VIGNETTES: FRIDAY NIGHT ON THE 38 BUS

By JD DiGiovanni 

March 8, 2013

Two UMass juniors get on at the Hess stop. Shouldering their bags, they move to the back of the bus. Without a word, they each reach into their bags and pull out a Rolling Rock and a Pabst Blue Ribbon, respectively.

“This isn’t anything compared to the 31,” one of the guys says, adjusting his backwards hat as the bus hums up the hill toward Amherst. “That bus gets so wild that they have to have cops on it.”

When I ask him if he drinks on the 31 he shrugs his shoulders and takes a sip of his beer.  His friend chimes in, “Yeah, too many fucking people in the way, they can’t see you.”

The UMass guys get off at Amherst College and head toward a party on Main Street.  Even though they live between Amherst and Hampshire Colleges, they’ve never been to a Five College party, but they don't seem too distraught by that.

**

Neither does the group of nine or so UMass students who catch the 38 at the post office for a ride back to campus.  They give me a look from under their flat-brimmed hats and sparkly makeup that says, ‘Why would anyone even bother going somewhere else for a party?’ After talking with them on the way to their stop, I can kinda see why that's the case.

“Where are we going?” One of the guys cracks a huge smile and spreads his arms, making sure he has everyone’s attention, “Back to the dorms to get our dancing shoes on! Get our drink on! Have some fun!” The group cheers.

The fist bumps those guys give me exiting the bus are more affirming than any of the intentional, holistic conversations I’ve ever had to sit through at Hampshire.

**

Suitors.

“It was a comedic experience.” A curly-haired Hampshire third-year volunteers her boyfriend to describe the play they have just seen.  He nods. “There was a lot of nudity and sex jokes and stuff like that.” He adds with a straight face, “there was a ‘No Children’ sign, but my girlfriend got in.”

**

“We’re coming back from Chabad.” A brown-haired Mount Holyoke girl leans over the purse in her lap. “It’s the Rabbi’s House.”

“We’re Jewish,” adds her friend.

“It’s like going home for a night,” adds another. “We get to eat, talk...” A fourth chimes in from across the bus, “fall asleep on the couch.” 

**

As the 38 starts back up and drives through the Mount Holyoke campus, the bus fills with students.  A group of eight girls sits down toward the back, and periodically they stop checking their make-up in their iPhone cameras to take sips from a hip-flask or compare their passport photos.  When I try to strike up a conversation, all I get is that they are headed to the Amherst Bars and an uncomfortable look. 

All of them get upset when I fumble with my camera, noticing it for the first time. “You need our consent in order to do that!” one yells.  I assured them that it isn’t that kind of video, but once I'm off the bus I put my stuff on a bench and text one of Switchboard’s editors: “Can I get sued for this?”

He didn’t think so.

**

"There have been times even when I'm not driving and I’ve seen someone just get on the bus and puke,"  The bus driver wears wire-rim glasses and a sober, loose, grey hoodie.  "If that happens early enough in the afternoon, I'll bring the bus back in and switch.  If I'm within three hours of heading back to the garage, it just stays there."

He thinks the 38 is tame. He also compares it to the 31 that everyone keeps talking about.  He drove that for a semester, and he seems tired just talking about it.

I vaguely mention the guys who were drinking in the back of the bus earlier in the night and he lets out a sigh. A sad, disappointed sigh.