A Bus to the Future

Author name
Elizabeth Hoyler, '16

The wait begins.

Yesterday I found out that I had become victim of government beaurocracy and needed to go to DC to arrange a passport emergency.  Last minute trip = little financial flexibility. Megabus it is. Gulp.

I get to the bus stop. Trepidation. I see several tired looking people in line in front of me. One woman holds a cigarette between her hands, getting the last hit before the 6-feels-like-60 hour-long journey begins. (I can’t blame her. I find myself trying to soak up all the fresh air I can.) Another man holds a plastic bag for his travel belongings. Everyone looks so tired, just like at Duke.

Hour 1
I get seated on the Megabus. Why is it that they seem to smell like a mixture between floral soap, cigarettes, and baby powder?

Sensory overload. It’s what happens when we enter new places. Buses. Dorm rooms. The lecture hall before we lose our confidence to a grading curve. The sights and the feelings of anxiety hit us all at once, bam. And then once we get our heads around it—the fact that the Chapel is so damn beautiful, for example—we stop noticing.  

I am starting to get used to the smell. It’s hard to tell whether or not that’s a good thing.  I’ll take what I can get. Elizabeth – 1, Megabus – 0.

Hour 2  
…And I already have to go the bathroom. Why. It’s not that I’m arguing that bus bathrooms are disgusting (though I wouldn’t dispute it), it is that I do not understand the engineering of them. They aren’t toilets, or even porta-potties, really. They’re this odd mix between a toilet bowl and a desk. It’s hard to do the lady squat over a table. I decide to wait a bit longer.

Hour 3
No more waiting. I brave the restroom. No casualties = no doors flung open on a speed bump while you’re mid-business. Wait until it happens to you…PLUS, I have still managed to ignore the greasy window next to me.

All I do is win, win, win no matter what.

Hour 4
I just tried to lift my laptop up, and it was sticking to the table. Ew. We’ll call this a tie, megabus.

Hour 5
A baby starts crying in the back of the bus. (Well thank goodness. It’s not a bona fide bus ride, after all, without vomit or crying babies.) I distract myself by the mile counters on the side of the highway.

Graduation comes to mind. Classes end soon. They tell us the Duke experience lasts a lifetime. But I stop being a student in a matter of weeks. The “Wow! You’re leaving Duke” conversation has been happening with more and more frequency. Yet, each time, I can’t help but wonder what am I supposed to feel? Elated? As I did when the bus stopped in Richmond and a passenger left the seat next to me empty? (Praise!!!)

Home stretch
We are almost to DC now. It is near 1am. Maybe it’s because that baby is still crying, but I feel a bursting, almost palpable eagerness to Get. The. Hell. Out.

This bus kind of feels like Duke’s campus at the moment, where I see some of my peers desperate to leave college. Others seem to embody the opposite logic—they cling more strongly than ever to the rituals that involve their roommate, their dorm room bed, and /or their favorite bagel sandwich from ABP.

Whatever your home-stretch strategy, my message to the class of 2016 is clear: trust your foundation and the life skills you have learned. We can’t know what megabus adventures await us after graduation, but we can trust our ability to respond to them. Beyond any textbook knowledge or accolades, that is what Duke gives us. 

PS: Passport emergency averted. Elizabeth=1, government bearocracy=0. Kind of. Life always depends on how you look at it. Yeah, I'll stick with that scoring.