A FAST RIDE TO ANYWHERE


Alice heard what she thought was "Last call!" so she hurried as fast as she could go.

"I am so glad that this isn't the land through the Looking Glass where one must run as fast as one can just to stay even!" she thought to herself. But even so, she was quite out of breath when she arrived at what appeared to be the largest bus that she had ever seen. It was shiny with many parallel lines running from the front to the back, and on the side were big letters, but Alice did not have time to read them.

A fat man dressed in a uniform with gold braid and trim stood by the bus shouting, "Get aboard, last chance, hurry!"

Now poor Alice had no idea where the bus was going, but she thought it would not be very good if it left her behind, so she climbed aboard just before the man hopped on board and the door shut.

"Pardon me," she spoke to the fat man as she sat down. "Where are we going?"

"Where are you being sent?"

"Well, I am not quite certain." she replied.

"How are you addressed?"

"Oh, my name is Alice!", she replied brightly.

"That is all very well," he answered. "I am the conductor, but that does not tell where I am addressed."

"Oh," replied Alice, quite confused, but after a moment she said triumphantly, "If you are the conductor, then you should tell me where this bus is going!"

"Where this bus is going is unimportant," the conductor replied. "The important thing is where do you get off."

Alice decided to try another tack. Maybe the letters she saw on the bus would be the destination. "Sir, I saw some letters on the side of this bus, what are they?"

"Why they are the name of the bus!" he laughed.

Alice frowned and said indignantly, "It is not very nice for you to make fun of me. I was in a hurry and didn't quite make them out."

"Hrumph, well, if you must know, although I cannot imagine why a nice girl like you would get aboard a bus without knowing which one it is, the name of the bus is I/O."

Alice brightened. "That is the name of one of the moons of Jupiter!" she said proudly. "I was just studying astronomy in school the other day."

"I don't know anything about a moon, or for that matter, Jupiter, and I don't think that this bus, or any bus as far as that is concerned, has anything to do with school. This is just a plain ol' I/O bus."

Alice looked around the bus which was empty except for the conductor. Something about it seemed quite odd. Suddenly she realized that she did not see a driver.

"Excuse me," she said to the conductor. "I don't see a driver on this bus."

"Of course not!" he replied. "The bus driver is never on the bus. He's outside."

"But how can he drive the bus?" Alice asked.

"How could he drive the bus if he were on it?"

Alice did not quite know how to respond to this, but before she could think about it very long, the conductor suddenly asked, "Where is your fare?"

"How much is the fare, sir?"

"Why two bits, of course!" he replied.

Alice did not know what two bits were, and she knew she did not have any money. She did not know quite what to say, but the conductor was looking straight at her.

"Please sir," she stammered, "I don't have any money...."

"That's ok," he replied, "For this trip you can charge it," and handed her an official looking form to sign and a large pen.

Alice was afraid of making the conductor angry with her so she carefully signed her name, and the conductor sat down in a seat in front of her and placed the charge slip and pen on the empty seat next to him.

She glanced around the empty bus and started to ask the conductor about this when a most curious sight caught her attention. In the seat where the conductor had laid the signed form sat a lovely female sheep surrounded by a small fence.

"What is that?" Alice exclaimed.

"Well, this is a ewe, of course. And this is an I/O bus. And you signed an...."

"IOU!" interrupted Alice with a sigh, "That is awful! And the pen...."

"What do you mean?" the conductor interrupted indignantly.

Alice decided quickly to change the subject, "Where is everyone else—the bus is empty except for us?"

"Of course!" replied the conductor. "This bus only carries one character at a time. How could it be any other way?"

"Where I come from, many people get on the bus, and at each stop some get off and others get on." Alice tried to explain.

"What a silly way!" the conductor replied as he shook his head. "I would think that everything would get so confused. Now if they had a bus token, then a packet of them might be carried together, but...."

Alice had been looking out of the windows of the bus and noticed that during all this time the bus had not moved. So she interrupted, "When will the bus start to move?"

He laughed. "The I/O bus doesn't move, it just sends characters from here to there."

Alice thought about this for a few moments, then asked, "How can the bus send people places if it doesn't move?"

"Silly girl, characters get on the bus at one place and get off at their address. Say, you haven't told me your address yet."

At this Alice decided that she had had enough, and jumped out of her seat. "I would like to get off now," she said to the conductor as politely as she could manage.

"Well, alright," he replied opening the door. "I hope you know where you are going. This younger generation...."

But Alice was already running from the bus as fast as her legs could carry her.



BACK         CONTENTS         NEXT