Megabus Mayhem by Ross C.

Wal-Mart parking lot

            Don’t get off the bus in New York, I remembered my dad telling me as I sat next to my best friend Luke as the Megabus sped away from the Walmart bus stop in State College, PA. I had no idea what I was going to do. Should I go up to the bus driver? Maybe I should just go back to sleep and then I’ll just deal with the situation when I wake up. I had some money, but I was not sure if it would be enough to get through a night in the Big Apple. As I was having my mini panic attack inside, Luke was panicking too and yelled, “Just freaking do something!” as he pushed me out into the bus aisle. Immediately I got up and started to make my way toward the front of the bus.

It was a few days before Halloween Weekend 2012 and I was going to visit my brother at Penn State for the first time to see the Penn State-Ohio State football game as well as enjoy all that PSU had to offer. I asked my brother if I could bring a friend; more specifically, Luke because he was my best friend and we were both considering Penn State as a future school for next year. My brother said sure and Luke and I decided we were going to go up Saturday morning and come home Sunday afternoon. We got our Megabus tickets on Thursday for 8:00 am Saturday, and my mom was going to drive both of us to the Megabus stop in the morning. The bus goes from Pittsburgh to New York and passes through the Penn State area, then loops around and passes back through Sunday afternoon.

It was Friday night and I was packing at home when both of my parents gave me the “Be Careful” talk. My mom starts off the conversation by saying, “Now Ross, we know you don’t want to hear this, but just be careful when you are up there. Your brother can be a real idiot and I would not put it past him if he just left you and Luke to fend for yourselves in State College because he couldn’t remember what stop to pick you guys up from, or what time to get up and get you guys”. I replied, “Okay mom, I’ll be careful,” when really I thought, Seriously?! I’m almost eighteen I would think I could handle myself by this point. My dad then chimes in: “Now I know you don’t have hardly any common sense and when you and Luke are together I try not to even think about what you fools are doing, but can you please promise me that whatever you do, do not end up in New York”. This time I actually said, “C’mon dad, you are talking to a kid who has like a 3.8 GPA, I think I can accomplish the task of getting off at the right bus stop”. “I’m just telling you” he responded. I was actually stunned that my parents thought that I was incapable of completing daily tasks. It turns out that they would be right about what they thought, but that’s beside the point. I finished packing and I went to bed eager to get up in the morning and head to Penn State.

At about 7:30 am, my mom and I picked up Luke and we were then dropped off at the bus stop about ten minutes before the bus arrived. I had with me my backpack which had a couple school books in it for the illusion to my mother that I was going to do homework, my phone charger, a change of clothes, and a shave kit. Luke had his backpack with similar items in it, and he also brought a sleeping bag because he did not know where he would be sleeping at my brother’s apartment. He had to put that in the cargo hold of the bus before we got on because it was too big to bring with him to his seat. My mom waved goodbye to both of us and yelled before we got on the bus, “Have fun! But be Safe!” We both laughed and yelled back, “Okay!” and we were on our way to The Pennsylvania State University all on our own. As soon as the bus ride got underway, we did what any sensible teenager would do that early in the morning: we slept. We basically slept the whole way until we arrived at the Walmart that is in State College. We got off and Pete, our African-American bus driver who I could tell was not particularly happy with his life choices that led him to be a Megabus driver, told us we were going to take a fifteen minute break, but he did not specifically say that this was the stop for Penn State. We left our stuff on the bus, got off, and stood around until Pete was ready for everyone to get back on. We got back on the bus and sat down. Now we knew we were close to where we had to be because it was 11:00 am and we knew it took about three hours one-way, but we did not think that a Walmart was the bus stop for State College. We thought we would be dropped off right in the middle of campus. The bus started up again and off we went again. About ten or fifteen minutes later, Pete gets on the loudspeaker. He says, “Alright everyone, next stop New York!” At that same moment, Luke and I look at each other and have the same expression: “Oh Shit”. I could not help but think about what my dad said the night before, “Do not get off the bus in New York”.

