Always around this time, when Christmas is just around the corner, I think of something: the Toronto Zoo is open every day except Christmas.
I don't know why I think of that except that I used to go there every two years or so. It's quite a trip from Ottawa. The six hour bus ride to Toronto, then, once in Toronto, a couple of hours ride on another bus to the zoo.
I always caught the Voyager bus in Ottawa at 11:00 PM. I figured I could sleep all night and wake up refreshed at my destination. One year I got on the bus and a little, slim drunk got on behind me.
"Let's get rolling. I want to go to Toronto." He chirped happily. Then he said it again two minutes later and a couple of minutes after that, too. In fact he kept on all the way to Kingston, Ontario, merrily calling out, "Let's get rolling. I want to go to Toronto."
At Kingston, there is a stop at an overnight diner where passengers can get something to eat and drink. Most people got off to get something. The little man did, too. He got a pie and headed back to the bus with his plate and pie.
I was sitting there when another passenger came up to complain about him, then another man came up.
"People like that need their own bus. They need their own bus company and their own bus." This man looked like a nice man, a decent hard-working man, but he was very angry. We all got back on the bus.
The little man was still eating his pie when the bus pulled out. I wondered if he knew that he wasn't supposed to eat on the bus or take the plate with him. When he finished he lay the plate on the seat next to him and went to sleep.
I couldn't sleep right away and didn't get to sleep until 3:00 AM. I woke up as the bus parked in Toronto. I waited for the man to start cheering or something but he just got off and walked away. I drifted over to the all-night cafe. It was 5:00 AM. I never saw the little man again. He was not on the bus home.
I went the zoo and took photos of the animals. I was into painting then and wanted to have some of my own photos to work from instead of getting a magazine.
But I'll never forget my bus ride to Toronto that December.