I got a voicemail on Tuesday night from my good friend from college saying he had a crazy idea for the weekend and to call him back. I returned the call assuming he wanted to visit NYC on a whim, as most of those voicemails reveal, happy to offer him a place to stay. I was only half right.
He did want to visit, but as a means to a crazier end. John wanted to audition for The Amazing Race, and thought who would drop everything and go with me? His answer was right…me. My obsession with the potential of traipsing around the world for free so suddenly overshadowed any doubts or apprehensions. I confirmed John could book a flight and committed to traveling to Boston for the weekend with no prior arrangements.
We improvised everything. When John got in we took Mega Bus from Penn Station to Boston’s South Station for 20 bucks each. The four-and-a-half hour ride was essentially painless and we slept as best we could to store up some energy. Once in Boston a friend of John’s dad whom he’s never even met picked us up and drove the half hour to a suburb called Tewksbury where the casting was being held. We only saw about ten teams camping out so he dropped us at an IHOP a half-mile down the road.
We finished our 15-page applications over fattening breakfast food and coffee killing about two hours including brushing our teeth in the bathrooms. We then hiked up the road with our backpacks in the pitch dark completely asking for newsworthy trouble. When we took our spot in line only five or six teams had pushed us back, and we settled in on the curb for what would be a long, rough campout. The adrenaline wasn’t enough to distract me from the bitter cold that came completely unexpectedly or the reality-tv-level-of-annoying conversation from the girls behind us in line.
The night passed slower than the bus ride had, and we didn’t even know how we were getting back to Boston. Our good luck streak progressed as we developed a kinship with the team in front of us, though. The two ladies self-titled “Fabulous at Fifty” were hilarious and welcoming, and one of their husband’s bought me a much-needed blanket. They arranged a ride to the train station for us, and we all braved the process together.
The casting went from expectations that we’d need the ever-long application, our passport, a three-minute video, and pictures of us to walking in a room and literally convincing the producer’s we’re right for the show in 60 seconds on camera. And it was over. Our 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. anxiety was trumped by shock. I don’t even remember what we said on tape.
We spent the rest of the day wandering the historic streets of Boston, following the freedom trail to the Common, admiring the gardens, soaking in some sun at the wharf and perusing Quincy Market. I concluded Boston is the place to go if I ever want a break from walking briskly, and if you’ve ever met me in person you know this is unlikely without a serious injury. Its tourists were less rushed than lines at Disney, and the overall feel of my surroundings was just plain still. I truly felt like life paused for this whole day, but perhaps the lack of sleep and resulting daze contributed.
Boston completely met my expectations in the fact that the uniform brick architecture and cobblestone streets indicated men in white wigs with Benjamin Franklin-esque spectacles and feather pins were bound to reveal themselves at any turn. And they did, much like in the American Colonial/Revolutionary section of Epcot. I’m at a loss for why so many foreigners have interest in this city’s attractions as purely American as they are, but came they did streaming through the church in Salem and Dick’s Last Resort developing a completely unrealistic view of our society as a whole.
If you don’t know what Dick’s Last Resort is, find out from someone who’s been. Or go if you’re ballsy enough. As for me, I’d rather take the duck tour and risk capsizing with my fanny pack and a slew of strangers. How is that tour still in business?
I did achieve a combined reunion with one old friend and one new, which made any hassle well worth it. I was giddy to catch up with Jackie who did the Marist program with me in the fall and shares my affinity for NYC, and comforted to see my high school friend Mitch who reminds me of rowing, my crew family, and the best Spanish teacher that ever was.
The bus ride back simultaneously marked the end of a 48-hour search for outlets to charge our cell phones and the beginning of mini-adventures void of structure or arrangements. I dropped everything and went, I finally traveled regardless of how far or for how long, and I survived mentally and financially. Conquering this feat two weeks before unemployment was essential and quite telling of what could be ahead.