When Luke pushed me into the aisle, I had to make my way down from the upper portion of the bus to the lower front of the bus where Pete was. I think that he was a little bit surprised that someone had gone up to the front to say something to him because that was obviously not the norm. Stumbling over my words I managed to say, “Uh yeah, we need to get off the bus”.  He just looked at me and said, “Well if you have anything in the cargo hold, I can’t get it for you”. Without even thinking I shouted, “Okay that’s fine!” I motioned for Luke to come up to the front of the bus and Pete let us off about a mile and a half away from the Walmart stop. When Pete let us off, everyone on the bus was just laughing hysterically at our expense so that was nice. I called my brother to tell him what happened and of course, I woke him up so he could not have even picked us up because he was not even there. He laughed about the situation, and told me he would be there in a few minutes. While Luke and I were walking back to the Walmart, Luke said, “Hey wait, I forgot my sleeping bag!” I answered, “Yeah, um the bus driver said that he could not get anything from the cargo hold so it’s basically gone”. “That was my favorite sleeping bag, dude,” he said. I said that I would buy him another if he cared so much for it, which I could not believe. We made it back to the bus stop, where my brother greeted us with laughter, but we made it to State College. I really wished I had known that the bus stop was actually at a Walmart rather than right in front of Old Main like I had imagined.

We chilled at my brother’s apartment for a short time after which we went to the football game. It was my first Penn State football game, and it was awesome. PSU ended up losing, but it was still sweet. Then we chilled at the apartment and got the “real” tour of Penn State from my brother and his roommate. My brother also had his buddies from high school up for the weekend, so it was an all-star lineup of about eight people in a 350 square foot apartment. To sum up the Saturday after the bus ride, I couldn’t really say because I do not remember much past 8:00 pm.

Then came Sunday morning. I somehow managed to get up at 10:00 am because the bus was scheduled to arrive to pick us up at 11:15 am. We had to get on a bus in State College that would take us over to the Walmart where the Megabus was. Even with the grogginess, we were actually good on time on getting to the bus stop, but naturally, the bus did not show up until 11. I’m thinking to myself on the bus ride over to Walmart, It would only make this trip perfect if we had to sprint to the stop just to get on the bus. And my second thought was, “Please do not let it be Pete driving”. Well, we got off the stop and across the parking lot sits the bus with Pete just closing the doors getting ready to go. Luke and I leapt off the first bus into an all-out sprint to catch Pete and the Megabus. I heard over my shoulder from my brother, “See ya!” but we kept running. We flagged down the bus and got on with Pete chuckling a little to himself. Yeah, it’s real freakin’ funny buddy, I thought as we climbed onto the bus. Again, Luke and I both slept the whole way on the bus ride back to Pittsburgh. This time though, we actually recognized the bus stop in Pittsburgh and we able to get off at the appropriate time. My mom picked us back up and she asked how the weekend was and I just said to wait until I get at least three more hours of sleep. Later, I told her and my dad the whole debacle, and of course they laughed and gloated about how they were right. I could not say anything because they were right; I am not as smart as I thought I was. Luke and I almost managed to go to New York City. Unreal. I do not have the slightest idea about what we would have done if we ended up in New York. I wish I had actually listened to my parents about how to be careful and conscientious of my surroundings rather than waiting until the bus is already moving to New York before I ask to get off.

 

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An Ode To Gum

cigs      It was paradise.  It was a Sunday morning after church, and we were in a store in Plainfield, New Jersey.  I guess you could call it a stationery store cause they sold stuff in there like newspapers and magazines.  But I didn’t give a flying crap about any of that.  I was there for the candy.  The wall of candy – more specifically, the gum.   More specifically, the Bazooka.  Not the Bazooka of today – the Bazooka of the mid -1970s.

bazioka

Wacky Packs were another one of my favorites.

This Bazooka was huge. Humongous.  It was the size of my hand. Each piece had a baseball card-sized comic and it came in flavors, like grape.  Standing in front of that wall of candy and gum was sensory overload.  It was like standing in Willy Wonka’s candy garden trying to figure out where to fall face first, first.   For some reason I always had a thing for gum.  I knew there had to be a God because gum existed.  This place had Bazooka, and hot dog gum, and that long stick of bubble gum that was as long as a ruler, and gum cigars, and wax lips, and gum cigarettes!  Candy was for wussies.  I wanted something that would rot my teeth with gusto.  I kept thinking that if Willy Wonka could come up with an Everlasting Gobstopper made of gum, we’d really be making progress.

