The Rutgers buses have been the greatest source of my creative inspiration. Those grimy, tacky patterned seats, the disgusting floors accumulating piles of dirt, the exasperated sighs. If I ask my friends to read a piece I write, they often tease me by asking if it’s another ballad to the F bus. There’s just something about being on the same routes with all those different people that just seems to move my hand across a keyboard.
Not having in-person classes due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has been demoralizing for college students everywhere as we try to wrestle with the experiences we feel we’re missing out on. Many of my FaceTime sessions with my Rutgers besties have been spent lamenting about all of the aspects we miss about in-person learning. I always say the same thing and am greeted with the same eye rolls: I miss the Rutgers buses most of all.
Here are just a few of the many things I miss about those red, white and black devils:
Being nuts to butts on the LX
Picture this: You’re at the Student Activities Center with a mob of other people, your hands full of the goodies you got at the Starbucks truck. You look around uneasily and refresh the bus app to figure out when the next LX bus is going to grace itself at the stop.
It makes its screeching halt further up than you anticipated, and it’s already filled with the smarties that hopped on at the Rutgers Student Center on the College Avenue campus (damn them!). The next bus is 3 minutes away, and you spend that time silently vowing that you will be on that bus.
As it approaches, you quickly squeeze yourself on — but there is no room for feeling victorious. Literally. The bus is filled with other people, squished up against one another and desperately trying not to fall as the bus lurches forward, continuing on its sacred path.
At the time, it was annoying as f***, to say the least, but the gift of reflection has allowed me to miss the stress, the anger and the discomfort at being nearly suffocated between strangers and their bookbags.
Having a good excuse to be late to class
Being 10 minutes late was almost never penalized in many of my classes. Whenever I needed those extra minutes of precious sleep or that cup of iced coffee, I would waltz into the classroom and breezily say “the buses” when professors inquired about my tardiness. Professors would nod solemnly in recognition and in solidarity over the annoyance, while I greedily sipped the drink that delayed my arrival.
Gone are those stolen minutes and knowing glances! You can’t have a good excuse to be late to a screen that’s situated in your own home.
That omnipresent voice
The voice that would announce the stops on the bus is another thing I dearly miss about being on campus. “Please stand behind the white line while the bus is in motion” is going to be a vow at my wedding if I ever find a Rutgers bae. What poetry! It’s a metaphor if you think long enough about it.
That ever-present voice is probably what ensured my sanity during my time on campus. Whatever crazy nonsense was going on in my social life and no matter how many self-rebrands I seemed to take on, that reliable, feminine voice was always there.
The people that make it happen
There was often the same late-night EE bus driver that I would talk to on my way home from George Street on Tuesday nights. He told me about his experience as an Army veteran, and I would ask him what he had packed for dinner in the lunch box that sat on that ledge near the white line at the front of the bus. He just liked to talk, and after a stressful shift, I was more than happy to get the chance to listen to someone new.
I sincerely miss my friend and the rest of the bus drivers. With their smiles and their agitated groans and their unannounced breaks and their bright yellow vests, the bus drivers were not only the reasons I could get to my classes safely, but they also made transition special to me – for that, I am eternally grateful.
Crying on the EE
Have you even been to Rutgers if you haven’t had an emotional and/or mental breakdown on a bus? I’m the type of person that likes to schedule my crying sessions (I’m a Cancer rising with a busy schedule) so I would often get on a bus, play my saddest songs and just let the tears fall. It was cathartic.
Drew Barrymore by SZA would be blasting in my ears, and I’d stare out the window pretending to be in a music video riding around Busch campus. There’s really no other feeling quite like having a main character moment on public transportation.
The RU Screw
Okay, fine, I’ll admit it: I do miss being perpetually screwed over by the Rutgers application and receiving absolutely 100 percent wrong bus timing estimates. I think I’m not alone when I say that I would rather be blatantly lied to by the bus app a million times than have to do another remote semester.
That rush of frustration as I got wronged once again by that damn app is like no other feeling. With all of the days blending into each other, what I’d give to be able to feel such a rush of emotion again!
Even though the buses are still running, and I’m living only two minutes off-campus, it’s obviously not the same. I’ll miss you forever, my F bus daydreams and H bus tears! Until we meet again.