It’s been said that, of all the human senses, scent is the most evocative. NJ Transit trains are designed for platforms, so at stations where there aren’t any, you have to grab onto a handle and heave yourself up. Whenever I do that, it’s as if I’ve entered a portal back into my childhood. All the wide-eyed ineffable wonder that had left me baffled around my mid-single digit age strikes me dazed momentarily, and then I find myself a seat for my commutes to work. Into my adulthood, I still feel as though I’m alongside my godfather, muttering delightful though not-quite-understandable explanations of North Jersey’s vistas running from the marshlands in Lyndhurst to Hoboken Terminal.
Whenever I walk through Hoboken Terminal toward the platform, that same damp and musty scent wafts through the tunnels and, as the train arrives, breezes in like hot summer air through a car window. My presence of mind is again thrown into a haze, recalling the times I would sit on the bench with my godfather, kicking my heels into the air, on our way to visit my mom where she had worked at a Holiday Inn somewhere around 34th Street.
I’ve always been the sort of person who stares out the window during commutes. There is something soothing, and I daresay even hypnotizing, about staring at a landscape while silently imagineering vivid stories about those places and populating them with the kinds of people I’d like to see there.
And that story brings me here. I currently commute to work from the bus station across from Jochiwon Station, taking the 601. Several other buses stop there, and I always wonder where those buses go. Fantasizing about it but never quite having the motivation to do it, I mentioned wanting to do this sort of thing—taking one bus line all the way to the end of the line and then write about it—and it was met with an enthusiastic, “Oh yeah! You should totally do that! You can take the buses to the end of the line and then write an article! Wait…that’s what you should call it: End of the Line!”
Promptly energized by the enthusiasm and now finally having a reason to write, I, armed with a cellphone camera, a multicolored pen, and several scraps of paper, choose a Sunday to take a random bus—whatever the first bus there was, and that bus was the 801…