I met friends in Philadelphia yesterday. We planned to visit the Franklin Institute and the Barnes Foundation. I rode the bus there. Round trip was $16. I was the first one in line to board Saturday morning.
The bus rolled in to the station two minutes before departure time. I watched the driver put it in park, stand up, and pull his black cap down over his ears. He wrapped a scarf tight around his neck. Opening the door and stepping down, we saw a small, pudgy man with dark eyes and olive skin.
Sweeping his arm out to the side in a grand gesture, he said, “Lay-dees…and gentleman! Plees! Thiss…away.”
There weren’t many of us and we boarded quickly. I’ve ridden the bus enough times now, I often wonder how these companies make enough money to stay afloat when attendance is so low.
We weren’t on the road long before the speakers crackled to life.
“Lay-dees…and gentleman. Plees. Plees. Lissen to mee. Plees. Dank you.”
The driver rolled through the information and rules of the bus. He was hard to understand, not so much because of his accent, but because he competed with the simultaneous crackling of the speakers. It made me wince in my seat. When he finished, I breathed a sigh of relief.
He started all over again, this time in Spanish. It turned out the driver liked to talk on the crackling loud speaker…a lot. He seemed to love the sound of his own voice, dwelling on each word a little longer than necessary.
It dawned on me the driver shared a lot of similarities with Ramone in “The Proposal.” He looked like him, only in a driver’s uniform, sounded like him, and had matching affectations. It’s a lot to deduce about a person I met for only a moment, and who I didn’t see for the rest of the trip until we arrived. However, it was easy to picture him as a bus driver by day, and the local stripper for bachelorette parties by night. The similarities were glaring.
(I have a feeling he’d have been pleased to know someone thought this about him.)
Most of the bus drivers I’ve had have been quiet and more to themselves. There was Tiffany who didn’t say a word, but got us up to New York a half hour ahead of schedule. On the way home from Philly last night, the driver was also quiet and efficient, but used his horn a lot to keep other drivers in line.
(Pick a lane, People.)
Bus drivers are like yoga instructors. They are what lends the experience any flavor. The bus is to the driver what the studio is to the yogini.
A space is nothing more than a space until someone breathes life into it.
Ramone was definitely one for the books. I couldn’t help but smile at him when departing. He gave a slight bow, and we went our separate ways.
I found out the bus depot in Philly is located in China Town. Even better, I discovered The Reading Market right next door. It is a treasure trove of culinary delights. I told Russ when I got home, “It’s like Union Market, but on steroids!”
Both of us love DC’s Union Market. Reading Market is much bigger and offers even more goods. I stopped at one of the vendors, Iovine Brothers, and bought a container of their trail mix.
People can have Target, and Trader Joe’s, and whatever other brick and mortar they can’t live without, but give me a pop-up farmer’s market, or the “local” city market with so much great stuff knitted tightly together in one big space any day.
From there, it was a short walk to the Franklin Institute. I passed the beautiful City Hall and the Masonic Temple on my route. It was nice to see parts of Philadelphia I haven’t seen before.
When I arrived, I sat on the steps munching my trail mix waiting for my friends. It was chilly, but the sun warmed me up. I felt like the house cat who found the perfect spot, where the sun shines just on them.
We were only halfway through the Franklin Institute before we decided to grab pizza and beers. As we scouted our prospects across the small restaurant, a couple motioned to us to come sit down next to them at the community table. They scooted over, freeing up three seats together for us, the only available seats in the entire place.
How often does that happen without having to ask??
Thanking them profusely, I said, “This really is the city of brotherly love!”
We had a great conversation with our new neighbors, a couple doing the long distance relationship thing (as far as New Jersey is from Pennsylvania anyway). Halfway through our lunch, two new neighbors sat down on my other side. An older couple, they met in town to attend “One Day University.” I had never heard of it, but it sounded right up my alley. It’s an afternoon of lectures held by professionals in their field, whether they are professors, scientists, authors or otherwise. They occur in cities all over the country. We had a lively conversation and ended up sharing our dessert with them. A Nutella pizza…need I say more??
I love meeting awesome, new people.
After lunch we went back to the Franklin Institute, saving the Barnes Foundation for another day. I didn’t realize the Franklin Institute was geared mostly towards kids, but it didn’t matter. We had a blast going through all of the exhibits, testing our own knowledge, relearning all we’ve forgotten, and watching the kids learning, playing and having fun. I noticed a lot of retirees gave the demonstrations and answered questions. I loved seeing the kids connect with the seniors, and the seniors connect with the kids.
It’s a great museum, but the Franklin Institute is also a good reminder of how lucky we are in DC to have free admission at almost all of our museums. We are truly spoiled by what is available here in the nation’s capital. There is so much great information and education available to anyone who cares to make the effort.
I can’t wait to go back to Philly. I can’t wait to visit the Barnes Foundation, the Museum of Art, and to take Russ to the Reading Market!
So many great places in the world….and so little time….
Fly forward, O my heart, from the Foreland to
We’re steaming all too slow,
And it’s twenty thousand mile to our little lazy
Where the trumpet-orchids blow!
You have heard the call of the off-shore
And the voice of the deep-sea rain;
You have heard the song–how long?–how
Pull out on the trail again!
The Lord knows what me may find, dear lass,
And The Deuce knows what we may do–
But we’re back once more on the old trail, our
own trail, the out trail,
We’re down, hull-down, on the Long Trail–
the trail that is always new!
Final two stanzas of “The Long Trail” by Rudyard Kipling
Where to next??