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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Finding my way around

Take a transfer, advised a friend, my first time taking public transit in Canada. It would allow me to transfer to the next bus or subway, etc.

I did, and assumed it allowed me to travel in any direction, back and forth. For the duration of the day. What a nifty idea this is, I thought happily, as I placed the precious transfer in my wallet.

I did not realize that transfers worked only in one direction.

I got off at my station and walked up to the department store where I had a job interview. The interview went well, and I thought I had a good chance of landing that job. Not the greatest of jobs, not one in my line, but a start, nevertheless. I had asked a friend to meet me for coffee and we talked for a while, exchanging notes on the great job hunt. His wasn’t going that well and he was feeling down and frustrated.

I told him to hang in there, that things would eventually work out. Trying to cheer him up, I told him Canada was a great country, that we had done the right thing by coming here. I even gave him the example of the transfer.

“See how thoughtful and helpful the systems here are!” I said.

Unaware that I planned on using the transfer to head home, he agreed.

We parted ways and I walked back to the bus stop. When the bus came, I boarded, showing my transfer.

The driver, however, asked for a token.

“But I have a transfer,” I protested, waving it under his nose.

“That only works in one direction,” he said.

I have to admit to a shameful thought that flashed across my consciousness.

He was being racist. Discriminating against me, a new immigrant, because he thought I didn’t know better.

But a very kind looking elderly gentleman behind me corroborated his statement.

Without another option at hand, I knew I had to buy a ticket. Except that I didn’t have exact change for the bus fare.

Red-faced by now, I was about to step off the bus, but the same driver I had thought racist, sighed and waved me in.

On return, I called my friend to confirm what I had just learned.

Of course, it was, he said. And he was astounded at my having thought a transfer worked in both directions.

I was just grateful that I hadn’t created a scene when the driver first told me my transfer didn’t work.

– Udit Sharma

What’s your story? Every newcomer, no matter how savvy or where he or she comes from, has a Fresh Off the Plane (FOP) story to share about their early days in Canada. Do you want to share your story? E-mail it to us at canadaboundimmigrant@rogers.com.

Posted: Aug 1, 2012

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