God Bless the inventor of gum.  It’s glorious.  I remember the white Good Humor truck coming down the street in Plainfield – the man in it sold a cellophane pack of Double Bubble gum.  Why waste my taste buds on ice cream?  Those squares of Double Bubble were frickin’ blissful. You can’t buy that flavor anymore.  They sell boxes that say “original flavor” but it’s a big, fat, Madison Avenue lie.

ice cream gumSpeaking of ice cream, another wonderment is a flavor no longer available.  I remember getting it at the Acme in Plainfield.  It was Adam’s gum flavored like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream.  Why bother with eating ice cream when you can just cram eight sticks of gum in your mouth and make it neopolitan all by yourself?

And then I moved to Maryland.  We went from an older New Jersey city that had department stores and corner stores to a new suburb.  They had this odd place called a convenience store.  It was called 7-Eleven.  And it happened – I was exposed to a new era of gum:  Bubble Yum.  I had never had a soft loaf of gum.  I still managed to fit two pieces into my big mouth at once.  It was great.  Soft wads of sugary mess frothing gooey splooge out of my mouth.  Wow, I thought, this move to Maryland was gonna work out just fine. 

(I have 12 crowns and I’ve had 6 root canals.  Dentists dig me.)

bubble yum

I don’t know. (by Salvatore Bongiovanni)

“I don’t know.” Those three words ringing in my ears like the clock tower on Old Main. I was desperately grasping for the right words. Damn it Sal. She’s right there. How many times did you rehearse this in your head? That’s it. Let loose. COME ON. Nothing. It’s as if my brain couldn’t pick an emotion and just decided, “Screw you, you’re going to be paralyzed, so deal with it.” One hot jumbled mess of everything I had felt for six months, culminating in being rendered speechless right in front of her. How could you not know? Is that what you’re going to respond with? I felt like I had been cheated. Like she had broken the rules or something. You don’t get to say that. It’s your turn now. I did my job. It’s not fair. But all I could force out was, “Okay. You just have to let me know.”

cupids-accident

There were only a few weeks left of school and everyone was more than ready for summer vacation. Flip flops and shorts made their way out of people’s closets and into the hallways. Final exams stood between the students and their freedom. I was nearly halfway done with my high school career and had no idea what the future held for me. AP Courses, SATs, and college applications waited in the wings; everything was moving so quickly. With all this on my mind, I walked into the chorus room, waiting for my last class of the day to start. There was an elongated break before chorus would start, which meant extra socializing time of course. The other tenors and I were discussing what was going on that weekend when she called my name. I went over to the piano where she was standing, “Hey, Lizzy.” I don’t remember what she said or what she wanted. All I remember is a sensation racing through my body. After engaging her for a few seconds, I had this feeling like I had been slapped in face. Call it cupid’s arrow if you’d like; I don’t care. But it was an incredible crystalizing moment where everything just made sense. I had never been so caught off guard by my own feelings. All I could think was, “Wow, she is so beautiful.” It was as if I was seeing her for the first time in my life or through a lens I had never looked into before. It was something I thought was only possible in a Hollywood film.

I had never had a girlfriend and there had really only been one other point in my life where it was even really possible (unless you want to count my semi girlfriend from Preschool, which nobody does for some reason). But Lizzy was nothing like anyone I had ever liked before. She wasn’t the prettiest girl in school. She wasn’t the most popular girl in school. She wasn’t the most interesting girl in school. But in that split second, that one moment, she became all of that to me. I can’t explain it, and I probably sound like someone who’s been watching too many romantic comedies, but it was a staggering moment. I looked at her blue eyes looking back at me, talking about who knows what, and it just… happened.

So we started texting regularly and I eventually brought her to the beach one day over the summer. It was me, Lizzy, and our mutual friend, Ben. When Ben and I were alone, I decided to ask for his help with Lizzy. “Oh my God. Sal I had no idea! Is that why you brought her here?” I suppose it was. I don’t know. I guess I just thought that if I could get her to a brand new place outside of school, we could connect on a different level. When she returned, Ben casually brought up the topic of who we liked. Lizzy teased us and wouldn’t tell us. “Come on. Tell us,” I pleaded, trying not to sound too desperate. We were treading water in the ocean at that moment and it was appropriate, because what came out of her mouth made my heart sink like it was a hundred pound block of lead. “Henry,” she said. “Henry? My…my best friend Henry?” I staggered. “Yes! Oh my God he’s so cute!” I floated silently while Ben and Lizzy discussed what she had just said, but it was just ambient noise to me. I just wanted to be somewhere else. I wanted everybody gone. “You barely ever talk to him though,” I blurted out, not wanting to believe this was real. “I mean, I wouldn’t know what to do,” she said sheepishly, “You’re our only mutual friend. Would you help me?”

