Friday had come to Coquitlam, and this was to be a grand day! For you see, on this fine, sunny Friday, it was only L who had to work, and so I was going to have Chuck all to myself. Don’t get me wrong, L is one of my dearest friends, but it had been a long time since I had seen Chuck without her around. I was looking forward to some quality time with my best friend, no girls allowed. With two young men about town, we had been planning on doing some truly manly activities! There was nothing more manly than what we had planned! We were going to do what every young man dreams of doing on a sunny Friday when there was nothing holding us back! We were going to a science museum!
But first I had to wait for Chuck to wake up. True, L was up with the sun to head off to work, but Chuck was taking advantage of his day off to sleep in a little. I didn’t mind, as I had a task to occupy me that morning. I had been spending most of my mornings enshrouded in my shy nature. When I got up at 8 like I normally do, I would spend the morning writing in my journal and reading the huge stack of Archie digests that L’s family had stored in the guest room. Then, when the house was sufficiently deserted around 10, I’d come out and have breakfast. Not this morning, though. I had promised to send postcards to the family back home, and had picked up some at the gift shops in Stanley Park. As I sat at the table in L’s kitchen having breakfast, I wrote variations on “Having a good time, wish you were here” on four separate postcards. There was a panoramic postcard for the parents, one for my sister (she went backpacking across Europe two years ago, so to her I said “Ha! Now I’M sending the postcard from the exotic location!”), one for my brother and his family, and one for Streiff, because he asked for one. When I was satisfied with my well-wishing, I went up to my backpack and got the special book of stamps I had bought just for this occasion. With postage applied, I put the stamps away, and began wondering how far a walk it was to the mailbox. I didn’t have to wonder for long, as Chuck soon woke up.
For our day together, Chuck and I were to be relying on public transportation. L used one vehicle to get to work, and L’s mother needed the other for her job. Our first destination, then, was 7-11, to pick up a bus pass. L’s mother hadn’t left yet, so we were able to make our sev-run in the car. I don’t think I need to describe the 7-11, as they tend to be the same the world over. I had brought the postcards with me, in the hopes of mailing them, and we were in luck! There was a mailbox right outside of the 7-11! I kissed them for luck, and then dropped them into the box. They were now in the hands of Canada Post. With bus passes in hand, Chuck and I returned home, and from there, began the walk to the bus stop.
Having grown up in a small town, I had never really gotten the whole public transportation experience. This may sound weird, but it holds a certain glamour for me. You can just hop on the bus when it stops at the corner, and head to any point in the city. Yes, as geeky as it sounds, I was excited about riding the bus. Chuck and I arrived at the bus stop, and we waited. And waited. And waited some more. We made small talk like we always do, with Chuck telling me about the latest developments in comic books, and I telling him about the latest developments in movies. When we ran out of developments to share, we began discussing the various projects we each had waiting in the wings. Then, like a silver bullet, the bus began rolling up the hill. Like an ivory chariot, it glided to a stop by the simple concrete pad where we stood. The doors opened, beckoning us inside. We stepped in, flashed our passes, and were lucky enough to find seats. We were off to Science World!
The bus drove up and down the hilly streets of Coquitlam until we got to the transfer station at Coquitlam Center. A transfer station is where lots of buses come, and from there, you hook up with other buses that take you all over the city. We found the spot where our bus would be stopping. We had about 15 minutes to kill. So, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. As we continued waiting, I was soon hit with a brainstorm. This would make a great play. Just two guys, standing around, waiting for the bus, talking. Of course, as they talked, there would be all kinds of deep, dark revelations they make to each other. Chuck and I even began planning the sequel, in which they missed the bus, and continue waiting. Fortunately, we were a little more quick-witted than our counterparts in this play. When the bus arrived, we were first in line. We were once again off to Science World!
We arrived at the next transfer station, and this is when my heart began to race. The final leg of the journey would be made on Vancouver’s Skytrain. This, of course, was the elevated monorail built for the purposes of public transportation back in Expo 86. Chuck regaled me in some of it’s statistics. It is completely automated and, if they ever get the rest of their funding, they’re going to finish expanding it all the way to Coquitlam. As we were walking up the steps of the elevated platform, I couldn’t help but sing that monorail song from The Simpsons. Chuck and I stepped onto the platform, and I was greeted with disappointment. I looked down at the rail to see…two tracks! It wasn’t a monorail at all! It was just another elevated train. But, I reminded myself, I had never been on an elevated train! As Chuck and I waited, we started planning the third play in our series: two guys, waiting for the Skytrain. We didn’t have much time to plan it though, as our train soon arrived. This was going to take us right to the front door of Science World.
