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Friday, April 30, 2010

Philadelphia freedom

Faculty Destinations: Philadelphia with Cahoon Family Professor of American History Patrick Allitt was another successful event for our alumni in Eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

Guests arrived at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, registered, enjoyed a wine and cheese reception in the seminar room, and moved over to the auditorium for Allitt's enlightening lecture, “Picasso in Paris.” Afterward, those who had not seen the exhibit yet were able to take a guided tour with Allitt.

I do feel compelled to write about my trip getting to the museum, though. I had attended the Salman Rushdie event in New York the night before and needed a quick and easy way to get to Philadelphia. An alumna had told me about the BoltBus, which runs between NYC to Philadelphia. I checked it out online and it seemed simple enough, so I reserved a round trip ticket. I left New York at 2:30 p.m. with an expected arrival time of 4:30 p.m. in Philadelphia.

Everything was going great for me in my oversized leather seat by the window (which included free wi-fi and a power outlet for my laptop). Then, we arrived in Philadelphia.

I thought Atlanta had the worst traffic known to mankind, but it is nothing compared to traffic on a Friday afternoon in Philadelphia when living legend Wayne Shorter is performing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art at 5:00 p.m.!

Once the bus crept through the streets to the bus stop, I hopped in a cab to the museum. There I sat in a sea of traffic along with the other 2,000 people trying to get to the museum by 5:00 p.m.

Traffic was barely moving.

I sat…I sat…and I sat.

What made the situation so frustrating was that the BoltBus had passed the museum on the way in. The cab ride was not supposed to be a long trip, mileage wise. I could still see the museum sitting on the hill taunting me like a kid wanting me to chase after them, “na na na na boo boo you can’t catch me!” I finally made it to the museum around 5:40 p.m. with just enough time to setup before everyone started arriving.

My unfortunate battle with the clock did not end there. Afterward, I waited ... and waited for a cab outside the museum, but not a single one came by. The taxis must have not been able to get through the traffic jam at the bottom of the hill. I desperately needed to get to the bus stop to catch my bus back to NYC, so I just started walking in that general direction, not really knowing where I was headed. Luckily, I stumbled upon a cab at a stoplight, which saved me from having to try my luck at hitchhiking.

All of that rushing around in an unfamiliar city reminds me of one of my favorite television shows, “The Amazing Race.” Coincidentally, one of the competitors this season, Jordan Pious 09B, is a recent Emory graduate; he and his brother Dan are still in the race.

Each week I sit in the comfort of my living room watching the show and I tell myself that “I know I could win the race.”

After all, I love to travel, right? My trip to Philadelphia has enlightened me! I now see that there’s definitely a difference in leisure travel and business travel. Knowing that I have to be somewhere at a specific time and being at the mercy of someone else with uncontrollable factors is much more stressful than just wanting to get to my resort as quick as I can so that I can get a head start on my tan.

I have a new-found respect for all of the contestants on “Amazing Race.” It really is that difficult navigating in an unfamiliar city when you're pressed for time.

-- Michael Parker, program coordinator, alumni programs, EAA

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