Riding the bus

I love being a college student. Over the past year I have developed an independence that I cherish and never want to give up. But I still find it comforting to go home every once in a while.

When the University announced the closing of campus and a gave notice to move out for the scheduled World Bank/IMF protests, I didn’t want to leave. I had no problem with the cancellation of classes, but the closure of residence halls seemed a bit too much for me. I felt like I had just arrived at school.

But with the events of the past few weeks, I found myself wanting to go home more than ever. Then the University decided to reopen residence halls but still cancel classes. Now what was I to do? Most of my friends were going away for a debate tournament in Philadelphia, so I was going to be all by myself.

My dilemma was solved when GW announced free bus trips to various cities for the weekend. I was especially surprised when one of the bus destinations was to my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.

Pittsburgh is often the forgotten hometown of GW students from the East Coast. I know many students from New York City, Philadelphia and Boston. But when I proudly proclaim I’m from Pittsburgh, other people just say, “Oh, that place.”

I was really excited on Thursday. Not only was I going home, but my friends Shannon and Laurie were making the bus trip as well. They were unfamiliar with the city, so I tried my best to explain the culture of Western Pennsylvania. Somewhere around Potato Patch fries, The Clarks, Pittsburghese and the mediocrity of Century III Mall, I’m sure I lost their attention.

The bus trip itself was uneventful. The charter bus departed from campus on schedule, and the driver was nice and conversational. I thought rush hour on the Beltway would cause a delay, but we encountered little traffic. Of the fewer than 20 students on the bus, everyone must have had a rough day of classes, because the bus was very quiet. My two friends and I were the only ones talking, perhaps a bit too loudly. We played childhood games of mash and folded paper fortunetellers, but soon even my friends were asleep.

The five hours I spent on the bus were the freest time I had in weeks. Instead of napping like the rest of the bus, I flipped through the pages of this month’s Vogue taking note of all the clothes I couldn’t afford.

As the bus arrived in Breezewood, Pa., the land of motels, truck stops and illuminated signs, I was disappointed we didn’t stop for food. I hadn’t eaten all day, and my friends were complaining of hunger, too. Once again, we must have been quite loud because a nice senior from Pittsburgh offered us the rest of his Doritos.

Demands from my growling stomach were answered when the bus finally stopped at a rest stop on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I have always found roadside rest stops interesting places because you never know who or what you’ll see. But my turnpike travels usually took place in the summer months when families are making their way across the state to the beaches of New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware. This particular evening, the rest stop was void of activity; I was disappointed.

The remainder of the bus trip came under the light of a television screen. One of the passengers had brought The Big Lebowski for the ride. As the movie played, I kept noticing more and more familiar landmarks outside the window. I was almost home.

The bus exited the turnpike and made its way to the bus station in downtown Pittsburgh. We were rounding a bend in the road and the Pittsburgh skyline appeared. Every city’s skyline is beautiful at night, but I think there is something about my hometown’s skyline that places it at the top.

After a calm bus trip, I finally arrived home. I never thought GW would offer a bus trip, or even a free bus trip to Pittsburgh, but I considered the endeavor a success.

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