The bus in Concord

They have something called the “Rider” bus system here. I think it’s six different routes, all color-coded. I needed to get to the train station last week, and I hate driving, and didn’t want to leave my car at the train station anyways, so I decided to take the bus.

My train left at 10:55. The bus was supposed to get to the train station at 10:48. I thought: yes, I know the bus will probably arrive late, but surely the 7 minutes cushion will smooth things over.

So I had my bag packed with presents for friends and a few changes of clothes, and I had an extra coat hanging on my hand for cooler evening weather, and I locked the door, walked out of the gravel driveway, a bit up the sidewalk, through a shady back lane, and there I was at the bus stop! I got to the bus stop at 10:00, and the Orange bus was supposed to get there at 10:07. So far, so good!

Because I was stress-free and didn’t have any big PhD dissertation hanging over my head, I got to instead look up at the blue summits of the sky and marvel at the perfect fall beauty of it, at least until 10:12 rolled around and there was still no bus. Five minutes late, huh? Surely the bus will be around soon. But then it became 10:15 and now the bus had exceeded my 7 minute cushion. It finally showed up, and bumbled its way down Church Street, around the mall, me egging it on in my head to go faster. Somehow, we made it to the transfer station at 10.26. I raced over to the Blue bus. The counter was re-set; my 7-minute cushion for the train was still intact.

At 10.31, the buses started bustling out of the transfer station driveway. Great job, I thought — you’re only 1 minute off schedule. But then, my Blue bus suddenly paused! All the buses were rolling out, except one which was sidelined, and for some reason, our Blue bus decided to wait politely for the sidelined bus to make its move. That’s very nice, but I had a train to catch. Now it was 10.32. We finally reached the street just as the light turned red. We waited at the light literally for 3 minutes. So it wasn’t until 10.35 that the bus actually started on its route. At a blow, my 7-minute cushion was cut to two.

We were supposed to get to the DSS at 10.38; instead, it was 10:48. Ten minutes late! By now, I was investigating whether any Lyft drivers could help out, but the earliest Lyft estimate arrived at the train station at 10.59. That wouldn’t help me either. At this point of accepting I was going to miss the train, the driver suddenly stepped on the gas. We exited onto a empty, lonely ramp surrounded by forest, passed the Kannapolis city limits, whirled by A.L. Brown High School – all within 2 minutes – and somehow at 10.52 we made it to the train station. According to the schedule, it’s supposed to take 10 minutes to get from DSS to Amtrak, but we did it in four. I made it with 3 minutes to spare. And the train itself was actually like 2 minutes late, so everything was fine, and soon I was whizzing through fields of yellow wildflowers, and little brown creeks flowing out of forests, and horses in pastures caught in a quick glimpse through trees, and small towns of central, rural North Carolina, with just the tiniest touch of pale yellow or dark red wreathing the landscape in tufts and drifts here and there.