My school offers an on-campus shuttle service after 5pm, and bless them for it. One simply calls the student safety department, asks for a shuttle to their location, and then hops on the van or bus that comes. They’ll take you anywhere–yes, they’ll even drive you insanely short distances (like from one street to the other) without question, though there’s no guarantee that they won’t glare at you for such a silly request. But most people who request a shuttle are usually going a farther distance and don’t feel this silent wrath of the otherwise very friendly student drivers.
I was at the library tonight, which is only three blocks from my dorm. Usually I’ll walk, but because I was wearing an incredibly thin jacket and thus ill-prepared for the snowstorm that had just begun (not to mention it’s dark out and I’m a very small girl walking all alone), I figured it was in my best interest to call a shuttle. After a few minutes of wait, one came, though it parked on the opposite side of the road. Even though my dorm is on the east side, I took this westbound van, thinking it would drop off the few passengers it held before turning around and taking me home in a matter of minutes. I was mistaken.
First, note that I wasn’t originally going to ride the shuttle alone; my friend, who lives on the west side of campus, was hitching a ride, but the driver suggested she take the shuttle bus behind us instead, since it was heading straight to her dorm. We said goodbye and were split up for the night. She, as it were, lives twice as far as I do but got to her destination much, much sooner than I would get to mine.
My driver’s first drop-offs were in the northwestern-most corner of campus, an area of row houses that I had never even laid eyes on until tonight. I stared out the window, taking it all in, trying to memorize the façade of this unknown neighborhood so I could tell my friends later. Being here meant that I was eight blocks west of my pick-up point, and eleven blocks away from my dorm. I didn’t worry; as everyone had gotten off here, I was the only person left in the van, so I figured he would be able to rush me all the way back without much delay.
This wasn’t the case. As soon as he returned to the main road, he got a call to pick some people up. Their destination? The same northwest corner as the previous passengers. This meant that, being closer to the western side of campus, we would have to turn around to drop these people off first. The driver turned to me and said, “Hey, [my dorm name]? Sorry for the delay.” I smiled and said it was perfectly okay. As we headed back into that side of campus, two more people flagged down the van, and their destination was on the same northernmost street, a few streets east. By now, I was fifteen minutes into what could have been a three-minute ride, and eight blocks west of my dorm. By the way these passengers were dressed, it was clear they weren’t going home for the night–they were heading out to get their drink on.
The driver turned around again and said, “[My dorm name]? It’s up to you: you can wait out this ride, or I can have you transfer vans.” I looked out the window, noting that we were far from my dorm in an area I wasn’t too well acquainted with, and thinking that there was no guarantee that the second van would get me to my destination on time.
“I’ll wait it out,” I said, smiling politely.
The shuttle kept going, and we dropped people off at brightly-lit houses and welcoming campus bars. Nearly half an hour had passed since I’d gotten on this shuttle, and instead of going home, it seemed I’d been given the grand tour of my university and a glimpse of the nightlife I wasn’t a part of just yet.
Finally, I was alone on the shuttle again. “Alright, [my dorm name],” the driver said, “It’s finally your turn.”
As we drove through the final five blocks separating me from the warmth of my building, I texted my friend the entire ordeal.
Oh wow, her message read. It’s you vs. Thirsty Thursday.
I ducked my head down into my lap, trying not to crack up all alone in this big empty van. I finally let out my laughter as I stepped off the bus. A couple of people heading into the shuttle gave me strange looks; I must have appeared crazy. I simply laughed harder and padded through the slush into my building. It was good to be home.