By Angelica Recierdo, The Annotated Muse
Get yourself together. During years one and two you were sad to leave home and even let a tear or two fall. In years three and five, you’re like “can’t believe I still come here once a year.”
You drag a suitcase in a particular manner that doesn’t make you look like a tourist. In fact, you take authority in your probably more than 50 rides with Bolt Bus or Megabus. You don’t print your tickets anymore like some kind of novice. You don’t even do that preliminary email inbox search to make sure it’s still there; you’re chancing it like it’s your last bus ride ever.
Stand in line and make up life stories for all the people waiting with you. The guy in the Boston College sweatshirt is reading sheet music in the middle of an economics textbook. “Maybe he’ll get the courage to change his major this semester,” you think to yourself. A girl in a Red Sox cap is on the phone holding back tears, and you’re wondering if she’s leaving heartbreak or heading toward it. The Boston bus rolls up, and D.C. passengers are sluggishly getting off. A woman hands you a baby so she can smoke a cigarette, and you’re swearing you’ll check airlines earlier as you’re bouncing an infant on your hip.
Hand your one-ton suitcase to the driver, who throws it into a black hole, and then beg him to retrieve it because you left your headphones and book in it. Walk up to the second floor because the rides are somehow better on the top of a double-decker bus (probably because of the view and the distance from the bathroom). Scan the rows for an empty window seat. Take the first one you see and try not to look disappointed if someone sits next to you. Exchange niceties if you’re both up for it and secretly hope they don’t mind that you like to put your bare foot next to their seat to get comfortable.You have a sense of the trip by now and know that it takes a while to get out of the city. By this time, people have settled inside their solitary caves, protected with headphones and defensive gear within reach: laptop open and snacks in the front seat pocket. You have those things, too, but always get enchanted by the scenery of the road, your reverie punctuated by your own thoughts.
The route makes you think of how milestones are like cities and mundane daily life in between milestones is like the suburbs. New York City was your 18th birthday and Boston was your 21st. Nineteen and 20 are smaller cities on the way like New Haven and Hartford.
The stranger sitting next to you dozes off, and his head ends up on your shoulder. At first you’re annoyed, but you let it stay there. There’s an unspoken comfort in a fellow traveler – someone who is out of their usual element and experiencing it with you. You wonder about all the bus passengers you sat next to in your past and make small wishes for them.
I’ll never forget sitting next to a guy from New Zealand on our way to New York, and when we stopped in New Haven for a food break, he thought we were already there. Or the time I sat next to a woman who was an aviation meteorologist and afraid of flying. The perspectives we bring to traveling say so much about how we interacted with the world up until that point.
People hibernate on buses. Some can go the whole four hours without saying a word, unaware that maybe the person next to them goes to Northeastern, too, or that the driver has driven you home and back before. Wouldn’t that be cool if the bus ride experience was redesigned to be more social? Every row could come with a topic card to talk about, or on the itinerary that’s emailed to you, they could tell you these are all the countries and states on this bus right now, and you’re sitting across from a ballerina and next to a scientist.
On planes, they still do their headcount – 157 souls on board. But how many worlds and teams and organizations and commonalities thread those 157 together? What amazing work and collaborations could get done in those four hours? Go and find out.