Three weeks ago, some friends and I decided to attend the New Jersey State Fair’s Opening Day! For me, this would mean my first time leaving the Junior Summer Institute here at Princeton University. So I packed my bags and took the train to Penn Station in New York City.
On the train, I met a really nice student from Princeton. We talked a lot about our experiences at Princeton and what it meant for us to leave California for the summer (undoubtedly the best state in the US) — especially leaving the good food, the beautiful weather, the beaches and our families.
When I arrived in New York City, I was in awe of all the tall skyscrapers, the yellow cabs, the Halal food trucks on every corner, the hurriedness of every pedestrian — everything that I’ve read about New York, I was experiencing firsthand. I stood on the corner, scared of getting lost, and waited to hear from David Baxter ’16 or Feather Flores ’17, two Sagehens who were going to join me for the fair. David called me first and Feather came right after. This is where the adventure really began.
It begins with a homeless man whom wanted to give us directions when we found ourselves lost and going the wrong direction, despite the fact that we had Google Maps in our hands. He took us to a train station nearby and then asked that we compensate him for his help. Since the train was more expensive than the bus, we decided to disregard the directions of the homeless man and we hurried to the nearby New Jersey Transit Center.
When we got to the transit center, we headed to a ticket booth and asked the salesperson the best bus to take to the fair. We bought our tickets according to his suggestions. We were so excited and boarded a bus that was heading out of the center. We sat in the back and watched a beautiful sunset roll out in front of our eyes.
David and Feather talked (this was the first time that they were meeting) as I kept an eye on Google Maps, just to make sure I knew where to be dropped off. Google Maps predicted that we would be there in 25 minutes. I turned off my phone and joined the conversation. After 15 minutes had passed, all the people in the bus had disappeared. After 25 minutes had passed, I turned my phone back on and checked our location. We had missed the stop.
I hurried to the front of the bus and asked the driver where we were.
Driver: “Where are you headed?”
Me: “Meadowlands — where the state fair is being held.”
Driver: “What bus are you on?”
Me: “Bus 163.”
And that’s when I realized that we had boarded the wrong bus. We were so excited to get to the fair and start our adventure that we’d forgotten to check that we got on the right bus. I walked to the back of the bus, where I told David and Feather that we had boarded the wrong bus. They were as shocked as I was.
I went to the front of the bus and asked the driver some questions:
Me: “Is there any way you can drop us off close by to the state fair?”
Driver: “What would you give me in return?”
Me: “Sorry, we’re all college students and we don’t have that much money.”
Driver: “Okay. I’ll make you a deal: if you can guess where I am from, I will take you to the fair. You only have 5 chances to get it right.”
I called David and Feather up to the front of the bus so that they could help me guess. After 4 failed attempts, we guessed correctly in our final chance. I then asked him to guess where I come from — and he didn’t guess Mexican until his last chance, either! The bus driver kept his side of the bargain and made his way to the fair. However, he was on the freeway and he was on a time crunch. As he was nearing the fair, he stopped in the middle of the freeway and dropped us off. There was no direct way into the fair so we had to walk alongside the curb of the freeway for ten minutes before we found an off-ramp.
When we finally made it into the fair, we ate some a very tasty corn on the cob, a strawberry funnel cake, and some ice cream. This was our dinner. We decided to get on some rides, and the Ferris Wheel in particular tested my fear of heights. I held onto the pole and closed my eyes during the entire ride. I hate heights, but I love the feeling of emptiness, danger, and uncertainty in my stomach every time I’m high up in the air.
Even though the night was young, we had to hurry to catch the last bus. We ended up being directed by a pair of cops to walk illegally alongside another freeway while cars were rushing quickly next to us. Only once we reached home and I was safely tucked into bed did I realize what a truly crazy night this was for all of us.