Bus Ride #4: Peter Pan

by Andy Mitchell

Once upon a time I lived in New England. And it was there that I was introduced to Peter Pan. We became fast friends. Soon I found myself being whisked away by this new friend for long weekends to mythical places that I had long dreamt of, places like Boston, New York, and the Green Mountains of Vermont. And always I felt like I was in good hands with Peter Pan. But lest you think me rather odd, I suppose I ought to make a small clarification before continuing. In addition to the legendary J.M. Barrie character with whom you are undoubtedly familiar, Peter Pan is also the name of a long-established bus line in the Northeast, headquartered just down the road from where I used to live in Massachusetts.

Within the town of Northampton, where I lived, I could walk most places with relative ease. And if I needed to get to Amherst, which I did, because that’s where I worked, I could just hop on the local bus. It ran between four colleges (Smith, Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire) and the University of Massachusetts, all of which were situated in the Pioneer Valley within a ten mile radius of one another. The buses stopped frequently at various locations in the towns in which these schools were located. And the rides were free. Yes, free. In Massachusetts people don’t seem to mind a portion of their paycheck funding a well-oiled public transportation system. They’d just as soon everyone have a way of getting around rather than only those able to afford gas-guzzling SUV’s and ginormous pickup trucks.

But when I wished to venture out of Western Massachusetts, say, two hours east to Boston, I would have to pony up the dough out of my own pocket to secure a ticket at the local station and find a spot on one of Peter Pan’s fine green buses, each with its own unique name. Imagine riding on the Tinker Bell or the Captain Hook. I have a feeling the latter would possess a little more street cred than the former, that Hook’s horn might command greater respect than Tinker’s.

Regardless of its name each bus would convey me without incident from point A, invariably Northampton, to point B, any number of places I needed or chose to go, be it just a quick trip to nearby Springfield, “Mass” as the locals say – home base to the Peter Pan company – or the three hour drive to New York, where Port Authority Bus Terminal was always an adventure in itself. Okay, think of a bus station, any bus station. Now, think of the bus station in New York. See what I’m saying? It’s not a pretty place, not the kind of place you want to hang out, unless you find yourself at home among pimps, panhandlers, drug-dealers, and derelicts of infinite variety. It puts me in mind of a kind of underworld, where Dante meets early Scorsese.

If there’s a moral to this tale, such as it is, I suppose it’s something along the lines of…If you happen to be out East and in need of a bus, go with Peter Pan. Unless your destination is the Big Apple, in which case, take the train.   

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