Meanwhile the line of humanity entering the giant bus was almost disappearing like a species going extinct.
The lady at the counter said this bus is sold out and so are all of them until noon. Whaaat?! She was avoiding eye contact now. Ok I want to buy the ticket anyway. There will be no refund, she said. Ok understood. In another long second I had a ticket pointed at the driver and was grinning ear to ear trying to appease him. Well guess what - he let me board the bus. However I could not find a seat. Omg do I have to go standing all the way?! But then I spotted a seat all the way at the back. I thought to myself it must be someone who is using the toilet. I decided to take a chance and occupied it immediately -melting into the leather cushion with all my existence.
I think we are half way to New York already. The trees outside look gorgeous through the tinted windows. It's a beautiful day.
Having wrapped up the official part of our meeting at 5:30pm I was drawn involuntarily with some colleagues to the nearest Irish pub. I think there are strong invisible microservice enabled strings that pull you in that direction and before you know it - you are seated on a high chair watching an arbit football game ordering Irish ale with spicy wings to a pretty looking server.
Two glasses of ale later I still can't follow the football game.
Does it really matter which team wins? Finally I have the courage to say it. I think I want to catch the 7pm greyhound bus back home - I say it aloud finally. They look at me with horror as if I am from another planet, but their expression evaporates the next moment. It is ostensibly a kind expression but what it really means is - oh we understand you are a pathetic commuter from rural Jersey who needs to go back home to your family and home cooked dinner.
Indeed. Nothing beats "machh bhat" at home.
So I shake hands vigorously, hugs and goodbyes, quick look at my watch and race back to the Port Authority bus terminal. Walking ten blocks diagonally in Manhattan is an art. If you try to crack this scientifically it is as difficult as the traveling salesman problem. But if you don't mind getting honked and cursed at you keep walking despite stop lights - pretty much like you would in Gariahat Calcutta, just don't make eye contact with the person behind the wheels. How pedestrian can you get, I think to myself. Anyhow I keep walking through this maze of oncoming vehicles and desperate humanity in the hope of catching any thing that gets me out of the city quickly. It is dinner time and the city is getting ready to feed itself. Spirits are going down. Spirits are going up. I notice the hot young blonde wearing a colorful sleeveless summer dress drinking champagne from a tall glass - while her tuxedo clad date is gaping, obviously smitten. I notice the confused looking homeless guy limping ahead not sure where he lost his bag full of promises and dreams. Finally I'm at the terminal. The AC feels good like a cold towel around the neck on a hot and humid day. I look at the long queue of summer tourists waiting at the counter as I buy my ticket from one of the kiosks in just under 30 seconds. One level down to the gates. But wait I still have 15 precious minutes left. I head straight to the book shop and in typical Calcutta/Howrah book stall manner I browse through every book on display but end up buying nothing. I skimp through "The Gene" by Sid Mukherjee of Columbia university and read about how his Dad could never get over the Partition - did he die of cancer, I turn the page, turn some more, turn turn, my alarm sounds- time to go. Should I buy the book or not? Ah - who is going to carry such a heavy book on top of the laptop and jacket - I make a mental note of ordering it on Amazon. Out of guilt I buy an overpriced pack of lightly salted pistachios from the book shop and race down the escalator to the gate - the bus is about to leave.
In one fluid motion I hand my ticket to the attendant and one giant step later I am walking down the aisle of the bus that is already moving. I need a seat. Why do these buses fill up so quickly I am thinking maybe I should drive into the city next time. Just then I spot a seat in one of the middle rows. It is next to a teenage kid slouching on the seat. He seems intoxicated. No wonder nobody sat next to him. Oh well. I take the seat. The kid starts to blabber. He is saying something I can't understand. I switch on my iPad and put on my earplugs. Is he going to puke? I hope he doesn't puke coz that would make me puke. Omg. And then the lights dim. It is already dark outside. The bus is sailing smoothly on the turnpike. The kid goes to sleep. I catch up on the half watched new Game of Thrones episode. It is still a beautiful day.