Am I going to help you get with my best friend? A guy you never talk to? A guy you have nothing in common with? A guy who has literally never given you the time of day? Is that what you’re really asking me to do? “Uh. Yeah I guess I’ll help you.” She thanked me a million times. I was happy at the prospects of us talking on a more regular basis, but not happy about what the purpose would be. Did I really want to do this? Could I even do it if I wanted to? Someone needed to help me make this decision.

I’m not sure why I went to Carter. Maybe it’s because we were two of the only people left on planet Earth who still used AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) more than Facebook and he was always online. Maybe he was just online at the right time (or the wrong time, depending on how you look at it). But he’s a trustworthy guy. Confident. Carter is someone who you know is thinking through is choices logically and does what he does for good reasons. He was skeptical at first when I told him my situation. “You want to be doing this for the right reasons, not sabotaging her or being selfish,” he said. And he had a point. It was important to do what I wanted to do, but not at the expense of my friends. So I said it was what I wanted (which it was at the time) and he wished me good luck.

I needed that luck. For three months every conversation was “Why isn’t Henry talking to me? What else do I have to do for him? I don’t understand.” We would talk online and video chat for hours on end. In the beginning it was all about him. I felt invisible. I’m right here. He doesn’t even look at you. Look at me. But as time went on, it became less about him and more just about us. It became two people just really getting to know each other. Our ins and outs. Our secrets. Everything. Through all the late nights when we both could have been sleeping and all the time we could have been actually getting our work done she became the best friend I ever had. Someone who I wouldn’t go a day without talking to. I knew she liked me. I knew we were meant to be together. Hell, I even rigged Secret Santa at Christmas so I could get her a present. We were perfect for each other. The problem was, everybody else thought so too.

“Do you like somebody?” Lizzy’s twin sister Trina had pulled me aside during lunch to talk to me. “Um. Maybe,” I said, half laughing, “Why do you ask?” “Is it someone that I know?” “I’m not telling you Trina.” “Is it someone that I know?” “It might be.” “Is it someone who…lives in my house?” Real subtle, Trina, “I told you I’m not telling you.” “Okay, well. If it is, I just want to let you know that I approve. And your secret’s safe with me.” It was nice to have her on my side and I really appreciated that conversation. I felt like I really had a chance at being happy this time. But Trina was just the first to figure it out. Soon all of our friends knew and before long, realized that Lizzy was kind of taking advantage of my kindness.

“You can’t string him along like this,” they would say. “Why don’t you just date him already?” “I still don’t know about Henry, though,” she would say. “Sal does all these things for you, listens to all your problems, and you and Henry literally never speak. You don’t even make any sense.” This all went on without me knowing of course, but they were right. I was starting to think that what once seemed mutual had turned into a one-way street. I was constantly venting to Carter about everything, “I don’t understand what I did deserve all of this, man. I just don’t. How can she just lead me on for so long?” “Listen, after everything you’ve done for her, if she still doesn’t want to be with you, she doesn’t deserve you.” So I decided to finally talk to her about it. No more beating around the bush. We were going to talk this out whether she liked it or not.

It was a Monday. I was lying on my couch staring at my phone. It took me ten minutes just to send the text, “Are you home? I need to talk to you.” Before Lizzy got home I went on Skype with my friend Megan, who also knew what was going on. I was nervous, more nervous than I had ever been before. “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t even know what to say.” “Sal, look at me. You can do this. You deserve her,” she said, “Pretend I’m Lizzy. Now say it.” We rehearsed until Lizzy signed on. I still wasn’t ready, but Megan hung up on me so I had no choice. I called Lizzy and I just said it, “Look, I know you probably already know this, but I really like you. And I just thought you should hear it from me rather than our friends,” and I finally exhaled. She was speechless. Completely speechless. As if that moment hadn’t been building for months. As if she hadn’t known I was eventually going to tell her. Nope. She stared blankly at the computer screen and kept on typing away doing God knows what. It was almost as if she pretended not to hear me. She sputtered back some nonsense, even though she was clearly trying to distract herself from what I had said. And for the next hour and a half I tried to get an answer out of her. It was basically, “No I don’t like you right now. I did for a little while, but I don’t anymore. But it could happen in the future, I don’t know.” “I don’t know.” Thanks for clearing that up. How is it possible for you to continue to string me along even after I talk to you straight up? She even acknowledged she had feelings for me at one point, but apparently she stopped. My heart skipped a beat at that one. “Okay. You just have to let me know.”

