There are many ways to get from Toronto—->Montreal. Rent-a-car, fly, train, Greyhound. They each have their perks & minuses. Though to be honest, the Greyhound decapitation has put me off it a little bit.
However, for the chance to forge new friendships and maybe even some memorable experiences, I recommend Rideshare (carpooling). It’s well calibrated for camaraderie. You’re in a confined space with others who share the same penchant for uncertainty and frugality. You’ve got hours to kill. Unlike with a bus/train/flight, there’s too few people to ignore and zone off with your iPod. And it’s convenient; there are usually pickup/dropoff points close to your origin/destination.
Last spring break (Reading week for Canadians, usually in the dead of winter), my friends and I concocted a plan to hit Montreal. We arranged a rideshare with a Chinese man named ‘Anthony’. The plan was that we’d meet him at Timmy’s at 3pm, and we’d be off by 3:15, rolling into Montreal around 8:30pm.
We got to Timmy’s on the hour. Little did we know that the rendezvous didn’t just involve us. Turns out Anthony wasn’t going to Montreal and taking people along to help cover the cost of gas, this was actually his occupation. He was taking the four of us along with nine other travelers in a van! At this point our options were limited, so we squeezed into the van and hoped for the best. There was a buzz from all over the vehicle, as people wondered what we were in for.
We set off for what we thought was Montreal. Instead, we were taken to the Greyhound bus terminal where we spotted 2 other people waiting to be picked up. This was crazy, as we were already at capacity what with some large bodies and many winter jackets. We protested loudly, however Anthony replied totally deadpan “This is a 16-seater car. We are only 14 people. The car is designed for 16. I will take 16 people, no more, no less.”
Abuses were hurled at him left and right but Anthony remained calm. Two of my friends decided that they had had enough, and got off to try and rent a car. Intrigued by this man, I decided to endure the journey and persuaded the remaining friend to stick with me. The van left the bus terminal and head on to Montreal. Anthony had the gall to try and pick up another two passengers, but the mob showed signs of turning violent, so he had to concede.
His extraordinary behavior acted as an immediate icebreaker for the passengers in the van; we all had a common topic to discuss, and as we did, we found ourselves branching onto other discussions. The conversation went from Anthony to Montreal to movies to Anthony to university and much more. Some of us even exchanged numbers.
Anthony did grant us a couple of rest stops, but issued strict time limits on them. He himself did not eat or drink for the entire duration of the trip.
Close to our ETA, which was 9:30 pm, we were still only a little over halfway, stuck on the freeway in heavy traffic. We asked him to take an exit so that we could stop somewhere to use the restroom. He refused, saying that it would delay us too much, and instead pulled over on the side of the freeway, inviting us to get out and make our business quickly, with the weather at -18 degrees (C).. The audacity of the man was impressive. He did, however, present us all with pens as a thank-you, flamboyant styluses with his contact details inserted in with the refill.
When we finally arrived in Montreal, dazed and bone-weary, Anthony thanked us again and asked for money from those who hadn’t yet paid. Some people angrily refused and stormed off. He seemed perplexed, but did not react angrily. My friend and I were at a hotel some distance from the drop-off point, so we asked him if he could drive us. He obliged immediately and took us to the hotel at no extra charge. But not before stopping at his own house, taking 5 attempts to parallel park his van on a slope and changing cars. On the way to the hotel he told us about his life, and while saying farewell he gave us his personal e-mail in case we wanted to stay in touch.
You might think I’m a lunatic, recommending Rideshare after such a harrowing experience. But in truth, I’m grateful for it. The world has a lot of pretenders and ordinary people, but very few characters. Anthony was one of the most memorable people I’ve met-he was completely oblivious to all the abuse and went out about doing exactly what he wanted to. He was always polite, attempted to make jokes, and his behavior was so ridiculous that it helped his passengers bond.
I had a great time in Montreal. So many amazing memories were created during that trip, but whenever we get nostalgic the first story that pops out is our experience with Anthony. And yes, I still have that pen.