September 11, 2014

Memories of College Days Gone By: Transportation Woes & Blinky

The other morning I found myself stuck behind a school bus while hurrying to a business meeting. It wasn't just any ordinary school bus. The bus I was stuck behind happened to be a University of Tennessee transit bus, one out of a fleet of many like it that zips around campus taking students to and from class or wherever glamorous places they happen to be going.

I found myself reminiscing about my own college days and feeling a tiny bit bitter because we didn't have such fancy (or reliable) transportation.

8 a.m. class on the other side of campus? Back then, it meant waking up extra early and hoofing it [a fancy term for walking]. Nowadays students probably have an app on their smartphones that alerts them to when the bus is coming so they don't have to spend even an extra minute waiting in the elements.

I'll never forget my cousin, who was older by six years, telling me about her first day of college experience. She got up early and put on a cute pair of sandals with her linen walking shorts (people, it was 1994). She said by the time she got to class, she was a disheveled mess complete with blisters, sweaty hair, and other war wounds.

I vowed never to experience this during my college days, but probably took it to the other extreme by wearing stretchy pants and t-shirts way too frequently. Once, while eating lunch with a group of girls from my sorority, a friend glanced my way and asked me, "Didn't you wear that shirt yesterday?"

Without missing a beat, my roommate piped up and said "Yeah, and she slept in it too." Not my finest fashion (or hygiene) moment.

But back to the issue of transportation. It kind of makes me feel like a grandma or grandpa with the proverbial story of walking to school up hill both ways in the snow. "In my day, there weren't any high falutin' buses. We had to walk to class (uphill both ways)."

The thing is, walking was good for us. I actually miss all the walking I did in college. And I enjoyed getting to walk with people, and talk to them while we walked. Nobody had his or her phone out because cellphones were for 'emergencies only' and mainly just used at night, when the free minutes kicked in.

[Another side note - My freshman year of college, I was the only person I knew with a laptop computer and I never once took it to class with me...that's what my spiral bound notebooks were for, duh.]

In so many ways, I'm grateful for what we didn't have back then. I'm grateful there was no social media, no Twitter or Facebook, no Instagram.

[As if! Our Blinky van was never this cool looking]
One thing we did have while I was in college that I doubt still exists on UT's campus is Blinky. Blinky was a 15-passenger Ford van with a blinking strobe light on the roof. This phantom cab of sorts made one wide continuous loop around campus after dark, picking up and dropping off mainly unaccompanied ladies and people on crutches so they wouldn't have to walk unsafely to their destinations. I spent many a night outside my dorm or the dorm of a friend, scanning the horizon for that dimly blinking light, hoping that Blinky was on its way. Blinky drivers really made the experience what it was too, some not speaking a word while others talked your head off, taking each curve on two wheels.

I know these are just silly stories. But there's more to it than that.

Each subsequent generation will have different experiences. And each will probably think they had it harder than the next one. And in some ways maybe that's true. But I know that kids today face different challenges. In many ways, I think it's harder now than ever before.

One day people who haven't even been born will teleport to their college classes and their parents will bemoan the way they used to have to ride only solar powered buses (the audacity!).

But for now, I'll reminisce about the way it was for me. And maybe you have some fond memories about the way things were in your experiences. I hope so!