It eventually boiled down to her not wanting to be with me. It was one of the hardest realizations I had ever had to come to, but it was true. We promised each other we would still remain friends though (because that always works out, right?) so I decided I would ask her to the prom. Was it denial? Today I would probably say yes. But then, all I knew was there was nobody else I could see myself going to my prom with.

Customized M&Ms, “Lizzy” “will you go to” “prom with me?” Imagine those three quotes on three separate candies, coming out of a mini candy dispenser in order; did your heart just melt? Yeah. That’s what I thought. Everything was perfect. My best friend and I were going to go to prom and it was going to be awesome, right? Right. Until Trina called me one afternoon, two days before I planned to ask Lizzy. I was at my friend’s house and stepped out to talk to her. She told me Lizzy didn’t want to go to prom with me. There wasn’t even anyone else she had in mind. It just couldn’t be me. The only one that actually wanted to go with her.

After that, Lizzy and I stopped talking. Well, let me rephrase that. She stopped talking to me. The girl who had become my best friend, my rock, had deserted me. Cut me off like a hangnail, like I was a disposable part of her repertoire of friends. I spiraled downward. I was nothing without her, or without our talks at the very least. I lost so much and she made me feel like it didn’t even faze her. I was at my low point. Lizzy had disappeared from my life. My hopes were crushed and my best friend was gone. My life, as I knew it, was over; at least that’s what I thought.

The next few weeks became some of the most liberating of my life. Within less than a month, my braces came off, I killed it on stage in my first lead role in the school musical, got a smoking hot date to the prom, and even had my first kiss. Ever hear that every action has a reaction? Well I was feeling about the strongest reaction I could have imagined. I felt like a brand new person. I became who I still am today: someone who embraces life’s hardships and uses them to improve myself.

Although I never received the apology that every day I hoped for, I know that I am a better man because of it all. I went through a process that all boys have to go through at some point. I now know not only when to stop chasing a girl because she doesn’t like me, but when to stop because she doesn’t deserve me. I’ve still never had a girlfriend; I guess I just haven’t found someone yet who was worth all that effort again. But I know when I find her I’ll know it. I’ll have that same crystalizing moment and it will all start again. But I have gained a mindset from that chapter in my life that I have taken to heart that will stop me (I hope) from repeating my own history. I don’t fear what comes next, but instead I wait in anticipation. I look forward to the cleared pathways and open doors that await me that I don’t even know exist yet. I intend to embrace everything about my life for however many chapters I have remaining, and I can thank Lizzy for that, if for nothing else.

Karma Kids (by Brendan)

It was a beautiful Saturday night in State College. The Penn State students crowd the downtown streets looking to unwind from a stressful week of classes and the air is filled with the sweet smell of greasy, artery clogging food. You would think that I would find myself enjoying this perfect night like so many others. However, you can find me in an Are U Hungry bathroom stuffing a bottle of Smirnoff strawberry vodka into the trashcan trying to dispose of the evidence of a night that never happened, as my friend Sean is trembling and dry heaving over the toilet. The look of distress is pouring over our faces. And the question racing through our minds is, what did we just drink?

skull

            Shirt, check, pants, check, deodorant, double check. I’m all ready to go out to a flip cup tournament being held at an off campus house. I show up to the house with my two friends Ryan and Sean. We all head down to the crowded basement where the festivities are being held. I see a row of tables with a trophy and bracket set up in the corner. I’m feeling confident in my abilities and self given title, “One Flip Fitz.” However, to my surprise I was eliminated first round because my partner couldn’t grasp the baffling concept of when to take your turn. Nevertheless, I decided to drink away the pain of defeat and cheer on my friends. As time went by they where eventually eliminated and the tournament turned into a regular party. Our friend Ryan made friends quickly with his girl partner and left very abruptly leaving me and Sean to fend without him.

