It's Not About the Bus
When my long-dreaded 30th birthday finally arrived, I really wasn’t as upset as I imagined I’d be, for, I had already achieved a much more important milestone: my sartorial centennial. I owned 100 pairs of shoes. Now, at age 44, I find myself trying to cram well over that number into a living space of 340 square feet.
This whole thing is Tim’s fault.
When he first announced he wanted to travel around the country in a converted bus for a year, I gave this profound and potentially life-altering notion all the thoughtful consideration it deserved.
“Why can’t you be like a normal husband with a midlife crisis and have an affair or buy a Corvette?” I growled, adding, “I will never, ever, EVER, not in a million years, live on a bus.”
As we roll down the road in our ’98 Prevost coach, it occurs to me that Tim had already owned a Corvette. As I ponder who he might be seeing on the side, Tim blissfully cranks up the tunes in the driver’s seat, while I wedge and stuff -- and, oh my GOD! bend -- the cutest little Prada mules you’ve ever seen into my “closet,” which is really not a closet at all, but much more closely resembles the cubbyhole I’d been assigned many pre-shoe obsession years ago at summer camp. How had I ever let myself go from “never ever” to actually being the one to search for and find our eventual bus? Both Tim and I are shrinks, but he’s obviously the better one. It took him five years, but he whittled down my resolve, no doubt with some fancy, new-fangled brain washing technique ripped out of one of our medical journals before I’d had a chance to read it.
As a pampered Princess from the Island of Long, I had always been smug in my position as role model for my friends. They marveled at how I had gotten my husband to do 1) all the ironing (by exiting the house in horribly wrinkled clothes), 2) all the laundry (by washing everything together, so his favorite baseball shirt turned pink), and 3) all the dishes (by being seemingly incapable of stacking the dishwasher in an energy efficient manner). He also walks the dog (I’m a cat person), cleans the house (I’m a pig, but in fairness to me, the first time he suggested we split chores on a weekly basis, I said, “that’s fine, honey, but on my week, I’ll write a check”), and takes out the garbage (are there really any married women who still do this?). But, now, my friends view me with disgust. They say I’ve let them down. As their husbands eye mine with envy and try to get him to divulge his secret recipe for spousal capitulation, the wives shun me as if the decision to chuck everything and live in a glorified tin can is a symptom of some contagious insanity.
It took some time, but what I came to realize is that my living on a bus is a natural fit. Although I love the idea of travel, in practice, I don’t particularly like doing it. We had lived in Boulder, Colorado, for the ten years before we hit the road and I still hate the outdoors. Sure, I can appreciate natural beauty. I just don’t want to have to walk around in it. Besides, the whole fresh air thing is so overrated. I’m a physician. A scientist. Stale air, fresh air, it’s all the same molecules. I had so shunned the great outdoors, in fact, that the first time I got stung by a bee was at age 43 -- and that was inside my house. I just like being indoors. I like not having to get dressed. I like not having to brush my… well, never mind. You get the idea. Some might call me lazy. If I ever bothered to be introspective, I suppose I’d call me lazy, too. I had even gravitated away from patient care into doing insurance reviews so I could stay home all day, working at the computer with my cat in my lap, wearing my nightgown. For years, Tim used to come home and sneer, “Don’t tell me you haven’t gotten dressed all day!” But, I was proud of my record: 118 hours without leaving the house. In the neighborhood, I’m known as “the Mafioso” because so attired, I often go to the mailbox, or pick up the paper from the front lawn, like Brooklyn’s Vinny the Chin, who roamed the streets in his pajamas so that if the Feds ever got anything on him, he could plead insanity. I tried that tack with my girlfriends. Although they agreed with the diagnosis, it didn’t seem to make them any more forgiving.
Eventually, I realized that on a bus, I could do the thing I really loved – stay at home in my pajamas, while doing the thing I thought I should love -- travel. Why did I ever think this was a bad idea? I even came to view it as a promotion of sorts: From Long Island Princess to Cleopatra, Queen Of Denial.
Tim, on the other hand, always thought the bus thing, as we came to call it, was a great idea, ever since he had stopped in the local newsstand and happened upon Bus Conversions Magazine. With a circulation of only 10,000, what were the odds he would ever have stumbled across it? I’ve given up pondering such questions. Living in Boulder has gotten me to accept one thing: karma. Even the bad kind.
In truth, bad karma is probably what finally got me to agree to the whole bus thing. Like many people, until we reached our late thirties, we went through life feeling rather invincible. Not only was it inconceivable that something bad could ever happen to us, even our own mortality was unthinkable. This changed as we hit our forties and saw our contemporaries experience sudden, unexpected tragedies: a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. A colleague died of a heart attack in his sleep. Both of us, for the first time, could feel the creaks and aches of aging bones whose names we had long forgotten since anatomy class over a decade ago. Over the years, we had both treated people in our practices who had looked forward to all they planned to do in retirement, but when the time came, became too ill to travel or experienced the death of a spouse. Those lessons were only now hitting home. We were fortunate in that we would always have work; neurosis is a growth industry, after all. We could afford to do this now and go back to work, later. All of these considerations weighed on me, swinging my decision back and forth like a fifth wheel being pulled down the road. But, when Tim finally said, “Look. We didn’t have kids so that we wouldn’t be tied down, so that we could do whatever we want, when we want. I won’t miss out on having kids without getting any of the benefits.” He was right and I finally agreed to his plan.
Although I wouldn’t exactly say I was enthusiastic about it.