Gaucho Plagued Absurdism (GPA) Vol. 3 Iss. 1: Down the Temporal Hole – The Last Bus to North Hall 2.85

The following text is the contents of a journal found at the FT–Camino Corto bus stop. No author is listed, and the corners of the cover are singed as if burnt. Read at your own peril. Or, enjoy a delicious cup of Folgers ground coffee to begin your day. The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.

My therapist recently told me to document my day in order to help cope with the stress that the COVID-19 crisis has mounted onto me. Here’s to the first day of spring quarter, hopefully I don’t fuck things up too much. He, my therapist I mean, told me it’s probably better if I mention the time during the day in order to help pace myself. But I think it’s a load of bullshit. I guess I’ll do what he says for now, and rub it in his snobby little face that it didn’t do a flying fuck about my situation. Anyways, here’s how today’s events unfolded I guess:

7:50a.m. – The 27 arrives at Santa Catalina Hall to take me to campus. I’m a little surprised, as normally it doesn’t actually arrive at the time it says on the little bulletin board at the bus station. Quite frankly, I’m inclined to throw a massive “punctual party” to celebrate this big milestone, but I’m gonna be late to my first Zoom class if I don’t hurry my ass onto that bus. How am I late for a Zoom class? Well, ever since they shoved all university housing residents into San Cat, my life has been a living nightmare. The halls feel like a ghost town, and there’s barely a living presence aside from the weird dude I’ve been seeing roaming about the halls at night. I keep telling the front desk about it, but they assure me that nobody is allowed out after a certain period of night. My therapist tells me it’s not wise to dwell on weird people in the night, since that may further complicate the issues.

7:51a.m. – On the 27 to campus right now, and I’m obnoxiously putting down every goddamn minute to make sure my therapist KNOWS his shit is wack. When he sees this, he’ll start giving me some real therapy. Right now, we’re approaching Isla Vista, around CBC “The Sweeps” at the moment. Nobody seems to be getting on the bus right now. I wonder why. Am I the only person that can’t focus at their place of residence? I feel like there’d be more people here.

7:52a.m. – Yowza, this bus is moving a bit faster than I remember it. Where was this kind of speed during freshman year? I wouldn’t have missed so many iClicker points! Seriously, I could have sworn nobody has been getting on at any of these stops. Now that I’m writing it down, I’m not sure if we’ve even stopped anywhere to pick up passengers.

7:53a.m. – Well, there’s Rosarito, at least that’s a familiar sight. Oh shit, and there’s the 7-Eleven. Maybe I should stop and get a Slurpee, and treat myself for being such a responsible student. No, remember what happened after your last crazy Slurpee Rush. Yup, I remember running headfirst into a raccoon ritual near the Eternal Flame, and I’ve been hallucinating ever since. I wonder what they put in those things. It certainly can’t be healthy for me.

7:54a.m. – Wait a minute, I’m still the only person on this bus. Where did everybody go? Why is there nobody in Isla Vista at the moment? Oh thank god, San Rafael Hall’s stop, perhaps somebody is going to get on here…

7:55a.m. – Shit, at this rate it looks like I’ll be a loner on the bus with no friends on my way to a class with no people in person on a campus that’s more deserted than your average desert. I think I can finally see North Hall from this damned bus. I might even be a little early to class today, a very rare occurrence for someone like me. 

7:56a.m. – Currently stuck waiting at a green light. Man, this whole bus ride seems really slow and yet really fast at the same time. I wonder who’s driving this thing? Well, I better thank him since driving around at these times is pretty sketchy. An admirable undertaking. Shoot, maybe I should even tip him. Nah, maybe if he gets me to class on time I might just break out the old broke college wallet and give him something. 

7:57a.m. – Yes! Here at North Hall, finally, we’ve entered the loop. Oh, you beautiful circular Bus Loop bastard, I’ve missed you over Spring Break! That Bus Loop has been like a second mother to me. I don’t think I would have ever made it to class without it.

7:58a.m. – And look, there’s the 28… I don’t remember seeing it leave around the same time. I was supposed to come at 7:45 but it never did, why the hell is it here? I feel a little cheated. That bus is way faster than the 27. I guess it doesn’t really matter if it does. I got here just the same as I always do. AND A BIT EARLY MAY I ADD. Feels good to say that on paper. It’s like proof that I haven’t fucked up my schedule and routine yet.

7:59a.m. – We’re slowing down, the cogs on the wheel beginning to grind to a halt as the brakes are applied. Friction gradually saps away the bus’s kinetic energy until there’s nothing — a pause, if you will. I can’t wait to exit this bus and get started with my quarter! Damn, I hate that this journal can’t convey sarcasm very well. I lOvE oNlInE sChOoL eVeN tHoUgH tHe FeEs ArE tHe SaMe! I wonder if the alternation of caps and lowercase is too much, but I’m hoping it’ll send my therapist a message that this is how I’ll be using this journal. I’m mainly just fucking around at this point, doc. Welp, looks like it’s time to say my thanks and be out of here.

