According to Yahoo, Yale University is exactly 51.9 miles from Bradley International Airport. Even if we assume a geriatric highway speed of 50 miles per hour, any vehicle manufactured after the Harding administration should cover this distance in 62 uneventful minutes. Maybe 70 minutes, allowing for adverse weather conditions or a brood of goslings crossing the road.
Yet the firm-voiced operator told any Yalie who called the Connecticut Limo hot line before going home this Thanksgiving to be at Phelps Gate at 8 a.m. to catch a shuttle that would arrive at Bradley at 11:45, or at 1:00 if you wanted to be there by 3:30.
Freshmen riding to the airport for the first time figured CT Limo shuttle service must be like one of those corrupt American tourist bus tours in the Middle East in which the driver stops every 10 minutes and makes you get out so peddlers can accost you with trays of gooey Turkish delight. Why else could it take so long?
Because CT Limo’s New Haven airport shuttle empire is downright Byzantine.
From the 40 minute wait at Phelps Gate to the back-from-break beeline from baggage claim to the Cold War-era red phone at the CT Limo airport desk, there isn’t a more convoluted means of getting from one place to another.
When you dutifully arrive at Phelps at 8, there is no bus in sight. The balding guy in a CT Limo vest standing on the curb assures you the shuttle isn’t really supposed to get there before 8:15. He asks you where you’re from and makes a snide comment about your football team.
A shuttle rumbles up to the curb a half hour later. The driver smiles and tells you he’s stopping at every airport in the tristate area except yours. You ask him when the next bus is coming. He shrugs and mumbles something about road construction and a Magic convention in West Hartford.
Your shuttle finally arrives and you clamber on board. You invariably recognize another student, but he is invariably a person you just sort of know, so you pause for a minute and decide whether you’re obligated to sit down with him or if you can pretend to be oblivious, sit down by yourself, and instantly “fall asleep.”
A bus ride spent asking about each other’s majors and seeing how many people you know from your seatmate’s Ivy League feeder high school wouldn’t be so painful if the ride were a straight shot to the airport.
But the three elderly women sitting behind you are going not to the airport, but to the New Haven terminal, the Milford Holiday Inn and the Waterbury Holiday Inn, respectively. The driver will attend to their needs first, regardless of the fact that they are old and cranky and smell funny and his 15 other passengers have planes to catch.
These same three old women are on every single CT Limo shuttle. They wear cardigans with patchwork turkeys or Christmas trees with little plastic ornaments pinned on, depending on the season, and it takes each 15 minutes to totter off the bus once it pulls in front of her hotel. You can probably trade one or two of them to the Turkish peddlers for a nice area rug.
When the shuttle pulls in front of your terminal, your neck is sore from craning toward your seatmate in small talk. You have 20 minutes left of the “recommended two hours” to check your bags and dash to your gate. You have to pee. You’re debating transferring to a college within walking distance from home.
Before you move in with your parents and send away for your degree program in personal fitness administration, there are ways to transform every CT Limo ride into a couple hours of unseat-belted highway fun.
Relax the atmosphere by persuading everyone to recline their seats a quarter inch. To get folks comfortable with one another, play some games you learned at your seventh grade student council leadership workshop, like human knot or trust fall.
Once everyone’s warmed up, pull the suitcases out from under the seats and suggest a king-sized game of Jenga. When people tire of that, the wealth of good hiding places on the average CT Limo call to mind hide ‘n’ seek or sardines.
Or convince everyone that this CT Limo ride is actually “Temptation Island.” Rotate six-minute “speed dates” with your seat partners. Within a half hour the good-looking people will pair off and begin sizzling liaisons while the ugly people will congregate at the front to debate whose breasts are fake.
I admit that some of my ideas might not have wide appeal across the CT Limo passenger demographic. On the way to the airport, most students are too hungover to deal with speed-dating. On the way back to school, we’re all in bad moods. And the old ladies would be a serious Jenga liability.
Maybe we should just stick to looking grouchy and listening to our Walkmans the whole way there.
Actually, I wouldn’t change a thing. The Yale experience wouldn’t be the same without a meandering, bladder-challenging CT Limo ride every few months.
I pity you New Yorkers, with your efficient train rides and chauffeuring parents!
Molly Worthen is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her columns appear on alternate Tuesdays.