halloween under cover: a ride on the bus

The normal stale bus air is tinged with sharp, boozy fumes from the accumulated revelers’ breath. At one stop, a pervasive odor of pot enters with the passengers, adding an organic feel to the mix. A bright orange T. Rex lumbers on board to appreciative grins and comments, only to fall backwards onto his tail when the bus lurches back into motion. “Shit!... this thing is hot,” he complains of his inflatable plastic suit (I think he was a he, but it was hard to tell with the dinosaur head in the way). T. Rex’s fellow passengers run the gamut of mythical creatures, from mermaids to unicorns to Beyoncé. I count a handful of sexy cops, plus two sexy SWAT officers. Then there’s the actual cop surveying the scene from the front of the bus.

Two sexy cops catch up.

"Halloween weekend on the Campus Connector is the people-watching highlight of my year."

With the exception of two Catholic priest costumes, all the students I meet seem to be taking the University administration’s calls for more respectful Halloween costumes seriously. Cultural appropriation isn’t mentioned once. When I ask what Halloween means to them and how that meaning has changed over the years, the same answers come up again and again: less candy, more time with friends. A lot more drinking.

Liv (left) and Jenny (right)

Jenny, a Powerpuff Girl for the night, says Halloween in college is “way more fun,” than the trick-or-treats of her childhood.

“Yeah, I like it better,” her friend and fellow Powerpuff Liv agreed. “… Back when we were kids it was all about the candy. Now it’s about, like, meeting people and having fun.”

A unicorn sighting early in the evening

Erin (near left) and Taylor, who are dressed as schoolgirls à la Britney Spears

The conversation turns serious when Emily, a sophomore, brings up rape culture. Pointing to her oversized t-shirt worn as a dress, she said: “I don’t think I would ever really trust the way a lot of people do. I mean, I’m wearing, like, this is a T-shirt, I’m not really showing off a lot of stuff.”

“Do you worry about what would happen if you ‘showed off’?” I ask.

“I mean, I definitely do because rape is a huge issue on college campus and a lot of people don’t really understand still the fact that what you dress- how you dress- isn’t… a form of consent…. not just on Halloween, going out is always an issue for me. It’s always something I kind of have in the back of my mind.”

“So, do you have strategies when you go out?”

“Not really, but I feel like every girl kind of internally has like a kind a thought process where it’s like, I need to look out for everyone else…. I’m alone now, but it’s just the bus. I’m not going anywhere alone, like, I never go to an apartment or a party without at least one friend, like, one really good friend that I know, like, she’s not gonna leave me, I’m not gonna be alone.”

Joe, seated at the back of the bus, had an entirely different philosophy. “What’s different about celebrating Halloween in college, I feel like you want to show off to a lot of people in college, like, what you are, but when you were a kid, it was all about the candy, that’s literally all it was about.” While Joe’s teal doctor’s scrubs were fairly self-explanatory, his friend Lincoln had to explain his “Abolish sleevery” costume to me. Apparently I’m the only person who hasn’t seen this dank meme.

Lincoln - he said his name was Dan, but then Joe said his real name was Eric, so let’s just call him Lincoln - agrees wholeheartedly with Joe’s assessment of Halloween:

“When I was a kid, I was guaranteed candy. Every house you’re going to go to, you’re gonna get candy. Right now, I’m all about the GIRLS. I’m not about the candy, I know I’ll get the candy; right now, I’m gonna get the GIRLS.”

Lincoln & friend

After answering all my interview questions, Lincoln decides to flip the script. He pulls my digital recorder from my hand and starts throwing (slightly slurred) questions my way: “Why do you choose reporter over going as a Halloween costume?... Are you going around to different parties or just ridin’ the bus ALL NIGHT? … how many people have you interviewed thuff [thus] far?... Have you sheen [seen] a common costume tonight? Is there, is there a consistent costume that you’re trying to represent?... How many Abraham Lincolns?... Am I ruining your project now by interviewing YOU?”

As his friends leave the bus, Lincoln lingers to thank me for my patience with his journalistic endeavors. “You have a promising career,” I say, only somewhat sarcastically. His entire face lights up. “Do I really?” he asks quietly, then switches to a roar: “SHE SAID I HAVE A PROMISING CAREER!”

Around 10:30, the bus approaches its breaking point. Throngs of partiers get on at every stop, but not enough get off to balance them out. Among the newcomers are assorted zombies and witches, Box Wine (a guy wearing a cardboard box with armholes and a wine label pasted on) and Harry Potter in his usual Gryffindor robes, round glasses, and crop top. Matt, the long-suffering bus driver, has to use a microphone to get the newcomers’ attention. “Keep. Going. Back,” he says as they search for space, any space, seated or standing.

The bus fills up with referees, zombies, and playboy bunnies.

The bus is now too cramped to attempt any more interviews. Plus, I’m starting to feel distinctly carsick after hours of riding in circles, inhaling the various fumes. Finally, the bus arrives at my stop, but I’m a human sandwich in the crowd, far from the one operational door. I make a feeble attempt to shove my way forward, but it’s a no go.

Shit. I’ll have to wait until the bus empties a little and then walk back to my car. Just as I begin to resign myself to my fate, Sexy Harry Potter comes to my rescue. “She’s getting off!” the boy wizard hollers. The revelers near the back door manage to squeeze back just far enough for Matt to open it. I jump out, and Wildcat Transit T-33 rattles off into the night.


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