Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door

Was in NYC for two days looking at apartments. Nothing to entice me to turn over billions of dollars a month…but I have hope that I will soon walk into an apartment and feel that I am “home.”

Was supposed to drive down to Washington, D.C. with a friend, but my ride had to stay an extra day and I needed to be back because I had a class at 7:00 p.m., so I was convinced by several people that rather than take the Amtrak, I should ride the Chinatown bus. NO! That was my first thought. I don’t do buses because I always get “bus sick.” But after thinking about it, and being told that it would cost $20.00 and that it would take 4 1/2 hours and that many people I know have done this with comfort and no problems, I succumbed.

WRONG! The bus was to be an express. NYC to DC. That’s what my e-ticket showed. I made sure to ask the hordes of people who stopped me and asked to see my ticket and they nodded and said, “yes, express, no problem.” My seatmate was a very hunky man in his 20’s and we chatted and laughed during the trip.

We made a stop in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. How odd, I thought, why are we here? This is an express run, right? It turns out that the bus driver had made his own rules and was dropping what seemed to be different ancient relatives hither and thither. After Cherry Hill, we stopped at a gas station…somewhere. Then I see that we are pulling into Philadelphia. It was getting late and I was anxious about missing my penultimate class.

After Philly, there were just 5 of us left on the bus, including my seatmate. We talked about how irate we were that the driver was not sticking to the program. I love rebel behavior but…

Then an elderly man stood up and walked over to the driver, who was speeding along an unfamiliar road near Baltimore. The next thing we knew, they were SCREAMING at each other.

Elderly Man: You stupid, stupid, driver. You were supposed to drop me off in Baltimore. Go back. Go back. GO BACK!
Elderly Man: GO BACK. NOW!
Driver: No one told me! No stop at Baltimore! Sit down! NO! Don’t sit down! GET OFF MY BUS!

And he slams on the brakes and stops. In the middle of…nowhere.

I, of course, was thinking about all the people that I know who have taken the Chinatown bus and have arrived in DC, happy and on time. I was also thinking about what IS it about ME that always manages to find myself screwed. And, of course, never in the good way.

So my seatmate turns to me and says something along the lines of, “Do you think that elderly dude has a knife?” I push away visions of stabbings, death of driver PLUS the witnesses, or of having to drive the bus a la Sandra Bullock and look at him with panic.

“Do you want me to go and see if I can calm them down?” I nod and my brave, buff seatmate walks to the front and a few minutes later, all is well. Driver decides to pull off into an industrial park place and lets Elderly Man get off.

But, I guess the driver is pissed off at us for interfering because the rest of the ride is at warp speed. It is raining hard and hydroplaning WAS an option. He was also yelling on the phone in Chinese and I am sure he was complaining about us. We both kept quiet because we... well, we didn’t have that strong of a death wish.

So the roller coaster ride stops in DC at 7:00 p.m. I am late for the class. Raining. No cabs. After twelve minutes of desperate seeking, I manage to get a cab to stop for me. I get in, look at the driver and say,” Don’t break any laws but get me to Georgetown AS FAST AS YOU CAN. He smiles at me and says, “Just like in the movies, eh?” Then proceeds to practically drive up on the sidewalks to get around the traffic. I am acutally only half an hour late, totally soaked by the rain but I summon all the aplomb that I never really have and enter the classroom. My teacher looks at me and says, “Wow, there must be a story here.”

“Oh, no,” I answer. “No story. It’s just that as…someone… once said, if you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.


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