All I’ve seriously ever wanted from a bus ride is to lean back in my seat, close my eyes and concentrate on hoping no one can hear that I’m listening to the same Simon & Garfunkel song on repeat.
I’m not sure if it’s because no one is ever this lucky, or just that the Gods of Transportation hate my guts, but peaceful bus trips are few and far between. Like many Penn kids, I’m fortunate that my home isn’t too far from campus. So, in addition to hopping on a bus home for breaks, I’ve developed a habit of buying tickets on some weekends so I can go visit grandparents and stock up on Lactaid.
I go home often enough for it to seem more logical to drive there. When I’m asked why I don’t keep a car with me at school, I have to explain how I had been behind the wheel for a total of two stoplights before the driving test guy grabbed the steering wheel from me, pulled the car to the curb and growled disgustedly, “just get out.” I’m 19, and the closest I am to driving without a licensed driver in the front seat is a consistent 12th place rank in Mario Kart.
In two years of routine bus travel to and from Penn, buses I’ve ridden have broken down, caught fire, dropped me and the other passengers off in the middle of the New Jersey Turnpike or just never shown up. They’re always late when there’s a blizzard, the Wi–Fi never works when I have to submit some last–minute homework on Blackboard, and I once woke up after a nap (on a Peter Pan Bus sent to replace the BoltBus that had never arrived) with a cat — an actual cat — sitting on my shoulder, blinking at me and chewing on my hair.
I don’t even know.
After all this (and even more crap), I realized that each ride is a new adventure — a potentially strange experience I have to undergo if I ever want to see a home–cooked meal again. I won’t be surprised if one of these days I end up standing on top of a bus, chortling pompously and trying to slay it like James Marsden in Enchanted. But, although I’ve learned that no bus ride is as inspiring, nurturing or even peaceful as the ones Paul Simon’s always mentioning in his songs, my own odyssey of bus disasters breed some classic and frequently–told stories. I’ve grown to appreciate these rides, exploit them and maybe even love them. I guess I kind of have to, though, because as long as the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has even a smidgen of authority, I probably won’t be allowed a license for a long, long time.