The best-laid plans

Some days —as columnist Jon Willing recently discoveredpacking ahead and an early wakeup are all for naught

Miles Willing finds a different mode of transport following a missed bus with his dad, columnist Jon Willing. Photo Courtesy Jon Willing

With my wife Nicole away with the family car for a massively deserved weekend with her friends, I was intent on getting to Miles’s swim class at 9 a.m. on Sunday. 

What is usually a swift nine-minute trip by car would require an extra 45 minutes taking the bus.

Parenting challenge accepted.

What I didn’t consider, however, was the unpredictability of packing up and shuffling a spunky three-year-old out in time to catch a bus.

My preparation was intensely vigilant the night before, laying out bathing suits, changes of clothes and snacks on the table, all ready to snatch on the way out the door. I punched up the OC Transpo planner about a dozen times in the previous days to make sure I chose the most efficient bus route.

We awoke 30 minutes earlier than usual. The countdown started.

Relying on public transit means there’s no room for flexibility in making a scheduled appointment. Between July 2020 and June 2021 — the most recent OC Transpo data available at the time of this writing — the rate of city buses that arrived early was higher in 11 of those months compared to the rate of buses that arrived late.

We shovelled back breakfast, raced upstairs to get dressed, then back downstairs to lace up.

As I bolted through the living room and into the kitchen to make sure I packed enough snacks, I heard a thunderous crack and then the smash of broken glass.

Of course, a wall clock crashed to the floor, and naturally, the glass didn’t break into manageable big chunks, but instead, it smashed into tiny jagged pieces that scattered across the dining room floor. We had 10 minutes to make the bus.

“I’ll help clean up!” Miles beamed, assessing the minefield of shards in front of him.

Begging him not to come any closer, he begged back, “But I want to help, daddy!”

I used him as a long-range glass spotter as I crawled across the floor with a rag trying to soak up the bits.

The sprint from the house to the nearest bus stop was epic. We ran up the street to a set of stairs that would take us to the bus route, me charging ahead ready to flag down the bus driver. We arrived at the curbside stop, sucking air, at the exact time the bus was scheduled to arrive.

We stood there for 10 minutes.

The heartbreaking image of Miles standing with his toque on sideways, pulled halfway down one side of his cheek, looking up at me with confusion is still seared into my memory.

“No bus yet, daddy,” he said.

No bus, buddy.

It must have come early.

Defeated, we slowly walked up the street to a cafe. We found a picnic table on the patio and Miles, with a fresh chocolate chip cookie in his hand, merrily danced and stomped on the bench, singing wonderful gibberish at the novelty of having an early-morning treat.

Watching his revelry, I decided the multi-day planning, the busted clock and the frantic rush out the door was all worth it.