Timeline of an Away Competition
By Chelsea Visser
Dancers come wandering up the streets, laden with garment bags, pillows, shoes. The sky is starting to lighten, but the sun is still stuck somewhere under the horizon. Everyone’s hair is messy. Nobody has bothered with contacts. No matter how often you’ve done this, everyone has the same general consensus: it’s too effing early for this.
Everyone is on the bus—except, of course, for the three people who are late.
The sun is starting to rise. It courteously shines right through the windshield into the first five rows. The quest to find a comfortable position to fall asleep in becomes complicated by the additional challenge of finding somewhere where you won’t be blinded. One person is still missing.
The last person shows up. The bus starts rolling.
1 hour, 17 minutes
Someone has that inevitable panic, just as they’re starting to drift off to sleep: did I pack my shoes/bow tie/phone charger/toothbrush? Whatever the answer, it’s too late now.
2 hours, 36 minutes
The bus crosses state lines. A few people point at the sign, welcoming them to whatever small town they’ve just driven through. The rest of the bus is asleep.
3 hours, 24 minutes
The bus stops for breakfast. Thirty-five students descend on McDonald’s en masse, five minutes before the menu switches. The poor cashiers look stunned.
4 hours, 2 minutes
Everyone troops back onto the bus. Stuff that had been packed up relatively nicely has been removed, shifted around, strewn about. Seatmates shove things at each other as they get settled. Whatever foot room you started out with is long gone.
4 hours, 33 minutes.
Everyone is more or less awake for the first time on the trip. People are talking, laughing, swapping stories. Everyone is still exhausted, which adds a slight undercurrent of hysteria to every conversation.
4 hours, 58 minutes
You got the aisle seat after the last stop. Your seatmate hands you several wrappers they had stuck in the side of the chair. You stand up and navigate your way down the aisle very carefully. The garbage can is at the very front of the bus, and it takes you a few minutes to pick your way down and back through the clutter in the aisle. You finally make it back to your seat. Before you can sit back down, your seatmate hands you a Snapple bottle and smiles at you sheepishly.
5 hours, 29 minutes
Someone has started singing show tunes. Three or four people join in. Half a dozen people turn up the volume on their iPods.
6 hours, 22 minutes
The bus stops again. Half the people on the bus can’t find their shoes, four have misplaced their wallets, and girls trip over each other racing for the bathroom.
6 hours, 38 minutes
“I’ll start my homework in a few minutes,” one girl says, playing Trivia Crack on her phone. “It’s only a dozen problems; how tough could it be?”
The textbook never makes it out of her backpack.
8 hours, 3 minutes
Dinner break. People scatter, off in search of food. Some load up on snacks. Some try to eat healthy—there’s a big comp tomorrow, after all. The rest head straight for Culver’s. Mmm, ButterBurgers.
9 hours, 12 minutes
The sun has set, your phone’s battery is dead, and if the person behind you kicks your seat one more time, they will be very sorry. These people are your family, and you love them, but there’s got to be a line somewhere.
9 hours, 46 minutes
Somehow, miracle of miracles, the bus has made it to the hotel early. There’s a quiet commotion as everyone packs up the stuff that has scattered around their seats, punctuated by a few yelps as feeling returns to people’s feet or muscles protest being stuck in the same position for hours. Everyone shuffles into the lobby, hovers around as keys are distributed. You’ve done it. You’ve survived.
And tomorrow night, you’ll do it all over again.