The Skytrain was a little more crowded than the bus, so Chuck and I couldn’t sit together. Hell, we couldn’t even sit. But, I was lucky enough to get by a window. It was almost like the elevated trains you see in the movies. As this electric rocket glided down the tracks, I could see rooftops of gas stations and convenience stores. Occasionally, I would be greeted by the giant glowing sign of some major retailer. We rattled by apartment windows. You could almost see the people inside. We soared over an industrial site. Even it’s stark concrete greys and gritty blacks looked beautiful. Soon, the skyline of Vancouver’s downtown core began to appear on the horizon. The automated voice said “Science World,” and I looked out the window to see that giant geodesic dome.
Remember all the pictures of Expo 86? They all featured that giant geodesic dome that lights up at night? Well, that is now Science World. When Expo 86 closed up shop, their central pavilion was converted into a science museum and dubbed Science World. Chuck didn’t know how else to explain it than “Vancouver’s Space Science Center.” Of course, I had to correct and him and tell him that the Space Science Center is now the Odyssium, to which he replied, “That’s stupid.” I agree. And, I digress. We had arrived at Science World! We entered the front doors, and paid our admission. Because Chuck still had his student ID card from his year learning French on the east coast, he flashed it and got in at the student rate. I, secure in my adulthood and finances, paid full price.
Sadly, it was one of the worst times to be at a museum. They were in between their rotating displays, leaving only the static ones. But don’t get me wrong, they were still cool. Since I do have my physics degree, I found most of the descriptions of the displays to be accurate, if somewhat simplistic. But still, it was like a physics lab all over again, as I played with the mirrors and prisms, made the pipe organs squeal, and saw how air bubbles move more slowly through liquids of different densities. Chuck had to show off his favorite, however. It was these two giant parabolic reflectors, each with a small round ring at their focal points. They were on opposite sides of the room; about 60 feet apart. Chuck went to one, and I went to the other. When we both got our turns, Chuck gave the a visual cue, and I put my ear up to the ring. I could here him! I could here him perfectly! I turned and spoke into the ring, and he heard me! Of course, with my education in hand, I knew that this was all working because the parabolic reflectors were serving to transmit and focus our sound waves across the room, but still, it was cool! I glanced at my watch, and told Chuck that we’d better start heading up to the movie.
As with all science museums, this one was host to an IMAX theater. Correct that. An Omnimax theater. Omnimax was developed by the IMAX people to be IMAX to the next level. Essentially, take the mammoth screen of an IMAX theater, and replace it with a domed ceiling. That, in a nutshell, is Omnimax. The Omnimax theater in Science World is housed inside that geodesic dome you see in all the pictures, and to get to it, you have to climb this long, spiraling ramp. It’s a never ending ramp. Of course, along the way, there are all these cute signs telling you how far you’ve come and how far you have to go. They get very annoying after a while. We continued the climb. We climbed. We climbed. As it began getting more frustrating, I turned to Chuck and said, “This had better be the best damned movie ever!” Eventually, the climb ended, and we were greeted with…closed doors. I am never late for a movie. We had made the climb with five minutes to spare.
We kept waiting, and soon the line began to form behind us. It wasn’t long before the doors opened, and we walked into the cathedral-like theater. Since Chuck had been here a few times before, I let him guide us to good seats. He led me up the stairs to as close to the dead center of the theater we could get. We settled in, and I prepared for the show! I forget the title of the film, but it was something to do with hidden cities, and was narrated by Harrison Ford. What can I say? It was your typical IMAX documentary, with sweeping vistas, occasionally interrupted by giant talking heads. On my patented nib scale, I give it a 3. But still, Omnimax is an amazing format. I’m surprised that no one has taken advantage of IMAX yet to make a really kick-ass action film. As Chuck and I began the long climb down the exit ramp, we were treated to what every IMAX theater has: a window into the projection room, showing the massive projector. Ooo, ahh.
We glanced at my watch and saw that Science World would be closing in about half an hour. We breezed through some of the displays we still wanted to see before sprinting for the exit. Outside, the once sunny skies had clouded over, and we were being treated to a trademark Vancouver rain. Chuck asked if there was anything more I wanted to do downtown, as this would probably be my last chance to get there. I had to once again let my inner geek show. In our travels through downtown Vancouver, I had glimpsed their funky, coliseum-like library many times. I wanted to check out the library. Chuck saw no problem with this, so we hopped back on the Skytrain and ventured further downtown.
We arrived in the same chunk of downtown that Chuck and L had been showing me for the past few days. I was starting to feel like a local, and was even able to lead Chuck to the library. We stepped through the main doors, and I was completely in awe. Rather than being treated to rows and rows of books, we were in some sort of promenade. To our left was a row of gift shops and coffee kiosks, and to our right was the library proper. As Chuck and I approached the glass doors to the library, we were stunned. The library was closed! At 5 PM on Friday! Where else was a swinging geek supposed to go on a Friday night? But, I shook it off. I had now seen the library, and was properly awed. If only L could have been here to see it, too….
