Last call: Gate 83

Pushing my way through the revolving doors, with my book-bag loosely swinging from one arm, I make my way into the most dreadful of places. No, not the Textbook Annex (the last time I pulled that maneuver they nearly called the swat team after I forgot to check in my bag) — I am speaking of a far scarier place: the New York City Port Authority Bus Terminal. With a sack full of Bounty scented clothes weighing down my right arm and a grocery bag nestled in my left, I trudge my way to the elevators in a comatose-like state. It’s 6 a.m. I haven’t been up this early since last semester’s 8 a.m. Consumer Studies final, and even then I had to ‘consume’ five cups of coffee just to keep my eyelids from clamping at the scene.

It seems like only minutes ago that I had been stuffing my ‘one more day and I’ll be naked’ laundry bag into my sister’s car, anticipating an extended weekend in my small hometown. In reality, however, it had only been five minutes since my father’s Ford Taurus jerked to a stop in front of this ghastly building and I was sent on my way with a mere apologetic dismissal.

It’s a funny thing about going home. This past week, in the heat of classes and roommate tiffs, I had found myself feeling a bit like Dorothy in search of her ruby shoes. I was in pursuit to escape ‘wicked’ Western Massachusetts, a Jersey girl longing for her Garden State. Of course, once home, it occurred to me that even Kansas cannot go on without its own insanity. I have always prided the fact that a man who chooses to graffiti ‘No Dogs on Grass’ around the perimeter of his sidewalk, so as to keep the state of his property in a ‘respectable’ condition (naturally), lives just houses away. And though the majority may think so, it is not an uncommon sight to catch Mr. Johnson poking through the neighborhood trash in search of some unfurnished wonder to feature in his upcoming garage sale. I suppose, however, I had never fully realized the infectious nature of these abnormalities until this past weekend, as I’m now left to wonder if this epidemic has slipped through the cracks of our picketed fence and spread into my own home.

Why just this morning my mother had been pushing breakfast on me until, finally, her last attempt was futile, and she was chasing after our car with rollers in hair and banana in hand, ranting and raving about the long trip ahead of me, as if I didn’t know. And then it had been no more than five minutes on the Palisades Parkway with dad before the war of the radio stations would begin, at last settling on Q104.3, leaving just enough quality time to learn that my parents’ favorite show has since become ‘Temptation Island.’ I had always known that my absence would prove detrimental to the ‘rents, for the youngest of four falters to leave the nest with these worrisome thoughts, but I had never imagined such grave effects.

So here I am – a small coffee and a raspberry filled Krispy Kreme donut later – standing on line at the Peter Pan ticket gate. In moments I would discover that the 7:30 a.m. had gotten cancelled, though an 8:30 a.m. was well on its way, or so the nasal-toned ticket agent who could have walked away with a Golden Globe nomination for the most vicious of deliveries informed me. And so it is that, once again, Peter has let me down, for there’s been tension in our relationship since that wintry afternoon last March when the ride back to Amherst went far beyond its five hour limit.

Trekking my way to Gate 83, I notice that my book-bag is now dangling by the elbow in despair and my Bounty scented clothes seeming heavier (perhaps from the added burden placed upon them to perfume the polluted air around me). And, after placing my grocery bag (since signatured by a tired hand) on the floor, I slump down beside the nearest wall and join my fellow wanderers in the waiting. There are those who will carry only the clothes on their back to their destination, and then there are those who trail bags of luggage behind them. Regardless of what the occasion, the purpose of travel, every ticket holder in line carries a wish to harbor. It is when one finds himself in this no-man’s land, in my case between my birthplace and my rightful place (both plagued with insanity, but both to which I belong), when feelings of loneliness are apt to sneak upon you. Reaching into my bag of clothes in search of a sweater for the wait ahead, I find a breakfast bar that my mother had somehow managed to pack, and secretly smile within.

Oh what measures a mother will take to prevent a child’s empty stomach, and oh what a trip a UMasser will endure to return to the Minutemen battleground – for stops in Hartford and Springfield are yet to be made.
Sharon Stimpfle is a Collegian Columnist.