As the party went on the keg ran out of beer and Sean and I became very saddened because we didn’t want the night to end. Instead of giving up and leaving we decided to go on an adventure for more alcohol. We were like two fat kids at an all you can eat buffet, we needed more. We went to the kitchen and found some beer in the fridge. That seemed to satisfy us for only a little while. We then went downstairs to the dance floor and it was like a spotlight had shown in the corner of the room. My eyes glazed over at the sight of a shelf complete with full bottles of alcohol. I nudged Sean and he said, “I’m way ahead of you.” At this moment we weren’t thinking of what was right we were only thinking about enjoying this night. We danced our way over to the corner and Sean was my cover. I made sure no one was looking as I reached behind me and grabbed the first bottle I could and slid it down the back of my pants. The only problem now was the bulge coming out from my back making me look like the frat version of Quasimodo. So Sean got up behind me as we slowly walked for the door. Seeing Sean riding my ass prompted the girls at the door to ask if everything was alright, to which Sean responded, “he’s so drunk.” Then to make it convincing I blurted out, “ow ow, someone’s getting lucky tonight.” We had succeeded in our selfish crime. I transferred the bottle to Sean who put it down the front of his pants pressing against his special area causing him certain discomfort.

Furthermore, we developed a plan to go to Are U Hungry, get some sandwiches and sierra mist, and then mix our drinks in the bathroom. Then we giggled and pranced all the way to the White Loop bus stop. As we rode on the bus I could see Sean was really struggling holding the bottle secure. He kept squirming and cringing in distress. Then unexpectedly we saw Sean’s friend Nicky get on the bus and after we said hello she asked what Sean had under his sweatshirt. With a smiling grin Sean began to tell her of our successful larceny. She immediately asked, “haven’t you ever heard of karma?” She told us that stealing can come back to bite us in the ass but we both shrugged our shoulders and told her she was crazy. However, later we would find out that we would be eating our words or should I say drinking them.

As we arrived at Are U Hungry we were men on a mission. We put our food on the table and went into the bathroom with our drinks. Then we took out the bottle of Smirnoff strawberry vodka, poured it into our cups of sierra mist and sat back down at the table. The vodka was red in color and in our drunken state we thought it was a type of limited edition strawberry vodka. As we ate we realized the drinks tasted pretty diluted, so Sean went back into the bathroom to add more. Not even 10 seconds had passed till I heard Sean yell from the bathroom, “Fitz, get in here!” I turned to look at his face and it was as if he had just shit his pants. I walked into the bathroom and Sean points to the bottle and says, “What is this?” I look inside and what I saw made my jaw hit the floor. There was a cylindrical pink stained cotton based item floating inside, which seemed to be making the liquid red in color. Thoughts just began racing in my head. I thought what vile disgusting woman would ever even think of doing something so heinous. I grabbed the bottle from Sean and began yelling, “No! No! This is not happening.” I stuffed the bottle in the trash and told Sean we will never speak of this again. Cue Sean’s dry heaving and me washing my mouth out in the sink. We left there in anguish and disgust and with a dirty little secret. For the next two weeks thoughts of AIDS flourished in our heads, mostly as a joke but still uncertainty remained. Sean researched that symptoms were headaches and fatigue. This worried us because that whole week I felt excessively tired and Sean had constant headaches. However, we knew there was no chance in hell of that occurring. It wasn’t until much later that we realized what we stole was highlighter water. In which you take the stick inside a highlighter pen, submerge it in water, and turn on a black light behind it. This will make the water glow.

Moreover, just because we walked away unscathed didn’t mean we walked away from this with nothing. We knew Nicky was right from the start and we should have listened to her warning. I now believe in a thing called karma and that every action has consequences associated some good and some bad. Furthermore, I now have a greater understanding on how stealing can come back to haunt you in the end. There is nothing right about taking what others have worked hard for to satisfy your own selfish gain. Every action has a reaction so we have to use good judgment to determine if something is truly just. In other words, we have to be ready for the consequences of all our decisions. I think Sean and I are pretty certain that we’re retired from the burglar game. In addition, I believe were both more perceptive to anything foreign or unfamiliar to us.

Two blondes on a train. (by me)

Unknown

The scene where I made a scene.

