In 1969, students can fly half-fare on standby. Sometimes it is cheaper than the bus, so I fly everywhere I can. I am to accompany Alicia from New York back to Goddard College in Vermont, and stay with her for a few days. Goddard is an experimental school on the fringe of a fringe era. We have an offer to ride in a school van with several fringe people. We decline, opting instead to fly. The others think that is incredibly bourgeois of us.
We are to change planes in Boston, but get bumped off the second plane (we didn’t know standby status kicks back in when you change planes). It is 10 p.m. and it doesn’t look like there will be any standby seats available for a couple of days.
But we are young and it is 1969 and we know that whatever happens will be good. Indeed, “It’s always good” is kind of a mantra for us, based on a remark made by Steve, a young psychology instructor at Goddard who conducts encounter groups. When I heard one session was “emotionally bloody” with people “freaking out,” I asked Steve how he thought it went. He smiled beatifically and said, “It’s always good.”
Alicia remembers that the van is going to make a stop at Clark University to pick up her roommate, Nora, who is staying with her boyfriend. Problem is we can’t remember his name.
Finally, Alicia blurts out “Gary Moore,” and I say, “I’ve got a secret,” and she says, “What?” and we go on like Abbot and Costello until I realize that Gary Moore is the name of Nora’s boyfriend and Alicia learns that Gary Moore hosted a T.V. show called “I’ve Got a Secret.”
Gary Moore’s phone number isn’t listed, but we decide to go to Clark and take our chances. We catch a bus to the Boston bus station and a bus to Worcester. When we arrive, we start asking people if they know Gary Moore. No one does. We leave the bus station and start walking, slightly buzzed by the adventure, toward campus.
I am totally enjoying the pointlessness of what we are doing, when Alicia screams “Look!” and I see a van driving in our direction. “It’s them, I know it’s them.”
I start waving my arms, but the van passes us. It screeches to a halt and backs up. “I told you it’s them,” we hear Nora squeal. The driver sticks his head out the window—he is all hair—and yells, “Far out!” Nora comes flying out and hugs Alicia and me.
Steve comes out of the van and, without even acknowledging the miracle or questioning why we are on the ground at all, explains that it is too late, they have taken two other passengers, and there isn’t room for us. He signed out the van and is responsible for everyone’s safety.
Nora and the others urge him to reconsider, and I say, “Come on, Steve, it will be good.” Steve smiles beatifically and says we can come along if we’re willing to squeeze into the baggage area.
Throughout the bumpy ride, sounds of chanting and laughter waft back to us as we occasionally doze, entwined. As we approach Plainfield, I awake into a sweet, trancelike state. I hear Steve say, “This is one of those college experiences we’ll all remember.”