8:00a.m. – Just got off the bus, doesn’t that bus driver look just like-

7:45a.m. – Ugh, first day of Spring-Quarter-2020-COVID-19 edition! I can’t believe I’ve made the idiotic decision to go to campus. I guess it’s the only place where I can actually focus at the moment. The halls back at San Cat are always practically empty, save that one creepy dude I see wandering the halls at night. My therapist keeps telling me to keep some sort of documentation of the day’s events, in order to keep my head straight during this crisis. I guess I can’t blame him. I’ve been finding it harder and harder to pull myself together and snap out of this brain fog that won’t leave me alone. I want to believe the world isn’t burning down around me, and that the COVID-19 crisis is just a figment on my imagination, but this reality is both the darkest timeline and one that is very, very real. Well, here’s the 28, right on schedule. That’s a little weird, the 28 has never been on time. I vividly remember being late to my Intro Chemistry class because the 28 came a little bit later than the little bulletin thing said. Well, I guess I’m not one to complain when heaven throws me a freebie. What’s not a freebie, however, is this damn sandwich that spilled on me. Now I got mustard all over me, and it’s no fun. Mustard on a white shirt… no fun at all.

7:46a.m. – Ok, stopping at El Dorado, seems a little bit empty today. I wonder if I’ll be the only person on this bus today. How does everybody manage to stay focused at their residence? It’s literally the most unproductive place on Earth for me. Oh wait, El Dorado underwent some construction in the summer. I forget whether they’ve opened it back up to students or not… maybe that’s why it’s empty. There’s simply no one there. Damn, I feel pretty stupid.

7:47a.m. – Hey look at that, we’re passing by Tropicana Del Norte. Man, seems even more depressing than what people have told me. I wonder if that’s because the clouds look especially grim, gloomy, and insanely ominous this maddening morning. That’s what happens when your residents are forced to eat at a subpar dining commons that’s only at Tropicana with no other options. Actually I’ll refrain from saying that, I forgot about how crummy the food at Ortega is.

7:48a.m. – Now we’re waiting at this red light, which seems to be taking its sweet ass time. San Clemente is clearly visible to my left. I wonder how the graduate students are doing. They had that big protest a while ago about some caramel-colored sugary soda, and somebody misappropriated it to be about fair wages or something. To be honest, it’s a fair point, but it got me thinking about why we only have PEPSI products on campus. Sure, give grad students a COLA, but can’t we give our vending machines some COLA too? Is that too hard to ask? Graduate students do so much to keep our university afloat, but I can’t even make a root beer float with my favorite beverage? Hopefully the school’s found some way to keep our graduates content, because they’ve certainly broken that promise to me.

7:49a.m. – We’re still stuck here at this red light. One of the longer red lights I’ve encountered in my lifetime. Wonder why it’s taking so long? My therapist is gonna get so ticked off that I’m making him read two minutes of me just stream-of-consciousnessing this red light bullshit in my journal. That’ll show him.

7:50a.m. – STILL STUCK AT THIS RED LIGHT. If I find out who’s in charge of this light, I’ll go SUPER KAREN on their ass. This is unacceptable!!! I should be able to get to class on time and… and it looks like it just turned green. Here we go! It looks like I’ve still got 10 minutes to make it to class, I can do this! I can make it early, repair my routine and schedule, and steal back normalcy from the virus who started it all. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. I’ll be keeping that mantra in my head as I chug along this bus track. Wait, what am I saying, that’s a story about a train. I should probably tell Siri to remind me to book train tickets on my way back home.

7:51a.m. – That’s weird, there’s no one at Student Health either. I wonder if everybody’s come down with a case of that wicked ‘rona. I still remember when it was packed because everybody wanted a mask during the fires, but now it seems completely empty. Did we even stop at their bus stop? I don’t remember it, and now we’re at another light… gReAt! Is that what sarcasm sounds like in a journal? Am I monologuing my own inner thoughts like I’m on some sort of T.V. show? Will I dramatically look into the window of the bus like I’m Jim from The Office, and then write down in my journal, *dramatically gazes passionately into the camera with a sense of intrinsic regret and shame*. I guess I just did. Yeah, I think I’m making therapy PrOgReSs! My therapist will be OvEr ThE mOoN!!!

7:52a.m. – Ok, we’re still at this light. I’m not one to judge lights in particular, but there has to be some sort of full blown conspiracy at this point. How is there nobody that wants to take the bus? Looks like I’ll be the only one on time at this point! What’s going on?! For once in my life I was going to be the badass that shows up to the Zoom session early just to flex how good my time management was as a way to pacify my insecurity over my inability to make any real connections with the material, and even more real connections with any of the people in my classroom whom I’m viewing through a mask, filter, and lens that is their screen. Are we all not putting on a performance of the most complex, in an effort to preserve the sliver of hope that perhaps everything is alright? That the world isn’t coming down around us? I oughta take a sledgehammer to everyone in my class and knock them back to reality! Maybe I need to start with myself, and just accept that light is red. There’s no pretense, no ulterior motive, just a plain red light doing its job.

