>The Bus Ride
I rode the bus from New York to Boston the other day and I decided to write about it
I rise out onto the streets of Manhattan from the LIRR, and am greeted by a bounded, overcast sky. It’s barely 60 degrees—five clicks warmer and my arms would relax, rather than tense up in an effort to warm my self. I begin walking down 8th avenue, and continue walking west once I hit 31st street. Two avenues over and I’m on 10th, and I stop at one of the thousand gourmet deli’s in New York City for an 85 cent coffee that will be mostly milk, three heaping spoonfuls of sugar, and a splash of java. Saying only a little milk and sugar means nothing, always.
After my morning’s thirty-minute walk to the train station, I sat patiently still for an hour as Long Island flew over my left shoulder. Now in the city, I am to walk only a few more blocks to the bus stop. I’ll sit on MegaBus for around four hours, which will take me to Boston. All of these miles, walking-sitting-standing, might seem like too much travel for one day, but I enjoy it. I love the feeling of progress, of constantly being on the go. I can never sit still, unless I’m actually moving.
I arrive at the MegaBus stop, and am surprised to see that the low-budget transportation company put up temporary fences to create actual lines for different travel destinations. I walk past Syracuse, Philadelphia, DC, and Toronto, until I find Boston. I walk to the back of the line and ask the girl in front of me is this to Boston?, soon to realize that the man behind me would ask the same question, the woman behind him the same—so on and so forth. Nobody trusts signs.
I check my watch and realize my bus isn’t scheduled to leave for another 25 minutes. As I fumble for my headphones, a girl in the Philadelphia line comments on my scarf: I really like your scarf. It’s beautiful. I thank her and tell her it’s from the Rubin Museum in Chelsea. Miss. Philly studies my lips and gets out her iphone to store this information, and then we continue to have a superficial, yet pleasurable enough conversation about scarves. They really do spice up an outfit. I wear mostly black, but scarves really add another element to personal style. They make you pop. This is a great springtime scarf. How do you spell “Rubin”?
I’m enjoying talking to Miss. Philly, but before I know it, her line starts moving and now she is permanently gone from my life.
I watch with limited patience as the Toronto and DC lines disappear, and then revert my attention to three fearless pigeons that are inches away from my feet. They are fighting over two Pringle crumbs, and I find myself almost too entertained by watching these Pringle pigeons peck at the crumbs while their little necks bob forward and backward, unaware of anything around them but their salty snack.
Once I finally grow tired of the pigeons, I remember my headphones, yet am once again distracted— this time by the Chinese man behind me who asked moments ago if he was in the correct line. He smiles, looks up at the clouds, and in broken English asks the clouds bring rain…. what happen before bus? I look at him quizzically for a moment, then try to rephrase his question: you mean, what happens if it starts to rain before we get on the bus? He nods with deep concern written all over his face, and I can only shrug my shoulders and answer: well, we’ll get wet. He politely smiles and musters up a nervous laugh, replying oh! only New York City. I’m still not exactly sure what he means by this; New York is unique, but I doubt it’s the only city that fails to provide proper shelter when it rains.
My 12:10 bus finally rolls in, and I find myself a window seat on the top deck. I put my backpack and scarf on the empty aisle seat, although I’m almost positive the bus will be full and someone will have to sit there. Surprisingly enough, people continue to walk up and down the aisle, yet the traffic quickly slows, the bus begins moving, and I seem to be only passenger who got away without a bus buddy. I take out my book from my purse, and just when I start to get into a rhythm with its narrative, a British couple across the aisle begin talking, disrupting me and my book’s synchrony. My mother just hates Cleveland, but we’re forced to go every summer because of her in-laws. If it were up to me I would go back to London, but I’m supposed to stay culturally steady, or something. The young man looks at the girl with secretive desire; I’m not sure if they are acquaintances, or if they both realized they were British so became so just for the bus ride. They certainly aren’t lovers. I’m wondering why she is going to Boston by herself, and when she’ll go to Cleveland, and where her mother is right now. And why did she refer to her dad’s family as in-laws? The young man unwraps a pre-made turkey sandwich and adds cream cheese to it. They both are talking extremely loud.
There is a Chinese toddler and mother sitting right in front of me, and I can see the boy’s reflection in the window as he stares out onto the streets of Manhattan. He has a medium-sized mole directly under his left eye, which I know will one day attract the attention of many beautiful women. He’s watching the road with a keen, innocent curiosity. At this moment I wish I was his age again, enamored by almost anything—satisfied by simple, strange objects.
An Indian mother and her little girl are opposite the Chinese mother and son—one row up and over from me. I’ve read two of Jhumpa Lahiri’s books; in both, she writes about Indian couples that live in Cambridge. I assume that this mother and daughter live there too, and are going back home to her husband, her father. They begin playing rock-paper-scissors, and will continue to do so for at least an hour. The husband starts calling his wife every five minutes, and her ring tone is unbearably loud, louder than the British couple’s conversation.
I will never get through the first page.
Yes, her number is 518-3454-290. I can’t help but continue to listen to the Brit’s conversation, as they are talking like they’re all alone in a noisy bar or a grocery store. I stop to think about the phone number she mentions, and grin at how she reversed the number groupings. I almost wanted to tell her it’s xxx-xxx-xxxx, and please stop talking so loudly. I realize this would be rather rude of me, and that it really doesn’t matter how you group numbers in a phone number. The phone doesn’t care; it’ll still dial correctly.
The Indian girl and mother are still playing rock-paper-scissors, and I see now that the mother isn’t even watching. She repeatedly puts down scissor, and the little girl’s eyes widen every fourth or so time she puts down rock. I give up on my book and try listening to music, when the first tinge of hunger knocks at my stomach. When I’m on busses, I always crave random things. Right now, I want a donut. A simple glazed donut. Or, a bag of honey-mustard powdered pretzels. Maybe a strawberry shortcake. Defeated, I rummage through my bag and find a restaurant mint. I gulp down some lemon-lime seltzer in hopes it’ll curb my appetite, and that we’ll be in Boston shortly.
I hear someone’s wrist watch beep behind me, and realize it must be the top of some hour. I check my phone and see it’s already three o’clock, and within the next twenty or so seconds I hear another handful of beep beep’s. I’m actually surprised at how many people still wear watches, with phones now becoming the most popular way to check the time. So many people have their phones attached to their knuckles, their faces, and this often makes me sad. Again I want to be the little Chinese boy with the cute mole, fascinated by Harlem and I-95, naive to cell phones and i-pads, 4 G’s, bbm’s, and unlimited data.
My hunger ceases, the Brit’s stop talking, and I can rest my eyes and listen to Elvis Costello as MegaBus exits I84 and gets on the Mass Pike. I dream about nothing, and when I wake up 40 minutes later, I see Boston’s skyline in the distance. I get up and use the restroom on the lower deck; I bring my toothbrush and realize there is no sink, so I return to my seat and put a dab of toothpaste on my tongue. I swirl it around my mouth and softy swallow. I put on an extra layer of deodorant, a hint of perfume, and sit up, surprised at how sore my lower back is from all of the sitting I’ve been doing. I call you and let you know we’re almost there, and I find myself finally able to start smiling, anxious that my day’s travels are finally coming to an end. The bus gets into South Station a little after four, and I barely look at the Brits, the Chinese, or the Indians as I exit the bus and enter your arms.