So it begins. I walk my way to the unmarked bus stop on Melrose's Main Street and get on the bus that swings, so quietly, to the edge of the curb. I find an empty seat--spoiled for choice--and train my eyes on the moving peri-urban scenery, aware of the tiny cramp of anxiety lodged somewhere in my gut. All of this is so familiar, yet so strange, as if I am suspended in some space not home and not outside, neither ghare nor bhaire.
The bus smooths its way to the Orange Line train stop, my first encounter with the T, and I feign confidence as I walk through the turnstile and slap my borrowed Charlie on the sensor pad. The train, like its predecessor,slides into the station and again, I find a seat opposite a woman who looks more like the academic I am than I do. She is buried in a freshly minted typescript--the paper I should have written--with pen appropriately poised. I find my way into the book I've been reading and dissolve into anonymity. At least until the transfer to the Red Line which will take me to my final destination. On the platform, I pause briefly to check the direction I need to take, and an older woman asks me--me!--for directions. I laugh in relief, happy to share my ignorance with another person. We look for the signs and help each other through our slight confusion. I walk down dank steps to the platform where the Alewife train will arrive.
Four stops later I am at Kendall Square, my entry to MIT. It takes me two circumlocutions of the block and a phone call before I find Building E39, hidden behind other brownstones. The office I'm looking for is temporarily closed for a meeting so I head back downstairs to the street, with greater certainty this time.
When you are willing to look, you find cultural bookmarks everywhere, minding whole pages of discourse that you can tap into, unpack, deconstruct with your sharp analytical tools so that you can return with insights that validate your journey.
Or to add to a tired pile of verbiage that might gain the label of academic literature.
A group of teenagers, clean-cut and in matching black tee-shirts carry their guitars and cymbals and sundry other instruments along the platform. Clutches of parents shepherd their new college-entering offspring along the street, stopping now and then to capture, on their cell phones, a memory of this first day on campus. Construction crew of various hues pause as nervous visitors skirt their ladders and cranes.
I have an hour to go before I'm registered in the system. Nothing like a cup of coffee and a low-fat bran muffin spiced with free wifi to give one a sense of belonging.
It doesn't end there. One has to jump through many hoops, virtual and otherwise, to become part of any system. Fortunately for visitors, MIT has free wifi access across campus so one can be navigated to the points that hold up the required hoops. The very helpful lady at the International Scholars Office gives me a list of those hoops and I make my way to the first, smart phone loaded with google maps in hand. My subtle glances at the screen distinguish me from those who walk about insouciantly, having already mapped their way in and around.
Next stop: a bank account and an ID, both of which insert me, indelibly, into MIT's archive.
But of course, I know that my very first visit to the web site, months ago, on tentative digital fingers,has already done that. My seeking ghost, when it is sought, already lurks within the cavernous circuitry of the knowledge maker-manager.