I was lying flat on a train platform in Hamburg, Germany at 7 AM.  There I was.  All five feet twelve inches of me – flat on concrete in my Mary Poppins lookin’ shoe boots and a tan tweed coat I’d gotten at the German version of Goodwill.  I was laughing at myself.  And a train-full of Germans was also laughing – but I think they were laughing at me.   They probably thought “that crazy American,” although they probably couldn’t tell I was American.  Maybe they just thought I was drunk.  I mean, I had just jumped off a moving train. The scene where I made a scene. It was 1984 and I’d been living in Munich, Germany for a few months as a young, newbie model.  My roommate was a girl named Jeanne.  She was from Colorado.  I hailed from the great state of Missouri.  We lived in a place called a pension.  We each had a twin bed and the room had a couple of dressers and a sink.  The bathroom was down the hall and the showers were a floor up.  Down the main hall was the room where the gal who ran the place served rolls and tea every morning.  It was nice.  I remember loving the white, down comforters and the pillows. We were 19 years old and living on our own in Europe.  I was pretty much a goody-goody and my parents gave me a lot of freedom growing up so I didn’t do anything remarkably stupid.  Well – there was that ONE time.  That’s another story.

We spent our days walking, riding subways, buses, and street cars trying to figure out where to find the photographers and clients who might potentially hire us.  This was back before the days of smartphones and Mapquest.  Imagine being 19 and in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language; you have a list of addresses and a map.  Fun.  Every day fun.  Go to your agency. Get a list.  Hit the road. Go see.

Somewhere along the road, Jeanne and I met some sweet guys who gave us and our coffin-sized luggage a ride to the train station the night we were moving to Hamburg.  It was an overnight train headed north.  I don’t remember their names, but I do remember it as one of the sweetest things ever.  There have been many times when people have done dear things for me.  People who I barely knew.  People who I will never see again.  Often times, the dearness of their tasks don’t touch me until years later.  This was one of those things.  I remember the “couchette” we were in was for six people.   Jeanne and I were in the middle section.  Below us was an elderly couple and above us were two guys about our age.  It was a sleeping berth.  Imagine everyone having a twin bunk.  Sometime before we went to sleep Jeanne gave me a brown bag with food in it.  Apparently, the guys who gave us a ride to the train station packed us food for the journey.  Inside my bag was a sandwich, a carton of yogurt, and a piece of fruit.   At the time I thought it was nice and I ate it.  Now as a 49-year-old I think it was a most wonderful gesture.

This looks pretty close to the couchette where we slept. I’m sure my feet hung off the edge.

We went to sleep thinking  – well, I don’t know what we were thinking.  We were 19.  I guess we thought the train gods would tell us when to wake up and get off the train.  Hamburg.  We were going to Hamburg.  We didn’t know there were THREE stops in Hamburg.  Who came up with that stupid idea?  I’m guessing the train stopped at the first one, because when it got to the second stop the young guys who were sleeping above us woke us up to let us know we may want to get off.  They said “This is hauptbahnhof.”   Of course Jeanne and I had no idea what they meant.  It’s as if they were speaking German.  They explained that we were at the main train station in Hamburg.  So the four of us decided it would be prudent to get off the train.  Since the train had already been stopped for a few minutes we started getting our suitcases down – fast.  Well, I should say, the guys got the cases down.  There was no way Jeanne and I could have gotten them down.  Each of them could have held a corpse. This was back in the day when suitcases had a hard body, you could lock them with mini keys, and airlines didn’t charge you extra for going over some random weight limit.

suitcase

This would be the smaller of my two suitcases. Mr. Big bit the dust years ago in Vegas. I bet an airline worker kicked him – simply out of spite.

Jeanne stood out on the train platform while the guys and I had a frenzied assembly line going.  One would get a case down and throw it to the other guy.  He would hand it to me.  I would hand it to Jeanne.  We had a good system going.  This went on for a bit and almost all the cases were out.  Then the train started moving.  More stuff was then tossed at Jeanne.  Jeanne and the suitcases were on the platform.  But I was still on the train.  I looked right and saw Jeanne.  I looked left and saw the end of the train platform.  So I did what any rational person would do – I looked for an old, fat lady to land on – and I jumped.  Kidding.  I jumped.  I’m lucky I didn’t jump into one of those poles you always see in movies at train stations.  That would have been my luck.  To jump into a pole.  Not a Polish person.  An actual pole. So – I jumped and hit the concrete.  Not too hard.  I don’t remember any pain.  The train wasn’t moving very fast.  Probably .4 miles per hour.   So I’m flat on my back.  I must have looked like Big Bird.  So I just laid there and laughed.  The folks on the train got a good belly laugh.

Besides the sweetness of the guys who packed food for us, I’m thankful for the guys who woke us up, then helped us get our stuff off the train in a panic.  Another set of people who came to our aid that I will never see again. My life has been full of kind strangers.