7:53a.m. – Nah, fuck what I just said. This light is STILL RED! It’s STILL RED! I mean, it might turn green any second, but it’s STILL RED! When the plague initially wiped out what remained of my social life, it felt like my life was left on “red,” like a text that was seen but never responded to. My problems would drown in the sea of people now in unison chanting for change. And not just people too, I still remember seeing that odd raccoon orgy a few nights ago… I wonder if the animals on this campus are alive too. Even stranger, there was some dude behind a tree watching them… what’s up with that? I could’ve even sworn I saw one of those furry fiends on a typewriter this morning. It looked like it was in a trance, unable to break free. 

7:54a.m. – Alrighty, the light has finally given us the green light to go, and we’re off to the races! If we gun it, perhaps I can be early after all. I’ve gotta remember to puff up my chest when I enter the Zoom call to boast about my total professionalism and punctuality. That might even earn me an A right then and there. Maybe I’ll even get some sort of Presidential Medal of Freedom. Hey, maybe they’ll even decide to give me one of those Purple Hearts for my valor in this tense situation. Yeah, I’ll be back on top in no time, once this darned bus brings me to campus.

7:55a.m. – Here we are, the last light before the bus loop. Why are we stopping here? I can’t see anyone at the crosswalk, and it looks like the light is counting down, but who pressed it? This is kinda sketchy. My therapist keeps telling me to stop overthinking things. “That black hole in the sky is just a soccer ball somebody threw up and it looks that way from your POV,” he says. “Those gnomes in your backyard are not drunk, they’re stationary,” he says. “That FREEB!RDS burrito doesn’t taste fleshy at all,” he says. “That crosswalk is not haunted by ghosts,” he’ll probably say when I see him next Wednesday. Whatever, I don’t give a damn.

7:56a.m. – Ahhh, the lovely Bus Loop graces my eyes once more. I’ve missed it since Spring Break. That was the last time I ever really felt whole, but that didn’t last. I feel like I’ve been split into two parts, like somebody’s ripped out my soul and put it into two different places, and now I’m unable to find my real self. Shit, there I go being metaphorical again. This is why my parents didn’t want me to become a philosophy major. I’m too undecided on matters of the mind, and it’s too tempting to contemplate the millions of propositions put forth for any moral situation. 

7:57a.m. – Whaddya know? It seems the 27 is pulling into the bus loop here too. It was supposed to come at 7:40, but I didn’t see it. How did they get here so fast? Somebody once told me if you chant Lightning McQueens’ “I aM sPeEd!” long enough you can instantaneously transport between two places at once. Seemed like a tall tale back then, but now I’m not so sure.

7:58a.m. – Math Me Activate: The average time for the 27 to get to campus is around 12 minutes. However, the fact that I did not see them at 7:45 means at the very least it left around 7:46, because the clock was still ticking as I entered the bus at 7:45. The 27 is almost never early, which means at best, even with no lights, that trip must have been 12 minutes exactly. This is with no lights, excluding wind vectors, friction coefficients, and assuming the bus moved at a speed limit just above the maximum, because otherwise it’d fall over if it went any faster. This means at the earliest, THE EARLIEST, it would have arrived within this minute. So what’s it doing here at 7:57a.m. in front of the 28, the bus with a faster route? Was it those red lights that slowed us down? No, even so, that doesn’t explain the 27’s arrival, because it was here at least at 7:57. When I get home I’m going to have to break out the pen and paper to solve this one…

7:59a.m. – There’s North Hall! Oh you loveable building in which I’ve never had class in my entire life… there’s no greater joy in my life than knowing you’re still around! I can’t wait to sprint past your lecture halls and make it to my favorite study spot on campus. I guess I should probably thank the driver or something. It’s beyond me why anyone would work at this time, but I should probably give him a tip or something from my destitute college wallet.

8:00a.m. – Just got off the bus, doesn’t that bus driver look just like-

8:01a.m. – Frantically, I jump off the 27, descending those few stairs with speed excelling that of a cheetah hunting its prey. Who was that guy? Why did he look so overwhelmingly familiar? And why am I struggling to describe him? What was his hair color? His eyes? His shirt color? Fuck, I can’t remember anything. Thank goodness, someone’s getting off the 28, I’ll ask them.

8:01a.m. – Shit, shit, shit, and even more SHIIIIIIT! I can’t believe there was no fucking driver this entire time. Who the hell has been driving this thing. There’s an imprint in the seat, it seems someone or something was sitting there, but he seems to have vanished?! Was there even a driver?! I could have died on that bus! Why does Santa Barbara MTD have autonomous buses, and where have they found the funding for this, because it better not be from my student fees. Maybe that person on the 27 knows what’s up, I’ll ask them.

8:02a.m. – So I ask my question: “Yo, what the fuck’s going on?!” I turn around and there’s nobody else, just me. Where are the buses, where’s North Hall? I’m back at Santa Catalina Hall, and I’m gonna be late to class. I hope the bus comes on time. Hey, where did this damn mustard stain come from?!