"I can't remember the last time I rode in public transportation before college. Kind of forgot that was a thing."
A chorus of gasps and dropped jaws ensued. Of course, that would have been my reaction too if I lived in NYC, or really any metropolitan area in the east coast (as was the case with the group of friends I was traveling with). But I don't. That's not to say I didn't want to experience the glory, wonder, and environmentally-conscious wonderland that the coveted Pioneer Valley Transit Authority offered. I was totally stoked!
Luckily, I had been in Amherst for a few months at this point and had ridden the bus a small number of times to Northampton and Hadley (the B43 route is a godsend, learn to appreciate it kiddos). However, that was literally the only route I knew the hours to, as it met in front of Converse Hall on a regular 30min interval and was a quick 3min walk from South (4th floor represent!). On this particular day, however, we were on a mission. A very time sensitive, fashion-induced emergency. BSU (Black Student Union) was hosting a formal soon and my friends were in desperate need of some last minute dresses. Unfortunately, the only large scale mall was in Holyoke, and while only 15 miles away, we had no car. But never fear, because the PVTA is here (and free during the school year for any 5-college student)!
We had all the things we needed: ourselves, our spirits, credit cards, eco-friendly reusable water flasks, and most importantly, an online version of the bus schedule (courtesy of the myStopMobile app for the PVTA). The only problem was, none of us really knew how to read it. Oops.
I, strangely enough, was usually the go-to person for info on the bus schedules. Maybe because I was accustomed to the B43 route hours, also because I might have been the only one in the group that had downloaded the online version of all the bus routes in the area. However, I only really knew how to read the B43 route, one that wouldn't be able to get us to our desired location. Half an hour and many questions later, we found our target: the R24, a slightly inconvenient hour long trip that would lead us to its last stop, the doorway to the Holyoke Mall. (Sidenote: "Hey, there was a small group of people. Arianna, why didn't you just uberPool or something?" Because, my dudes, when you get to college you realize how much you DON'T have money to spend around like that when there's a perfectly good bus system driving around. You'll understand soon enough, young apprentice.)
So, we knew where we needed to go, we knew what bus we had to take, and we knew where to be and at what time to be there so it could take us away. Wrong. We did not know where it would pick us up, and were only slightly confident of the time it would be picking up people near the college. The problem was that in the town commons, there were technically 3 spots buses could drop off and pick up. The first was a dilapidated bus pick up in front of Pasta E Basta that I have never seen anyone use, so probably not that one. The other two were right across from each other on South Pleasant Street. We didn't know which one it was. This was a very anxiety inducing situation.
On a whim, we chose to stop at the bus stop nearest to Hitchcock Dorm and waited. And waited. And waited. Each time a PVTA bus passed by, our eyes sought out the neon sign flashing along the front of the bus...until finally, it came. Except for the fact that it was headed to the stop on the other side of the road. So, we did the only logical thing there is to do. We ran after it. As in, full-on sprinted behind this huge, moving vehicle, yelling like crazy. The bus, thankfully, rolled on in a lazy stroll as we jogged next to it. The driver opened the door as it moved along, "The bus'll be back. Wait on the other side". The driver closed the door and left. Dazed and confused, but too tired to argue, we did just that and despondently sat at the little stop we had come from anyway. What we hadn't realized at the time was that the R24's last stop was at UMass before looping back around and heading to Holyoke, so we only had to wait 5-10min before it (FINALLY) picked us up. Sitting in the bus seat felt like sitting on a golden throne. It was all smooth sailing from here. I put on my headphones and relaxed.
We spent the next few hours, probably until 7 in the evening shopping, eating in the food court, and just enjoying each others company. Overall, I'd classify it as a successful outing. When we were all finished, we headed out to the area where the bus had dropped us off. I opened the bus tracker app and clicked on the schedule for the R24.
The last one for the day had left at 5pm. It was currently 7pm. I definitely needed to get better at this whole public transportation thing.
Good thing I knew how to use Uber.