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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Waiting for 501

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An unauthorized sequel to Waiting for Godot. With apologies to Samuel Beckett.

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Evening. Queen Street, north side. A pole holding a transit stop symbol.

Two rather shabby-looking men are waiting.

Vladimir walks out into the middle of the street and stares intently eastwards.

ESTRAGON: What do you see?
VLADIMIR: I see nothing. It is not coming.
Vladimir returns to the curb.
E: What is not coming?
V: The 501. We are waiting for the 501. Do you not remember?
E: Ah, yes, the 501. Why are we waiting for the 501?
V: To take us to our destination.
E: But there is no sign of it yet?
V: Perhaps it got held up.
E: Yes, maybe something is blocking its path.
V: An accident?
E: A fire?
V: A mechanical failure?
E: A fire?
V: A power outage?
E: A fire?
V: Who knows?
E: Wouldn’t they tell us, if it was held up?
V: No, they would not tell us.
E: Couldn’t they send a messenger to warn us that the 501 is not coming?
V: They never do that. They would just leave us to wait.
E: So we must wait.
V: Yes, we wait.

They wait.

Vladimir walks out into the middle of the street and stares intently eastwards.

ESTRAGON: Do you see anything?
VLADIMIR: Yes! I see something!

E: What do you see?
V: I see lights approaching!
E: Is there a faint illuminated sign hovering above them?
V: Yes!
E: Are there three lights across? A great one in the middle, and two lesser ones on either side? The blessed trinity of light that signals our impending salvation?
V: Maybe … no. No. There are only two lights.
E: Only two.
V: It is not the 501. It is a taxi.
Vladimir returns to the curb.
The taxi, seeing them, slows down seductively, and then comes to a stop in front of them, purring. Its personalized licence plate reads “LUCKY.” The window rolls down and the driver, Pozzo, leans over to address them.

POZZO: Are you waiting for the 501?
V: Yes.
P: It will never come. You know it will never come.
V: We must have faith in the 501.
P: Transit is useless. Cars are the way to go. Why don’t you get into my taxi? My Lucky here will take you where you want to go faster than you can imagine.
E: We must have faith.
P: How long have you been waiting?
E: A long time.
P: And has your faith got you anywhere in all that time?
E: No. No it hasn’t. We are still in the same place where we started.
P: In my taxi, you will start on your journey right away. It’s immediate gratification.
E: Perhaps we should try the taxi.
V: Perhaps. The taxi is here and now. It is certain. And it will get us there quickly.
P: You are making a good choice. But first, you must show me you can pay. Do you have money?
V: Yes, we have money. The 501 demands money too.
P: Show me the money.
They fish around in their pockets and show a handful of coins each to Pozzo.
V: We have enough for the 501.
P: Pah! You have only a few coins! Your chump change may be enough for the 501, but using a car takes a lot more dough than that. Schmucks like you deserve nothing more than transit. You are not worthy of my taxi! I leave you to your 501.
He drives the taxi off in a roar.
E: So we must wait.
V: Yes, we wait.

They wait.

Vladimir walks out into the middle of the street and stares intently eastwards.

ESTRAGON: What do you see?
VLADIMIR: I see nothing. It is not coming.
Vladimir returns to the curb.
E: Perhaps we should walk.
V: What’s the point? If we walk to the next stop, it will still be the same 501 that picks us up. Just one stop later.
E: We could walk more than one stop.
V: But what if the 501 comes upon us unexpectedly between stops? We would miss our chance for salvation. We would be stuck in limbo.
E: We can look back from time to time, to see if it is coming in the distance.
V: But sometimes the approach of the 501 is shrouded. It can be hidden by slopes or bridges, or behind a truck. It could come upon us unawares. We can only be certain of getting on it if we stick to the appointed meeting place.
E: But what if it never comes? If we walk, at least we will eventually reach our destination.
V: Our destination is very distant. It is beyond Roncesvalles.
E: Roncesvalles is where the 501 goes to sleep.
V: When the night is done, it is the ultimate destination.
E: Even if the 501 comes, it might short-turn at Roncesvalles. Then we would have to walk the rest of our journey anyway.
V: So we should conserve our energy. We cannot walk all the way to Roncesvalles, and then beyond as well.
E: And we cannot take a taxi.
V: That option is closed to us, it seems.
E: Nothing to be done.
V: Indeed.
E: So we must wait.
V: Yes, we wait.

They wait.

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Waiting for Godot, produced by the Modern Times Stage Company, is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, in the Distillery district, to March 22. Check it out, it’s worth seeing. You can get there in the 504, plus a bit of a walk.

photo by Tania Tiziana-Burdi



  1. omg best ever.

    this is even better than my play about a guy who falls in love with the automated stop announcement girl on the NYC subway.

  2. When they awake the next morning, they will find an announcement of better service taped to a nearby tree.

  3. playing finding the 501 in the distance is the best game ever.

  4. To paraphrase Bob Marley: “I don’t wanna wait in vain, 501!”

  5. Holy god I just spent 15 minutes on Sherbrooke waiting for the 535 today in Montreal!

    And I was the only one of the 20ish waiters that got in the bus, because I was first in line and didn’t have any qualms about smushing myself against the people already standing in the door jam.

    I could have friggin walked to Mile End faster. Or better yet gone to Schwartz’s instead. Toronto doesn’t know how good it has it.

  6. A torontonian just corrected me… Wow… it sounds like the 501 really does suck.

  7. High five!oh,wonderful! I laughed thanks.

  8. Classic…creative…and sad…

    I guess this version is a tragedy? Or a tragic comedy?


  9. Who knew the TTC would provide the most fitting life-imitates-art lived and everyday performance of Beckett’s famous work.

    Though they may have lost the faith of Torontonians, they could win a Tony or two.

  10. Surely Wonder Woman could have done something about it.

  11. Nice one Dylan;

    how about “Who’s Afraid of Adam Giambrone?”
    [with Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor, of course!]

  12. been there many times especially in inclement weather!

  13. “Who Has Seen the Service Level” – by W.O. Mitchell

    “A Streetcar Named Shortturn” – by Tennessee Williams

  14. Hilarous and really well written…

    A few of us were hiding in a Scotiabank ATM plaza waiting for the College streetcar in the middle of the snow storm today. Conversation overheard:

    Man 1: I used to like it more when they’d get the weather forecast wrong. Now we always know when the snow’s coming… they can even tell us how many centimetres we’re going to get!

    Man 2: How come they can’t tell us when the streetcar will come?

  15. Where, oh where could that streetcar be?

    Is there a vortex right before each of our stops that the TTC gets sucked into, and then sucked back out when our rage is peaking?
    Because the streetcar is always a plenty the opposite way I am waiting.

  16. As I wait for 25 to 40 minutes for the 501 to take me to the opera, I constantly read the schedule pole which assures me that the streetcar passes every 6 or 7 minutes. Who’s deluded here?