My eye injections came and went yesterday, as they do every 8 weeks. I’ve written about this before… I receive injections of a prescription medication called Lucentis. In case you’re just now joining the show, Lucentis is used to treat a condition known as Diabetic Macular Edema, which involves the accumulation of fluid in the tissues of the eye. Lucentis dries up the fluid, reducing the swelling it causes and overall improving my vision. The condition is basically permanent, and requires scheduled in-hospital injections every two months or so. All caught up? Good! Moving on…
As I recently posted, I sold my car. There were a number of reasons behind this move, but it was for the best. As such, our home is now down to only one vehicle. This shouldn’t be a problem in theory, since I grew up in a household with only one vehicle and I turned out fine (as my jaw twitches imperceptibly). But the timing of this eye injection appointment came at the worst possible time. My son Nathan started his first full week of 1st Grade yesterday.
My wife and I had concerns that if something happened, such as a bathroom-related accident or heaven forbid, he coughs at school, she would have to go get him. Something not so easily accomplished if I have the vehicle up in Saskatoon while she’s stuck down here, juggling a cranky infant and trying to find a way to pick up our five-year old. Boring and routine as my eye injection appointments had become, I decided to branch out and go on a little adventure. I took the bus…
It turns out that Regina does have a bus line that runs from here to Saskatoon and back. Since my appointment was at 3 pm, I could catch a bus from Regina to Saskatoon at 7:30 am, arrive around 10:30 am, walk to the hospital, get my injections and catch a return bus at 6 pm. Sounds reasonable in theory, right? Since the bus terminal is a little over 5 kilometres away, it would take a little over an hour to walk there. And waking the entire family just to drop me off and come back home is a definite no! Especially since once you wake an infant, you’re pretty much screwed.
I checked the city bus schedule, and the bus that ran downtown passes in front of my house at 5:40 every morning. When I woke up at 5 am, the temperature was only 4 degrees Celsius and there was a chill in the air. So I dressed with a thermal shirt and my wool fleece shell, wool hat and gloves. I packed a t-shirt and a light Under Armour jacket for the later afternoon. I was quite glad I did, since I made plans to hop on the city bus during this frigid time.
The bus was running a few minutes late, which in retrospect I wish I could say was reasonable and I understood. But my chattering teeth demanded justice, and since there was no one ON the bus, I couldn’t quite understand why the delay. But there’s no telling what the route may have been like, up the road. So I left it alone, paid my fare and sat down.
I was immediately greeted by the conductor’s voice over an intercom asking me to put on a face mask. Of course… Good ol’ COVID-19… I didn’t see the point, since the driver is wrapped in what is effectively a plastic bubble and I was alone on the bus. But fatigue and lack of caffeine rendered me silent and I slipped on a mask. I overestimated the time I would require, since this was my first time getting to Saskatoon this way. I arrived in the downtown area at 6 am, an hour and a half before the departure of the Saskatoon bus.
I walked along 11th Avenue in Downtown Regina feeling like that one lonely hospital patient who wakes up during the apocalypse. The streets were empty and quiet, except a couple of city buses, and there was even a token grocery bag floating by on a light morning breeze. Since I was far too early and uncertain what to do with myself, I decided to fix one problem and stopped in at a Tim Hortons, which conveniently opened at 6 am. It was a downtown location without a drive-thru and isn’t open 24 hours like most locations.
I sat down with my coffee and a Wheel of Time book and let the hot cup of caffeine breathe some life into me. About half an hour later, I was asked to vacate my seat as the location had a “no more than 30 minutes” policy in relation to their lobby. I was a little miffed, but it didn’t surprise me. It’s become the way of the world for most businesses. I half-heartedly objected, but I packed up and shuffled on. I made it to my intercity bus stop at 6:40 am. Now, we wait…
There was one other gentleman (besides the bus driver) waiting at the stop, and upon seeing my coffee cup, asked if I would watch his bags while he walked to Tim’s to grab one of his own. I was a little taken aback by how trusting he was to allow a stranger to watch his bags, until I realized he probably assumed I had nowhere to go since I would be taking the same bus as him.
The bus ride itself was uneventful and I took advantage of the fact that I could still see clearly to do some reading. We arrived on 2nd Avenue in Saskatoon at about 10:30. My appointment was about a 15-minute walk away and was scheduled for 2:55 pm, so I had some time to kill. This is where I discovered something important about Saskatoon: their downtown core has nothing! Oh sure, there are office buildings and businesses, a couple of convenience stores… But I was looking for a place to hunker down for a while and get out of the chill. The nearest place I found was a restaurant that only opened in half an hour.
