It has more than a year since the bus stopped being my main means of transportation, but simply shedding my frequent-flyer pass among that crowd does not mean I have shed my proudly-earned armour, figuratively bequeathed to OC Transpo survivors. With those spoils of victory carried close to my chest, I still relate to, and defend, the daily passengers of OC Transpo - and their identity as Ottawans.
My empathy, understanding and protectiveness of the OC Transpo ‘red limo’ riders were all assaulted yesterday, after I read this post in Ottawa Life Magazine, which calls for a ban of coffee (in travel mugs and to-go cups alike) from OC Transpo buses. More than my allegiance to the public transit passengers, my hope for Ottawa to move past our perceived inability to innovate is what made this post so frustrating to read.
As a first point - it is called public transit for a reason. It is public. That means, like most public places - picture a sidewalk - people are allowed to carry about their days to their liking, within reason. (That last modifier is not to be twisted to suggest it goes against reason to have coffee in public - don’t even try it). If you enjoy your personal space, a calm environment, a serene commute - I suggest doing some research into cabs and cars. Walking, biking, or any other form of physical-exercise-as-transportation also come to you with my strong recommendation.
I understand hot coffee creates an uncomfortable sensation when a drop of it pours down like acid rain upon your khaki pants. I know that a coffee mug is watched as closely as a Leafs fan at a Sens game, the mutual reason being everyone knows just one mishap could cause either to blow its lid. However - we allow Leafs at Sens games, for the same reason we allow (and should continue to allow) coffee to travel on buses: because the area concerned is a public space.
More than it being a public space - it’s OC Transpo, for goodness sake. Coffee is just about the only thing that makes a ride bearable. Perhaps if this were a comment on all the teens smuggling alcohol for the long and winding four-stop odyssey, I would take less issue. Given that alcohol consumption in public is illegal, I could understand that point (although, if coffee makes OC Transpo bearable, alcohol likely makes it enjoyable).
But Ottawa, please think for a moment - we already have a huge stain on our cultural identity in Canada, and trust me, it’s not from coffee. It’s from our (supposed) refusal to shrug off the close embrace of the status quo, forever existing, not evolving.
I don’t believe Ottawa is the boring, white-washed city as which many of our external audience would review us. But I don’t think pieces like the one in Ottawa Life Magazine, which puts ‘coffee on buses’ as a key problem, are doing us any favours.
Ottawa, we need to think bigger. If coffee cups are creating this many tsunami-like crises on people’s laps (due, as originally noted by the editorial’s author, to over-crowding), perhaps the issue is not coffee at all - perhaps it is space. And the solution to that is not removing coffee, but adding buses.
At its core, this (sadly decaffeinated) rant does not even concern the issue of bus space vs. coffee drinkers in this city - it concerns Ottawa. If Ottawa is ever going to earn a place in people’s minds as an innovator, trust me - it won’t be with this proposed Prohibition Act of 2012. It will be by taking another jolt of caffeine, setting sights above the daily grinds, and instead brewing up something that reminds people of reasons why Ottawa is worth a visit.