Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: COMMUTE (07/07/16)
- TITLE: Do we jump?
By Jack Taylor
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I’ve never had problems with my commute – that is, until Stephanie decided to join me. Stephanie is my Dallas friend who decided to “risk everything” to see if my neighborhood was as multi-cultural as I claimed. She stood in her ripped jeans taking in the flashing colored fabrics of India, Fiji, Africa, Latin America and China. Her ears bathed in the garble of a modern day Babel.
We wrestled our luggage through the gates and packed onto the skytrain at the airport, rumbling our way up and over the streets and then down and under the streets. She kept a vice-grip on my bicep half the way to downtown. Bruises were no doubt in my future.
We transferred at Waterfront Station and rattled our way back up onto concrete pillars where we hurtled and rocked along rickety tracks above the bumper to bumper traffic. The thin-skinned metallic tubes we squeezed onto were packed sardine style. We held onto floor to ceiling yellow poles until we could claim a seat at one of the stops. Every younger passenger, regardless of race, seemed to be plugged in with their earbuds in place.
I didn’t tell Stephanie that the contraption we walked onto was driverless – that is, until we approached the Skybridge. We’d been texting each other about various passengers around us.
'9 o’clock – what’s with the funny whale jerseys?' she inquired.
Canucks. Game Day. Ice Hockey. Religion here, like football to you.
'Dude with knit cap. Reflective shades. Beard. Dangerous?'
We call it a toque. Facial hair is in. Probably undercover or homeless.
'Where’s the driver?'
Her grip on my arm returned. “What do you mean there’s no driver?” she whispered intensely.
“It’s run by computers,” I assured her.
“Are you people nuts?” she asked. “We’re suspended in space moving like a runaway semi.”
“You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet sista,” I mocked. “We are about to go aerial.”
As I spoke, we cleared the last of the skyscrapers and turned toward the wide expanse of the Fraser River. Stephanie saw the pencil thin rail line suspended high above. Her eye lids lifted. A gasp stole her oxygen. “What is that?” she whispered.
I pretended not to notice until she elbowed me. “Tell me we are not going over that?”
“Relax, girl. The cables are strong. Nothing ever goes wrong. It’s been up 30 years with no problems.”
“That is suicide. How high is that thing?”
“The top of the towers are about 400 feet up but we’re not even going half that high.” I snapped a picture of the setting sun resting near the middle of the span and then sent it off through Instagram. “It’s the longest cable-supported transit-only bridge in the world.”
It truly did look like the Skytrain car we rode in leapt like a stunt driver from one bank of the river toward the other. The only sightline led straight down to the slowly moving water where tugs, freighters, and pleasure craft competed for space.
Planes descending through the clouds nearby, gulls drifting right outside our window, and tiny matchbox factory buildings below gave the illusion that we were indeed suspended in space.
Suddenly the train jerked to a stop and the lights went out. I admit, Stephanie wasn’t the only one who screamed. I may not have pierced any eardrums but my gut twisted up tighter than I’ve ever felt before. Emergency lights flickered on but we sat frozen above the river.
“What’s wrong?” Stephanie strained to look out the windows and then pulled back. “How do we get out?”
“We don’t,” I said. “If we walk on the tracks it’ll shut down everything and we’ll never get off of here.”
"Do we jump?"
Every cell phone clicked the moment and dozens of languages chattered excitedly. One young man tried to force the doors open until two others stopped him, explaining the danger.
“Time to pray,” I whispered.
We did and after thirty of the most anxious minutes I’d ever spent on any commute we smoothly moved on to finish our journey. It’s the closest to heaven I’ve felt on any commute.
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