Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I hope yours was enjoyable, complete with good dinner, close friends and happy conversation. I spent my holiday with my son and his wife, Yvonne, who make their home near Williamsport, PA, and I had, as I always do when I visit there, a very good time. My trip to Williamsport, however, wasn’t that enjoyable.

I tried something a little different in getting to Joe and Yvonne’s this year. I do not drive, so in previous years my son drove down to Ligonier to get me. I decided I would save him that trouble this year and take a bus to Williamsport. That sounded like a good plan. It didn’t work out quite as I intended. Well in advance, I purchased a ticket on a bus to Williamsport. The bus had a scheduled departure time of 1:40 PM on November 21st, the day before Thanksgiving, from Johnstown, PA the stop closest to my home in Ligonier. I was not familiar with the streets of Johnstown and so, to be sure of the location, I arrived early for the bus. I was in the correct place at the bus stop at 1:15. So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

When the bus was not at the stop in an hour, I started calling the bus company on my cell phone. There were a number of college students waiting at the stop with me and they began using their cell phones as well. None of us, to my knowledge, was able to get any information other than that the bus had been delayed. Where it was or what had happened was unknown. There was speculation among us that there might have been a serious accident or breakdown and we worried for the well being of those presumably on the bus. Then again, we wondered, if that were the case, why wasn’t the location of the bus known by someone at the bus company? Speculation mounted that the bus had taken a wrong turn at some point and was mistakenly headed to Albany, or that it had been hijacked and detoured to an unknown destination and would be featured on a subsequent edition of TV news. The unfortunate conveyance was referred to, at times, as the “phantom bus.” I used my cell phone to talk to my son’s wife to inform her of the occurrences and let her know that it was useless to expect to pick me up at the bus station in Williamsport at 8:30, my scheduled time of arrival. I told her I would keep them informed of events as they happened.

To make a very long (four hour’s long) story short, the bus finally arrived about 5:35, almost exactly four hours late. We never got an official explanation for the bus’s delay, but I pieced the story together from information obtained from passengers already on the bus. They said there were simply too many passengers for the bus when it was scheduled to leave Pittsburgh at 11:30 AM. There were enough bound for Philadelphia, the bus’s final destination, to fill the bus, so the bus was loaded with those people and sent as an express. Those remaining passengers, all bound for other more local destinations, were told there would be another bus available to carry them. Only there wasn’t—until almost four hours later, due, apparently, to a shortage of either buses or drivers or both.

Some of the students at my stop in Johnstown had abandoned their wait by the time the bus arrived. Once we were aboard the bus, I felt secure in the promises I heard from the bus company that it would transport me to Williamsport. The bus took us through stops at Altoona and Tyrone and then, at State College, PA, another scheduled stop, the bus driver informed us that she had driven the maximum number of hours she was allowed to and that she could no longer continue to drive the bus. Another driver, she told us, was on her way from Harrisburg, PA to drive the bus. We would simply have to await her arrival.

I’d had it.

I called my son in Williamsport to ask if he would be willing to drive to State College to pick me up, only to be informed by his wife that he had already left to meet the bus in Harrisburg, its next stop. Again to make a long story (three hour’s long) short, I met my son when the bus pulled into Harrisburg .We left in his car to arrive at his home in Montoursville, near Williamsport, PA at approximately 1:30 AM. And so ended my twelve hour journey from Ligonier, PA to Williamsport, PA, a trip that should normally take from three to three and one-half hours by auto. We were both quite exhausted at the end of it.

It could have been worse.

I suppose.

Next Thanksgiving, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do to get to Williamsport.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I had a telephone conversation yesterday with a friend who likes the gloom, cold and snow of winter. She was lamenting the fact that the days have been so warm of late. “We’re not getting our fair share of winter,” she lamented. “We’ll only have a few months of it if we get even that much.”

I, on the other hand, am quite happy with sunshine. I wouldn’t mind if sunny days persisted from now until the official arrival of spring and thereafter as well. My friend took exception to that thought. “How would you like it,” she asked, “if there were nothing but sunshine every day of the year, year after year, forever? Wouldn’t that get monotonous and boring?” I commented that that was an unfair analogy and was very unlikely to happen but then we discussed the matter and finally came to a decision upon which we agreed. The normal changes in weather, we decided, are not only bearable but actually welcome and it is up to us to accept and take pleasure in them as they come and when they come. In each change there is something that can be liked and finding those things will make our lives more rewarding in all seasons.

Which brings me to the season, which, at the present time, is concerned with Thanksgiving. All too often we, and I include myself, take the holiday season as a time to dread. I have heard it described as such by others. We acknowledge that we are supposed to enjoy it and do our best to accomplish that, but deep within, we don’t. We endure endless commercialism, hectic shopping, disagreements as to who is to have family holiday dinners with whom and where and when, and on and on. To top it all off, we find ourselves feeling guilty because we don’t enjoy the season as we’re supposed to. In the past, the joyous season of the holidays seemed to me to be the antithesis of what it is purported to be. In some prior years, I solved this unpleasantness by escaping it—going away to a secluded location where no one could reach me to spend a quiet, relaxing, enjoyable time. Some of my best and most productive writing occurred on such occasions.

This year it’s different. This year I am looking forward to the holiday season. I am getting into the “Christmas spirit.” I’ve felt that mood coming over me for a while. Perhaps it began when I decided, a month or so ago, to take a trip to my son’s place for Thanksgiving. Perhaps it was earlier, the day when I cleaned up the shed and rearranged the boxes of Christmas tree decorations. I felt the urge to pay more attention to them this year and thought of the pleasure I could have adding to them and decorating the house for the holidays. I made plans for accomplishing that.

Why this new attitude toward the holidays happened I’m not sure. At any rate, I think my conversation with my friend yesterday describes it very well. In each season there are some things—probably a great many things—that can be enjoyed. Those things are there to be found as a reward simply for the effort of expecting them, looking for them and recognizing them when we see them. These things are more apparent in the holiday season. They are spotlighted and accentuated. Finding them can be more readily done at this time and doing so can form a pattern for finding the joy that lies in less conspicuous seasons. In that way, I can look upon the holiday season as being valuable and welcome and not something to escape. Perhaps—just perhaps—it’s a way of adding a new dimension to life and finding a way of making that life more rewarding and enjoyable in all seasons.

Monday, November 5, 2012

I just set my clock back this weekend.”Spring Forward; Fall Back” is the maxim with which I am familiar. I set my clock back for no good reason as far as I know. I simply did it because everybody else did. Other than that, I wasn’t at all sure why I was supposed to. I had a vague memory of the institution of “wartime” during World War II, but that was all I remembered. That, for me, was not an actual reason. So I looked it up.

To my surprise, I found that the concept of daylight savings time is a lot older than I had supposed. Standard time in time zones was established in the US by the Standard Time Act of 1918. That act also brought into being daylight savings time. Daylight saving time was not popular and that provision of the act was repealed in 1919. It was re-instituted during World War II, hence my memory of it.

Those facts explained how daylight savings time came into being but they still didn’t give me any reason for the concept. I’ve heard such reasons as its being safer for children going to school and giving more leisure time in the summer. There was also the idea that its original purpose was to increase production of war goods during World War II. I’ve heard also that the intent is to provide more time for shopping. The last is probably close to the truth, for the regulation of time zones and daylight savings time was originally regulated by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). And, according to Wikipedia, “the principal standard for deciding on a time zone change is the ‘convenience of commerce’.”

Anyway, I set my clock back this weekend. My reason? Everybody else does.