Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Life in a Bus...

My Life in a Bus…

Living in Holland for 18 years of my life feels like a dream when I look back at it now. The experiences were so rich and full of memorable moments. I worked in a touring opera company for that period. If I never step into a bus ever again, it would just suit me fine! I despise buses now!

You see from 1983 - 2001 I toured all over Holland, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland by bus! A normal day went as follows. I would usually wake up at about noon. Have some lunch, go out and do my daily shopping (as in Holland you grocery shopped every day, not like here in North America as you do once a week) and pick up at the store what I was planning to eat for dinner in the bus! Yes for 18 years I ate my dinner in the bus. We, the company traveled an average of 1500 kilometers per week. Our bus would pick us up from the southern part of Amsterdam, and off onto the highway we would go. I always sat next to, but not right beside, my best friend who was concertmaster of the orchestra. We both had 2 seats to ourselves…the perks of being concertmaster, and for me, I was so fat, no one else would be comfortable sitting beside me, as you would be squished like a sardine. We both cared our instruments, and our large ‘Bus Bag’ onto the bus, and sat in the exact same seat for every trip. As a matter of fact, everyone in the company sat in the exact same seats everyday. It was always great fun to see the reactions of people when they got into the bus and someone (usually an unknowing ‘ gig-ger’ for the orchestra ) was sitting in their seats. The bus was shared by the orchestra members, choir members, some soloists, and costume caretakers. The reactions mostly from choir members, went from, “ah excuse me! but that is my seat! Please get out of it!” to: “Ooh” ... and then they would grumble something under there breath and sit in another seat, complaining to other colleagues that a stranger was sitting in there seat. Just thinking about it makes my skin curdle. The antics of my colleagues were sometimes so childish, and stupid, that the bus rides could cause huge fights, and fits among them. The heating in the bus was another huge issue. It was either to hot or too cold, and again colleagues would yell up the bus driver to either turn it off or turn it up. I think the bus drivers over the years must have been driven to the bottle, after driving our complaining opera company around Europe.

So the contents of my ‘Bus Bag’ consisted of some sort of sandwich and lots of very unhealthy things like, chocolate, chips and candy. Our bus rides started at about 3:00pm and arriving at the theatre at about 7:00pm, if we were traveling to a theatre in Holland. If we drove as far as south Germany or Switzerland, we would leave at about 9:00am, and arrive at 9:00pm, and perform the next day. My best friend and I always compared sandwiches, and even made the comparisons a competition. Like, “ooh.. I have Salmon, cream cheese and dill on my sandwich today, what do you have?” The other contents in the Bag consisted of, of course a Discman and tons of CD’s. To pass the time we sat and listened to hundreds of CD’s over the years. Many times listening together to the same CD with an earphone split plug. When we toured to Germany or Switzerland, we always made a B-line to the local CD store; to purchase some new CD’s to listen to on the bus ride back to Amsterdam. The other contents of the ‘Bus Bag’, magazines, and portable handheld TV (to which my colleagues thought was crazy and very unnecessary, until of course they wanted to watch a prize soccer game that was on!)

And then a cell phone !!. Ha.. I have to laugh when I think about that story! A Cell phone! My colleagues burst out in laughter at me when I walked onto the bus back in 1989 with a cell phone! ( a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X ) They thought I had lost it. “Ooh there’s Limbertie again with all her gadgets!.. How ridiculous, a phone in the bus!” … well only one year later, everyone in that bus had a cell phone. Who got the last laugh now?.., and of course they all deny they ever made fun of me when I got it! Sigh!

So after consuming too much chocolate, listening to new CD’s, or to all those voicemail messages with new gigs on my home phone via my cell phone, we would arrive at the theatre at about 7pm, time to pack up the ‘Bus Bag’, to be continued…. We would unload, go to our respective areas, dressing rooms and orchestra pits, and prepare for the 8pm performance. After the performance was over, we would have to wait around in the Artist Bar for the choir and soloists to de-costume (de-cloak) we climbed back into the bus around 12midnight, and then started on our long trip back to Amsterdam. Only this time the whole bus broke out the wine and Dutch beer, plus chips and other salty drink condiments. We arrive back home at about 3:00am, got in our cars, and drove home. So now you understand why I would be getting up at about 12noon. This was my life for 18 years! We performed between 150 – 200 times a season.

When I moved back to Canada in 2001, the first thing that took me a while to get used to was be able to actually eat a normal hot meal at dinner time every night, and not have to look out from a bus window as I would enter a town at around 6:30pm, at all the typically open curtained windows of hundreds of homes of Dutch families just sitting down together for their evening hot meal.

But at least I got to see Europe!


Lisa Nelsen said...

Wow! Do I remember this! What a life. You DID see Europe, but the community can be incredibly insular just the same. And small minded. What an opportunity...and learning curve. I'm so proud of you! Lisa xxx

Brynn said...

LOLOLOL......OMG.........even the bus trips with Het Residentie Orkest were horrible! I hate buses toooo!!!!!!!!! We had a "Bus Bag" person or 2 on our buses as well.