I made my way down to Midtown Plaza, which is a two-story shopping centre I knew would have a food court and hot coffee. I got there fine, despite some douche-canoe’s attempt to grab my backpack (a story for another day) and enjoyed my second cup of coffee of the day and did a bit of reading. I got bored pretty quick and after a couple of laps of the stores in the centre, I walked over to the hospital. I figured I could sit on the bench outside the main entrance and relax until my appointment.
By 12:30, I was starting to get cold and decided to try and get inside. The hospitals are pretty controlled at the moment and for the most part, you can’t even get inside unless you have an appointment. My name was on a list but they obviously didn’t have an appointment time as they told me to go right in. I got to the Eye Care Centre and checked in, since I didn’t assume they’d let some random person lounge in their waiting room.
The first thing the employee at the admitting desk said was that I was booked in for 2:55 pm and that I was too early. I played it off as though it was a mistake and said, “2:55? Not 12:55? That’s my bad, I must have read the appointment slip wrong. Should I just sit and wait then, or do I need to leave and come back?” Since I had arrived on a bus and had nowhere to go, she agreed to let me sit in the waiting room and she would “put a note on my file,” which resulted in my getting in early and being seen by the doctor almost right away.
I should have felt guilty at being passed so far ahead of schedule, but considering the times when I WAS on time and still had to wait an hour beyond my appointment, I took the win and left the hospital just shortly after 1 pm. Now I had a different problem. I needed somewhere to go for the next FIVE HOURS!!! My bus was only scheduled to leave at 6 pm.
I spent the afternoon randomly walking around the city and looking at different shops and things. I walked by the river and I even did a few more laps of the mall. Considering my vision was impaired and I couldn’t read, I was pretty limited so I ended up sitting on a bench at 2nd and 23rd Street and settled in for a long wait for the bus that would take me home. At one point, some city worker (or at least I assumed he was, since he had an orange vest on) tried to tell me to move along since that particular corner had signage stating that loitering was not permitted. I explained why I was there and was basically left alone afterwards.
At 5:30 pm, I walked to the actual bus stop and was checked in for the trip. At 6 pm, which was supposed to be our departure time, we were advised the bus was running at least 15 minutes late. Of course, it is! When the bus finally arrived, loading and check-in for everyone had us leave a half hour later than our scheduled departure. At this point, my head and my eyes were killing me and I was too tired to care. As long as somebody drove the damn bus and got me home.
When I got back to Regina, I stepped off the bus and started walking to wards the only city bus route that ran up to my street. As I walked, I checked the online bus schedule and realized that the next bus would leave the stop I was heading towards at 9:15 pm. It was 9:13… I was over a block away, but I ran. I had to reach that bus, otherwise I would be stuck waiting an hour for the next one. The downtown mall was closed and so was the Tim Hortons I had used that morning. If I missed the bus, the best I could hope for would be a local pub, which wouldn’t be the worst thing but I ultimately just wanted to get home.
My saving grace is that there were four buses lined up to use the stop, and the one I needed was last in line. I had never been so happy about a delay in my life. In actually, a delay had CAUSED the panicked rush. If the intercity bus hadn’t left Saskatoon 30 minutes late, I would have made it to the stop in plenty of time. But the bottom line is I made it, got on the bus and sat quietly, all the way home. I walked into the house and took all of ten minutes to unpack a couple of essentials before unceremoniously crashing on my bed.
Over the course of the day, I walked about 15 kilometres in total. I got cold, then I got too warm. I was found with too much time on my hands and I was at the mercy of someone else’s driving. And as those of you who know me are aware, if it goes faster than I can walk, I just as soon be the one driving. I had a person attempt to steal my backpack, watched some “colourful” people shouting and acting erratically in the street, and experienced the pulse of the neighbouring city.
Do I regret taking the bus instead of the family vehicle? Let’s consider the pros and cons… On the pro side, the cost of my transit was less than half of what I would have paid for my usual hotel room. Once you factor in meals and fuel for the vehicle, I saved a few hundred dollars. Although not an earth-shattering amount, that makes a savings of just shy of $2,000 after a full year. Not too shabby. I also didn’t have to drive and could focus on scenery and reading for a change.
The cons? I had a lot of downtime on my hands with nowhere to go and nothing to do. That’s partially my fault as I overestimated my timings since it was my first time travelling this way. But COVID-19 also take the majority of the blame, since I really had nowhere I could go to simply grab a coffee and chill. In pre-Corona days, I would have sat with a coffee and read for a couple of hours.
I’ll definitely need to fine-tune my timings and work something out, as I don’t plan on spending HOURS outdoors during the winter months. Will this be my new normal? Probably. But the savings involved can’t be ignored, neither can the biggest pro of them all; the fact I was able to sleep in my own bed that night. ☯