Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Commute

On Monday I took my last bus trip from Providence to New York for a long while. Possibly the last one ever. The academic year wrapped up very well, and with it, my yearlong postdoc came to a close. It was such a terrific year and I met many new friends and colleagues. The most difficult part of the year, of course, was the perpetual back and forthing between the two cities. Delights awaited me on either end: in Providence, a great job, nice little apartment, and a wonderful community with rich resources and awesome people. In New York, I had my home, my spouse, my dog, many friends, and most of my stuff. In between, there was the bus.

I took the bus to save money. It's about half the cost of the train, and given the frequency of the bus schedules, I really couldn't justify the extra expense just for comfort. I've always wanted to live in New England, and was so excited to make that area of the country my home base for awhile. The distance, while challenging, was peppered with lovely sights, as well as tender reminders of my love from whom I lived apart for much of the year. It was really beautiful to see the seasons change along the way. The gorgeous autumn foliage was splendid and gave way to gray, scraggly branches during the winter, followed by verdant, budding trees in the spring. I enjoyed identifying  places to mark the journey on the way as the bus passed through quaint little towns: clusters of old buildings with steep -steepled churches among them. In particular, I never realized how our weekend trip to Mystic two years ago (which I wrote about here and here) would continue to regularly surface in my exchanges with Jordan. Mystic marks about three quarters of the way to Providence from NYC, (or conversely, about a quarter of the way out from Providence on the way to NYC). When we vacationed there, we borrowed bikes from the town and took a wonderful little ride along the river. There, we saw an adorable white house perched on the riverbanks by the side of the road. It so happens that that same house is visible from the highway, and each time I passed it, I thought of our terrific time in that tiny town and would jubilantly text Jordan "MYSTIC!" as the bus rattled by. The other core landmark, which typically marked my lonesome arrival back to Providence, was a "Gentleman's" Club called Cheaters near the city's southern end. Located fittingly right next to an enormous trash heap, Cheaters is painted a Pepto-Bismol pink and features a marquee that enticingly reads "Our kitchen opens at noon!" At that point in my journey, usually after about four hours on the bus, I'd text "CHEATERS!" to let Jordan know I was almost home. I'm glad she never mistook the text to mean that I was at Cheaters, but always understood that it meant I was merely driving by the establishment.

I won't go on for too long about the charms of riding the bus, as they're likely exactly what you'd expect. There were, of course, assemblages of unsavory people milling about, then charging forward in a disorderly fashion when the bus arrived. Some people elected to have very long, loud phone conversations for hours at a time, which spanned subject matter from break ups to dictating shopping lists. I recall the harrowing trip I took back to NYC in early November to come home for my wedding. It was snowing hard and the bus had to pull off because the headlights stopped working. When we finally arrived in the city that night, the driver, still white-knuckled, proclaimed it the worst trip he'd ever taken.

This last time I rode the bus, Jordan was with me, and we were seated directly across from the lavatory, which one poor woman needed to visit on four separate (and twenty-minute long) occasions. Hanging on the bathroom door was a very full trash can, which steadily leaked for the duration of the journey, sending rivulets of a mystery liquid cascading in many directions each time the bus lurched. Behind us, two sisters and a toddler talked incessantly and loudly about topics including "keeping the baby" and "why I need to get my back pierced in order to cover up a lie." Fascinating material. 

Unpleasantries notwithstanding, it was a great year and I was very glad to become so familiar with a lovely stretch of country between two nice cities. I'm extraordinarily fortunate to have secured another great job next year, though it, too, will require a commute. The saving grace is that it'll be about an hour shorter, and by train rather than bus. While I'm sure hilarities (and annoyances) will ensue, I'm also looking forward to the chance to infuse this new journey with inside jokes and sweet reminders of my family and home.


Jill said...

This is a beautiful post. I'm going to read it again.

BTW, I'm coming to NY for a couple days in August. I would love to see you and Jordan if you're in town.

Holly said...

Oh dear daughter in can make me smile and cry at the same time. I love you!

Emilie said...

Mystery liquid. I am just glad that you are going to be in the city of dreams for the summer.