Al Lee is a loner. That's why he likes driving the new Harvard shuttle bus-at least along the Business School leg of the trip. (Tuesday night, no more than two or three students boarded the green and white striped minibus to join A1 on the lonely journey across Anderson Bridge to the B-School parking lot.)
"Well, it's a job," said Lee, a 42 year old Framingham resident. "And it's a good job for a loner-that's why I like it."
So twice an hour, seven hours a night, five nights a week, A1 drives an empty (almost) bus from Harvard Square, to Harvard Business School, down the bumpy, serpentine streets that connect the undergraduate houses, and back to the Square again.
Seven hours. Alone. Looming buildings. Lights gleaming eerily into the black night. A lumbering, clumsy, jerking minibus.
"The monotony is what gets me," Lee confided. Occasionally he darts into Chris' Superette for a little refreshment, or stops off in the Square for some cigarettes. But the breaks are brief and the road awaits.
Jack Rule covers the Square-to-Hilles beat in the evenings. (A1 alternates in the afternoons between the 'Cliffe and B-School routes.) It may be less lonely than Lee's evening circuit, but it's still monotonous.
"Driving in circles-all around these buildings. Picking people up. Taking them back. Of course it's monotonous," Rule droned.
Rule finds that Harvard students live in their own worlds. A few of them may say hello. One once gave him a slice of pizza. But there is very little community on the Hilles-to- Harvard bus-just monotony, he says.
The AM radio is at once the only constant and the only release from monotony, Rule said. But even that is beyond his control. His mood is at the mercy of the disc jockeys' whims. A country folk singer for one circuit. Hard rock for another. People get on. People get off. The night rolls irreversibly, monotonously on and on.
Rule had a business-as-usual night last Tuesday. Nobody was talkative, nothing out of the ordinary happened on or off the bus.
But Lee just happened to be in the Square when three nude Pi Etas dashed through in their initiation rite. Rule felt gypped, conceding, "You know, this is an interesting place. But it's strange. Very strange."
And then Lee got hijacked to the 'Cliffe by a pushy Crimson reporter whose story couldn't wait the ten remaining minutes until Rule's scheduled arrival. "I have to admit it was one of the most exciting things that's happened to me since I started the beat," Lee said.
Vice President Steven S.J. Hall is an administrator. That's why he's keeping records of how many students ride the buses at which times and finding out what other destinations the buses should cover.
One day soon, he will revise the schedules and stopping points of the buses-in response to demand expressed in the experimental weeks.
With the onset of the New England winter, many students will undoubtedly join the tiny coterie of current busriders. Familiarity with the bus routes and schedules will also lead to larger loads.
For now, the evening Radcliffe trips (Rule's route) are the most productive, but changes are in the air. In the future, A1 Lee may find relief from his loneliness, but as for the monotony....