By: Gabrielle McLaren, Editor-in-Chief
One of the unexpected outcomes of working at The Peak is that you spend a lot of time on campus late at night, notably on Fridays when we make the paper. Burnaby Mountain is actually quite nice in the evening: the stars are so visible that you can etch out constellations, the air is fresh and clear, and campus is quite peaceful when it’s devoid of student activity and construction.
The bus situation is less than ideal as TransLink service gets spottier, so there was quite a wait for the 145. I was alone at the bus loop when an event on campus let out and a flood of well-dressed students stumbled into the world. Immediately noticeable was a girl and a guy holding up another friend, teetering in her heels, head lolling a bit. She’d obviously had some fun at this event, and my heart immediately swelled with the very specific sympathy that comes from seeing someone else take care of their drunken friends.
A 95 pulled up, and the first member of that little trio said goodnight and got on.
Then a 145 pulled up. I boarded, took my seat, and watched what unfolded next with absolute horror. The girl I’d sympathized with just 10 minutes earlier helped her drunk friend make the step to get on the bus, tap her card, and in the words of my younger cousins: yeet. She just left her incredibly inebriated friend to make her way down the mountain and home on her own.
A little about me: I’m the mom friend of any given friend group. If there’s a friend group with a pre-existing Mom, surprise, we’re co-parents now. At parties, my drinking is usually timed so that by the time everyone else has metamorphosed into a human disaster, I’m clear and ready to pick up vomit and make sure that everyone gets in the right Uber. And as we learned on this specific night, it turns out I don’t even need to be your friend to be your “mom.”
So I watched this poor girl struggling to get to her seat and tripping in her heels as our bus driver sped down the mountain, as desperate to escape SFU as the rest of us.
We made eye contact and I smiled at her, and apparently that was enough incentive for her to make her way down. She sat down behind me, leaning against the window. When we got to the last stop, she woke up and looked around her. The P.A. system had just announced that we’d reached Production Way-University Station, and the bus had stopped. She asked me if this was Production. I thought oh boy but said “yes,” and I offered her an arm to get off the bus.
She was incredibly apologetic as we made our way from the bus stop to the train station, promising that she didn’t usually drink this much. She just forgot how many shots she had somewhere around the seventh one, which I assured her wasn’t a problem. She’d mixed too and felt pretty crummy about it. I promised it was OK — we’ve all done it. I was also sneakily feeding her a scavenged granola bar from my bag and walking super slowly to assess her situation. Over the course of this conversation, she probably gave me the same apology many times, and we repeated the same conversation around seven times.
I offered to call her a cab. I’d actually found $20 in my spring coat not long before, so I had it handy. I’d convinced myself that fate had specifically slipped that cash in my pocket for this occasion. She wasn’t interested and promised that she didn’t have far to go since she lived walking distance from a SkyTrain station in Burquitlam. To my complete horror, this was also when she informed me that she’d just moved to the area. I quietly increased my panic level to DEFCON 12, but smiled and asked her about how she liked it.
Again, I told her I’d pay for a cab, but she assured me that she was fine — so up the stairs of Production Station we went. I told her I used to live in Burquitlam and could walk her home, but she said she didn’t want to be trouble. I promised she wouldn’t, but she was sure. In between chats about our majors, yet more apologies, and commiseration about both of us having to get up early the next day to go to work and class specifically, we swapped phone numbers and Snapchats. She wanted my Instagram too, but I’m not cool enough to have one.
I made her pinky swear to text me as she walked home and to text me when she made it to her final destination safe and sound. She took that pinky-swear very seriously. I gave her very strict instructions to take some Advil, drink some water, and sleep with a trash can on hand, just in case. I also asked her to write her address in a note on my phone, just in case I didn’t hear back from her. I did all of this while making eye contact with the two men who were also getting on the SkyTrain and who had previously been looking at her with mocking grins on their faces.
At the end of the day, she made it home in one piece and texted me the next morning to thank me for taking care of her, and to confirm that 9 a.m. Saturday classes were indeed the worst.
Over the course of the night, I did ask her if there was a family member she could call to come pick her up. She was an international student — I told her I didn’t have family in Vancouver either. I asked her if there was a roommate we could call, so that someone would be waiting for her back home. Since she’d just moved, she didn’t know the other girls in her home very well yet — again, I could relate to this because I’ve moved around and lived alone myself. I asked her where the friends she’d gone out with were, and she told me they’d wanted to stay at the event longer, and had sent her home.
That was the thing that stood out to me from our encounter, quite possibly because that was the part of her story I couldn’t identify with. When I thought to myself who I would call if I had been in her shoes, names came to mind. Friends who would come pick me up, friends who would stay on the phone with me and guide me home, friends who would send me a cab. But, before all of that: friends who wouldn’t keep partying when I was sick, friends who wouldn’t abandon me on a bus, and friends who wouldn’t leave me to my own devices in an incredibly dangerous situation.
As I think about this story again and write it out, I am thankful that I was at the right place at the right time to meet this girl. I dare hope that nobody out in the world that night would have acted against her, and I hope that if I’d been stuck in the office for an hour longer somebody else would have reached out to her. But I know that those two things aren’t given. So I am also thankful for the band of friends I have, thanks to whom I know I would never be in this kind of danger.
Keep your friends close, and random drunk girls who need your help closer.