Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Why My Bus Was Late

"Everything happens for the best in this best of all possible worlds." [Pangloss, in Candide by Voltaire.]

The midnight bus from Budapest made two mandatory rest stops. At the first, we had ridden for about two hours, but were still 95 Km northwest of the Romanian border. The bus pulled into an all night gas station and convenience store, and the driver announced that we had ten minutes to spend there. When I returned to the bus with water and a bag of popcorn, the fellow behind me was awake. We rolled on, and I did a Cookie Monster on the popcorn, then proceeded to chat a bit with the young woman across the aisle, who had already spoken to me in excellent English. The fellow behind me chimed in, so I turned to my right, and we chatted through the gap between my somewhat reclined seatback and the upright one at my right.

Our conversation started with introductions, establishing that I am an American business teacher, and that he is a Romanian writer, Eugen Uricariu. Upon learning I was a business professor, Eugen expressed his opinion that the present economic crisis is "unreal," the result of a conspiracy among those who can benefit from the massive bailouts that are occurring around the developed world. I asked his age, learned he was 62, and I asked what sort of writing he did. He told me he had written a number of books, most of them novels, but some non-fiction. I asked again his name. "Eugen Uricariu," he said. To check, I replied, "Is that U-R-I-C-A-R-I-U?" "Exactly!" Eugen seemed surprised. "It is easy to spell in Romanian, once you get the pronounciation right," I said. I think that was how we established rapport.

From there to the second rest stop at "Vegas" Restaurant (sic) atop the Western Carpathian pass on the highway from Oradea to Cluj, Eugen and I discussed the world and other things, includiing the American election (Eugen has a daughter living in California), the situations in Gaza and between India and Pakistan, Obama's Challenge, both the book and the fact, our shared hope for Obama's success, Eugen's fears for the global implications of his Presidency's possible failure, the etymology of the words "ciorba" and "ambassador," and about as many other subjects as there were minutes in the three or four hours that we rode together while both awake.

Eugen has led a marvelous life. He is a world class traveler, even if he does ride the midnight bus from Budapest to Cluj-Napoca.

I also learned that Eugen and his wife have both taught at UBB. At one point he mentioned that he has an old friend still on our faculty, a fellow "who used to mess around in politics" named Mircea Maniu. That is a name my readers will recall, for Mircea was my first Romanian Fulbrighter contact, and he and I have become good friends. It was Mircea Maniu who drove me to the Autogara in December at the outset of my holiday trip home to New Hampshire.

As all of this was going on, Dna Uricariu (Mrs. Uricariu) rested (or slept) quietly across the aisle from Eugen. When we reached their town just west of Cluj, I was introduced to her, and Eugen and I parted new acquaintances, perhaps to become new friends. Eugen, if you see this blog post, please contact me. I would like to learn more of your travels to Easter Island, and to God knows what other corners of our world.


Rather Dashing said...

Did you not exchange contact info?

Duncan McDougall said...

He has my card.