Saturday, September 20, 2008
Wherever you are, may there be music, strangers, ice cream (if you like it), and fat dogs in strollers
When my bus blew a tire last Saturday evening in The Middle Of Nowhere, Connecticut, maybe halfway between a refreshing visit with my friend Heidi in NYC and Boston's South Station, Humanity reared its interesting head.
No one freaked. Everyone seemed to take it in stride, even while we sat for well over an hour on the side of the interstate while CT staties, take-charge passengers, and the inexplicably smiling driver couldn't seem to make any progress in applying our contingency plan. We have a contingency plan, don't we?
No, everyone seemed just to do their own thing. The college kids made immediate friends smoking and swapping stories about bars, while the rest of us wandered or stood around calmly in the field where we'd pulled over.
One passerby pulled over on the side of the highway and ran the quarter mile back to us, entered the bus and asked if a certain person was aboard. No? She went to the back of the bus to check, then ran back to her car and kept driving. Another car pulled over and the driver came to tell us "I have room for three -- I'm going to Boston." My nervous seatmate and two others ran across the field to pile in the stranger's little car, all of us accepting he was a Good Samaritan and not a crazazy freak.
The young couple in the row in front of me -- he in an Israeli Army Reserves shirt, she reading a novel in Hebrew script -- tried to tamp down their curiosity and enthusiasm. I served them, by getting my camera out and snapping away. He grinned and almost seemed to crackle with enjoyment as he, and soon a few others, confidently documented the misadventure.
After awhile, the state police told us all to get back on the bus. They figured 45 minutes of milling about freely on the side of an interstate was enough danger for that time and place.
The driver never told us a thing that was going on, but one passenger took it on himself to give updates so I wasn't confused when we pulled off at the exit and drove slowly and carefully to the Shell Station parking lot where we lived for the next nearly two hours.
The band members riding across the aisle from me eventually got their instruments out, set up by the dumpster and played not particularly inspiring jazz. The very fact they were playing music was great -- but I wondered if their level of talent warranted taking instruments on the bus back and forth from NYC to Boston: did people pay to hear them outside the context of a surreal roadtrip?
I sat on the bus and ran my ipod batteries down. I finished reading "The Year of Magical Thinking." I twittered and photographed our "progress."
And a mechanic arrived to change the big tire, then a new bus from Boston? New York? pulled up, and with no instructions, we all piled on and headed back to the Big B.
I'd gone to New York to see where Heidi's been living on the upper upper west side for six months (last trip I took down we hung out on the lower east side for a few hours and I took another bus right back up, without staying over night). This visit I took the bus down, the subways up, spent the night in her miniature home, and we thrived in good talks and walks through her neighborhood and then midtown the next day.
There are a lot of people in the world. There is a lot of music. There are mishaps, adventures, dogs and dog poop, cell phones, a limited but sufficient supply of patience, and. . .
Life is a highway. It's beautiful when we manage to roll with whatever comes our way: walk our dogs, take our pictures, play our instruments, keep our cools, and accept rides with strangers across state lines.