Saturday, May 8, 2010

Riding the Greyhound Bus Across America

One of the great things about being with very old friends (meaning you've known them for a long time, not that they're 102 years old) is that they remember things, which often makes me say, "Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten about that."

My journaling, which has now migrated primarily to blogging, has always tried to capture all the details which I won't remember later, as well as to record ways of life that are passing or have passed. Some day, there won't be many people around who will remember the joys of a record store or a book store. Will they read my writing and remember? I don't care. I read my writing and remember, and that gives me a joy that is more sweet than bitter.

My old college friend who is visiting this week has several times talked about her Greyhound bus trips across America. I never took one, but I remember the deal. You paid a chunk of money (I want to say it was $99) and you had a certain amount of time to travel anywhere that Greyhound went. Like a Eurorail pass, but over vaster swaths of countryside.

You might say, yes, like a Eurorail pass, but with less glamour. We've always in this country thought that trains had more class than buses. But frankly, I remember riding the Greyhound from Washington D.C. to Charlottesville, and it was much more comfortable and less shabby than the Amtrak which travelled the same direction.

I remember when I was preparing to finish grad school in 1991, and the MLA convention was in San Francisco that year; I was in Columbia, South Carolina. I knew that if I got an interview, I'd have to figure out a way to get out there. I was a desperately poor (but debt free!) grad student, and decided that maybe I'd get one of those see America passes, if I got an interview.

Of course, 1991-92 was, until the events of the past two years, the worst job market ever. So I had no interviews, and didn't need to spend money I didn't have to get to San Francisco. I got a full-time job at a community college later in the year and felt lucky.

I still feel lucky, even though my career hasn't worked out quite like I envisioned. Like the rest of grad school America, I dreamed of getting a job in a small, liberal arts school. Now I'm the Chair of a smallish, liberal arts department. It's not a total disconnect. And I still feel lucky.

A good writer would bring this essay full circle back to the Greyhound bus. Greyhound bus as metaphor for . . . hmmm. There are the obvious ones, the paths that life takes, the things we see from the Greyhound bus that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. Feeling lucky because one can scrounge up the money to travel by bus, even if one can't go the glamorous route of train or plane? Discuss amongst yourselves.

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