That’s when I had a big fat idea! Today was the day I was sending out the postcards. There were all these gift shops with postcards. L couldn’t be here. Let’s send L a postcard from downtown! Chuck was receptive to the idea, so we headed over to the gift shops to pick one out. I noticed some postcards that L had taken a liking to a few days earlier on Granville Island. They were rather arty ones, with a tiny photograph in a huge white frame. Since I didn’t know much about L’s tastes in photography, I let Chuck pick out the exact photo. With postcard in hand, it was time to get a stamp. None of the gift shops in the library seemed to have them, but I didn’t panic. For, as we came into the library, I noticed that right across the street was the big, official, Vancouver Post Office. Chuck and I sprinted across the street to the Post Office. The hours said that they closed at 5:30 on Fridays. I looked at my watch. It was 5:40!! I screamed at the heavens in anguish! Why didn’t I slip my book of stamps in my coat pocket? WHY? Chuck placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. The quest was on to find a stamp.
Something in the back of my mind told me drugstores sold stamps. You see a lot of them with postal outlets in the back, these days. Chuck and I marched over to London Drugs. A quick search through the upper level showed no signs of a postal outlet. We headed downstairs, and did another quick search. Still, no postal outlet. I headed up to a clerk and asked if they sold stamps. “Only in books of 20,” she said. Damn it, I just needed one! The clerk advised us that there was a postal outlet in the Bay, and that they might be able to help us. Chuck and I sprinted out the underground entrance to London Drugs, and were thrust into a labyrinth of an underground mall. It all seemed…familiar though. Of course! We walked through it when we got off the Skytrain! (The Skytrain dips underground in the downtown area, you see.) My sense of direction kicked in, and I soon led us through the maze of retail outlets to the Bay. A quick look at the Bay’s directory told us where the postal outlet was. We walked at a hurried pace to the postal outlet and…NOOOOOOO!! THEY CLOSE AT 5:30, TOO!! DAMN!! We walked out of the Bay, and we studied the mall directory for some place that looked like it sold stamps. We saw a store called “Stamp World.” That sounded too good to be true, and it was, as they sold nothing but RUBBER stamps. We walked away from Stamp World exasperated. I was at my wits end. Not far from where we were, I saw the Skytrain station, and was about to urge Chuck that we should go, when something caught my eye.
Right next to the Skytrain station was a little mom-and-pop convenience store. There was a simple sign in the window. “Stamps.” I strolled up to the clerk and began my query.
“Do you sell stamps?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said.
“Do you sell individual stamps?” I clarified.
“Yes,” he said.
I was elated! I slapped a loonie on the counter and triumphantly said, “I’ll take one stamp!”
Chuck and I returned to the surface world, our quest not quite complete. I still had to write the postcard. We were also hungry, so it felt only natural that we should have a bite to eat and I could write it over supper. Chuck wanted more 99 cent pizza, but I wasn’t in the mood. I pointed to the split-level Burger King that always caught my eye downtown, and asked Chuck it would be OK if I bought him a burger. With Whoppers in hand, we settled down, and I began writing my postcard to L. Again, it was some variation on “Having a good time, wish you were here.” I stuck the much-coveted stamp onto the postcard, and as Chuck and I walked back to the Skytrain, I dropped it into one of the many corner mailboxes.
We boarded the Skytrain, and began our journey back to Coquitlam. I was starting to feel like a pro at this public transportation thing. This time, I actually got a seat. The Skytrain whisked us up from the depths of Vancouver’s downtown, and we were once again flying over the city streets. This time, though, darkness was upon the city, so as I looked out the window, I was almost blinded by the myriad of street lights and store signs. As we flew, Chuck and I reflected on our day. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the transfer station, and we were in for yet another wait for another bus. We had just missed the last direct bus to Coquitlam Center, so we had to wait another half an hour for the indirect bus. When the bus finally arrived, I’m sure I embarrassed Chuck slightly when I led us straight to the seats for the elderly and disabled. But, since there were no elderly or disabled on the bus, and since Chuck and I are gentlemen and would give them should one board, I saw no problem. The longer ride back to Coquitlam Center went quickly, as Chuck and I continued our talks about the days past and our futures. We pulled into Coquitlam Center, but had missed the last bus to L’s neighborhood. We called L, and began writing part 4 of my epic play: waiting for the girlfriend to pick us up at the bus station.
As Chuck and I waited in the cool night air, I studied him in the moonlight, doing my best to make him laugh. Out of all the friends I’ve made in my life, I was instantly drawn to him. He was the first soul I ever encountered that assured me I wasn’t alone in this universe. There are others like me in this world. Before I met him, it had been a long time since I had a best friend, and so, in these confusing years as I decide what to do with my life, sometimes it’s a struggle to hold on to him. But so far, I have. And as long as L doesn’t mind sharing him once in a while, I think it will be the continuation of a beautiful friendship.