to want to do up. We watched Alice do the trick where she puts he jacket on both arms at the same time over her head. It's cute. Hats on. Mitts....where are the mitts? Why do we always have to hunt for the mitts? So we killed a few minutes that way, before heading out to catch the 305 Lasalle / Peppertree bus headed in the wrong direction. We crossed the parking lot, pushing our groceries as far as we could before the wheels of the Wal-Mart buggy's seized up in a pretty good demonstration of an anti-theft device working the way that it should. Near the bus stop, the plow had come and created a snow mountain, which I think was magnetized in a way that drew our kids directly to it. One moment they were there, walking with one hand on the buggy – the next they were somewhere up in the snow mountain, waving and shouting “Mom! Dad! Look at me!”
Veronica - Queen of the Mountain beneath the cold, cold sky.

10 minutes later, the kids are exhausted, the wind has picked up (a lot) and it's viciously cold. Cue the whining and the sobbing and the crying and pleading, “can we go home now?” And the kids were complaining too. Still 5 more minutes until the bus arrives. I look down Lasalle and through the tears in my eyes I spot...nothing. Well, lots of things, but no bus. It might be there, though – down the road, between my wind-blown tears. It might just be there and I can't see it. It might be. It better be!

But it's not. The bus arrived 15 minutes late – which proved to be just in time. There was an insurrection mounting – an initiative to return the family to the mall, bags of groceries in a frozen Wal-Mart cart and all. I fought valiantly, but I couldn't convince Sarah to head back in. When the bus finally arrived, came to a stop in front of us, and opened its' doors, there was a mad stampede from the kids to get in – much to the annoyance of those exiting the bus from those very same doors, I'm sure. No matter. There was warmth there, even among the angry stares.

A late bus, though, certainly means a missed connection. Not so good, but at least we'd be able to hang out in the warmth (if not the ambiance of) the transit terminal for 45 minutes waiting for the 502 Regent / Four Corners / University to take us home – the distance of a 10 minute walk for me, but something completely uncontemplatable with the kids and with sore feet.

When the bus drove past the terminal's exit, I peeked through the window, hoping beyond hope that the 502 would be just as late as arriving as the Lasalle / Peppertree. No such luck. The terminal was deserted. Dang. By this time, everybody was just a little grumpy – we needed to be home, as quickly as possible. But it looked like a 45 minute layover. We got off the bus, and walked into the terminal – just as about every other bus running in the City on Sunday pulled in, including the 502! Unbelievable. The buses must have co-ordinated their schedules, somehow, probably through the magic of coffee breaks. Although there was a part of me that rebelled at the mathematical improbability that all of the buses in the City could find themselves equally late, at his point I didn't care. We hopped on the 502 and were home again in about 5 minutes.

Riding the Loop. Moments after this photo was taken, Alice
found herself located somewhere other than her seat.
But I was fuming still. It was now just a little bit before 4 o'clock. The better part of the afternoon was lost, in just having a quick meal at the food court and picking up groceries at Wal-Mart. This would have been about two hours in the car, no more. Four hours on the bus – with literally most of that time spent on the bus (or waiting for it!). We plonked the groceries down in the front of the door, got our keys out and unlocked....the van, to see if maybe the General Motors fairies had visited it and made it work again.

Rurrrr-rurrrr-rurrrrrr-rurrrrr-roooooow. No dice. Man, that doesn't sound good. At all. I'm not sure that's the battery. I don't even think it's the starter. I just don't really know, for truthfully, I don't have a clue when it comes to stuff like this, but boy, it sounded bad. Even worse than before – if that were possible. You know what it sounded like? To my ears, it sounded like that noise a car makes when something is busted and it's going to be expensive to fix.

I was about ready to call it quits yesterday. Waiting around. In the cold or other inconvenient places. Buses that don't run on schedule but are a part of lateness conspiracy. Watching the kids fall asleep for a few minutes, only to be ejected from their seats when the bus goes around a corner. Time has been taken out of my hands – I have no control over it. And I'm losing it, because I can't keep a grip on it. My Sunday afternoon – gone. And I had big plans for it. Yes indeed. Big plans. But they were foiled. No nap for Dad.

We decided that Sunday might not be the best day for a family outing – at least not when the weather was cold. Or rainy. Or windy. Or mosquito-y. Or otherwise miserable. We had heard the horror stories about Sudbury Transit's Sunday service – and now we had experienced them for ourselves, and although we may have lived to tell the tale, it was a close run thing.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)


Leslie said...

It's not the starter, would only get a click of key turning if it's starter. Might be battery doing weird Dodge stuff. Disconnect negative for 5 minutes, reconnect & try starting.

Sudbury Steve said...

Thanks for that advice, Leslie - I'll see if I can give it a try. I'm also thinking I'll post a short video of the horrible noise it's making, with the hopes that maybe someone like yourself might be able to diagnose it - and with the knowledge of how much it might cost to fix, my family will better be able to make a decision about whether it's worth it or not. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Thank you!

Greg D said...

Another great post, and I love the picture of the kids askew on the bus. You and yours are real troopers! I think we should organize a city wide scavenger hunt for council and transit management all done on transit.