By: Maddie DePree, Columnist
When I decided to spend a semester abroad, I knew I was in for an experience. Not an easy or perfect experience either – travel is tough, and after a few weeks, it can take a toll. I expected that. I figured I would have ups and downs, and so far, the trip has been almost entirely ups. Hear me when I say, though, that nothing – NOTHING – could have prepared me for the “Plague Bus.”
Let me preface by saying that our group has traveled a lot via coach, i.e., the European word for those giant tour buses that people use for weird choir trips and organized senior outings. Nothing is wrong with coaches – actually, they are pretty nice. They are high off the ground, they have large windows, and in general, they are a fine way to travel and sightsee.
Know what coaches are full of though? Recycled air.
Here is the deal: coach windows do not roll down, so last week, the group spent several hours a day breathing each others’ used oxygen. Alright, you may think – no problem. And you would be right, if not for the plague that precipitated our downfall.
To get a better picture, flash back to your first-ever month at Furman. I bet you had fun with your hall mates, decorated your room, explored Greenville – and then, I bet you got sick. College is like a petri dish. Everybody exposes each other to a slew of new viruses without meaning to. The same thing happens on the coach too – just on a smaller scale.
I do not know how, but suddenly, half of our group was sick – some with a phlegmy cold, and the rest with a killer stomach bug that wiped them out for days. The coach’s little toilet became unusable. The whole bus reeked like the sick room at the doctor’s office, and we were dropping like flies. Each day, we dreaded climbing on to our infected coach on the way to London. After a few days of this, we dubbed the coach the “Plague Bus.”
There was no one to blame and nothing to do but sleep off the grossness. The healthy few among us – myself included – formed an elite clique at the front of the bus with the professors, both of whom were plague-free. The sickest people stayed in the back next to the bathroom. (Draw your own conclusions there.)
Our driver was not amused with the Plague Bus. In fact, I doubt Tom was amused with anything. Tom had begun with us in health, and now he had caught both strains of our plague. He was livid. Our group, it seemed, had committed the ultimate transgression, worse still than being obnoxious American youngsters: we had gotten Tom sick.
Now that the group has arrived in London, we may be safe. Most people are finally back to their pre-Plague Bus state. This is our home base from now on, so hopefully the remaining sicklings can shake off the plague and explore the city. At the risk of jinxing myself, I think the worst of the illness is behind us.
This article is dedicated to Tom the coach driver and his compromised health, in memory of what once was.