She stood on the Michigan Avenue curb in her light coat and short green paisley dress for 10 minutes, legs cold, waiting for the #24 bus. She knew she wasn't going to work at Ma Bell any more.
The opaque gray of the cement, of the late winter sky, of her drawn mother's face, of the dreaded steel desk at the office, was close and heavy about her. She stepped back from the stop and closed her eyes. When she opened them, the bus had gone.
She boldly curled her fingers and extended her thumb to catch a ride to Berkeley.
She wanted to reach the photographs in LIFE magazine. Color swirls of what the world looks like with LSD. Loose, smiling people bedecked with flowers and arrogance in a distant west-coast land of free thinking. An open, wild, unpredictable world.
Impossible for on her stern, conscribed path of this is what you will do; this is the way it will be.
Possible in just a simple step away to miss the bus.
No ingratiating apologies to the warship-chested telephone company supervisor. No hesitating, no disappointing call home. No call home at all. No suitcase, no money, and no idea of what it might be like beyond the flat, flannel horizon of Indianapolis.
It was 1969, a time of violence, disillusionment, and vision. The Beatles had pushed music through to the other side beyond the blood stains the assassinations of Malcolm X, Jack Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Martin Luther King had left on the pale hopes of reason. She yearned to join the hip, those changing the world, not knowing she was seeking an oxymoron: mass individualism.
The dipping of her thumb into the morning traffic was an irreversible move into the swift rapids of elsewhere. Into the restless current of society's change. More quickly than She had ever imagined, she was whisked away forever from a clear role in society, in her family, to world of experimentation and independence that was packed full of people.
But, she found herself on a bus again, just of a new color, over and over again.
"You're on the bus or off the bus" was the gauntlet thrown down by Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, innocent themselves of their bus being controlled by a different side of the same bus token: You can only think THIS.
Sooner or later though, you gotta get on a bus. Even if you choose individualism, you go mass transit, mass transfer. Osmosis really. Assimilation.
Many times I have stood stubbornly in the acrid fumes of the abandoned or missed buses of my idealism and waited for the right bus to come, with the right destination on the scrolling front sign. But never did one come that she didn't have to eventually get off.
Mass osmosis took me to and away from tear gassed anti-war demonstrations in Washington DC, single parenthood, urban alleys, Brown county woods, aurora borealis in Alaska, college ten years late, corporate America, and 100 feet beneath the surface of the ocean. Every time I think I am hitchhiking by myself into new territory or walking a trail solo, I realize that I am not alone. Dismissing advice given about vitamins, rejecting high heels shoes, refusing to have a religion, living alone, writing a book, making sauerkraut, helping someone die, having a rare medical condition-wherever I go, someone is already there.
My thoughts come to me through the tides of society. I inhale the air of humanity and install the filters of those within the circles of influence. I am like a ball in a pinball machine, heading in one direction or another because I've been knocked that way.
Yet each day I awake feeling alert and engaged with the new before me. And I no longer resent the company I keep with each new thought, for who could ask for more than companions who shine light on information, toss the questions, and point the way?