Over the phone, the TTC information lady says the Parkdale Community Bus goes north from Dufferin Mall. Because I never go there, I always have to think, "Where is Dufferin Mall?"
Across from Dufferin Grove Park, I'm told. Which doesn't help. The driver of the regular Dufferin bus has never heard of the Community Bus. "Maybe in the mall," he says. Maybe in the mall, what?
I spot a little blue-and-white bus entering the mall parking lot. The unofficial looking collectivo makes me forget what country I'm in. I ask the driver if it's the Parkdale service.
"No," he says. "Where are you going?" We talk back and forth for a minute. The bus looks so cozy inside that it makes me homesick for somewhere I've never been. I get aboard to sort things out while driving around the parking lot. Before I bend my knees to take a seat, the driver asks, "You German?"
This man drives the Cadbury workers from the factory to the mall. To do their shopping? No, he shuttles them from work to their cars in the mall lot. We part in a flurry of promises, and I go to await the bus that he has assured me of. He waves at me on his return trip as I lean on the wall looking at the CN Tower shrouded in the rusty greenery of Dufferin Grove trees.
A lady is popping the deadheads from the potted marigolds at the unmarked stop here by the exit south of the Croatian Catholic Centre. Other seeds she gathers and gives to another lady seated on her walker/chair. The Community Bus comes every hour and 15 minutes, or so I'm told.
Here it comes now, the Parkdale 402. Looks old enough to be the first "kneeling" bus in Toronto.
It's one of four Community Buses the TTC runs in the city. The 400 Lawrence Manor, 403 South Don Mills and 404 East York are the others.
They're for people with time and/or timing. Each has its own specialized route. There are official stops, but most just flag them down.
The driver sits three steps up on a platform to see the road. He wears white gloves with rubber pebbled palms. I put a TTC ticket in and get the impression I've gone wrong, but he says it's okay.
He's not the regular driver, as I gather from the man who gets on with his groceries and asks, "John not on today?" This passenger kindly gets me a schedule as we roll up over train tracks and past a black water tower on Wallace. The driver is listening to radio calls, so it's like being in a big old taxi. My fellow rider points out how tight the turn is up by the seniors' building off Symington. "You should see it in the winter - and cars park right up to the corner."
What was Knob Hill Farms at Lansdowne and Dundas is now No Frills, where there is no shelter for those waiting the long wait.
The man who gave me the schedule says he hails the Community Bus outside his south Parkdale home. He knows the times. He figures this last run of the day won't go to St. Joseph's Hospital, but it does, and we can see the lake. This is a mystery tour even for regulars.
Two horses stand on Queen Street by the Parkdale Library, police officers atop them. Both horses and riders point their noses in a direction that I follow with my eyes. Oh. Broad-daylight party at the Blue Moon!
South on Cowan, the reg and I remark on the organic market laid out here this Wednesday afternoon. The passengers tell me I can get a transfer to take ordinary TTC back to my bike.
People with mobility problems have to book WheelTrans at least a day or two in advance and be prepared for it to arrive early or late. The Parkdale Community Bus is equipped for wheelchairs and makes seven trips a day beginning at Queen Elizabeth Hospital/Toronto Rehab on Dunn. There is something endearing about a bus service that publishes a start-up time of "about 9:30 am." And goes till 6ish. Weekdays only.
Naturally, I follow up on what I've seen on my tour and head for that two-horse party, where I meet a cycling musician I know. We started the CD-as-reflector trend separately, and now he has a CCM product that I, for whom every day is Buy Nothing Day, must have. It's a handlebar-mounted combination radio-headlight-horn.
I revisit the charming Gaudiesque mosaic-encrusted adobe at Dufferin Grove. It curls around an oven, and there are sinks with running water. Grass grows on the roof. Interesting to see how it will weather the freeze and thaw.
Someone there asks me if I'm German, too. Apparently my Honest Ed's homemade cycling clown outfit resembles the gear of Technosomebody or something.