12-30-87 Wednesday. Until last night, I hadn’t given much thought to my plans for the remainder of the week. I simply assumed that David [Schmidtz] and I would find other accommodations and spend our time sightseeing. But last night, David called Leigh Bernstein, a friend of his and an acquaintance of mine, and arranged to stay there for a few days. Her parents were also in town, so there wasn’t room for me. I took the news calmly, but all of a sudden I was worried. I had less than two hundred dollars to last four days and did not particularly want to be alone in the big city. Without David to share hotel expenses, it would be hard for me to make it until Saturday, when our airplane was scheduled to leave. So after David left for his morning interviews, I showered, packed my things, and left the hotel, leaving David a note and my hotel “key” (it wasn’t really a key; it was a piece of plastic, like a credit card). My plan was to find a cheaper hotel near LaGuardia airport, and in the process get off the island of Manhattan.

It was bitter cold outside. After making a few inquiries, I found a bus service to the airport, paid six dollars, and waited in a hotel lobby. Oddly enough, I was the only person on the bus. The driver, a middle-aged black man, struck up a conversation with me. He was particularly interested in Arizona—the weather, the topology, and the people. It sounded like he was planning for his retirement. As we neared the airport, I asked him about hotels. He pointed out a couple and told me which, in his opinion, was likely to be cheapest. I tried to give him a dollar when I got off, but he refused to take it. “You’re a student”, he said. It was that simple; I knew exactly what he meant. I put it in my pocket and thanked him. See? Not everyone in New York City is a money-grubbing, rude person. I was genuinely touched by this man. Perhaps he, too, was touched, because I treated him with respect and did my best to answer his questions about Arizona.

At some point during the bus ride, or shortly after I got off, it occurred to me that I might be able to leave for Tucson early. It would pose no problem for David, who had his own airplane ticket, and it would save me lots of money. I decided to ask. Sure enough, I was placed on standby for the next plane leaving LaGuardia for Pittsburgh. I was told that I would get a seat only if no ticketed passenger wanted it. Moreover, I would be on the same standby basis in Pittsburgh. But as far as I was concerned, the closer I got to Tucson, the better. If nothing else, hotels were bound to be cheaper in Pittsburgh than in New York City. During my wait, in a freezing, crowded US Air terminal, I saw Charles Griswold, one of the two interviewers from Howard University. We chatted for a few minutes. Griswold told me that, as far as he could see, he would be contacting me again. That’s good news. At least someone was positively influenced by my interviews.

This must be my lucky day. The plane was substantially overbooked, which means that some passengers with tickets were denied a seat. I occupied an even worse status; I had no ticket for this flight. But after half an hour of dickering with the passengers, offering them alternative flights and cash discounts, there was one seat remaining. I happened to be standing there, so I asked if [sic; should be “whether”] I could have it. The flight attendant told me to come aboard, with my luggage, so I did. I had, literally, the last seat on the plane. It was in the back. My companion on the flight was a young black man from Oregon, Floyd Jackson. I learned during our conversation that he’s a practicing psychiatrist. And get this: He did his residency and internship at Harvard and Yale. To top it off, he was a member of the 1984 United States Olympic team—in bicycling. I noticed that he was reading a newsletter on triathlons, so I inquired about whether he participates in them. He does. And he was a polite person to boot. This is a perfect example of how people should not be judged by their appearance. Here was a mild-mannered, ordinary-looking person who happened to be both intelligent and athletic. I enjoyed the conversation.

The flight to Pittsburgh took only an hour or so. When it appeared that I would have to spend the night there, I decided to call Mom and let her know of my revised plans. She asked if [sic] I could catch a flight into Detroit and visit her and Jerry for a few days. I tried this, but to no avail. Finally, after walking a mile to a Wendy’s restaurant for dinner (it was a clear, cold day in Pittsburgh), I called Mom again. This time she suggested a Greyhound bus ride. I had time on my hands and wanted to come home, so I called the bus terminal and made arrangements for a ride from Pittsburgh to Saginaw (for sixty-two dollars). An hour later I was in downtown Pittsburgh, waiting for the bus. Until today, I had a bad impression of Pittsburgh. I thought it was cold, dirty, and rundown. But what I saw this evening has changed my mind. The downtown area is beautiful. A large river flows through it (actually, three rivers, but I saw only one) and the banks rise majestically on each side. The place was amply lit. I saw riverboats docked on the side and plenty of fancy stores and restaurants. I’d like to see this place in the daytime.

When I got in line for the bus, I saw a short, old man in front of me. He looked Amish, and I later learned that he was. I asked him if [sic] he would watch my luggage while I made a telephone call. He said that he would. I called Mom, then returned to my place in line. “Thanks for watching my luggage”, I said. “Thank you for trusting me”, he replied. That cemented our relationship. I introduced myself, learned that his name was Eli J. Miller and that he was from Port Trevorton, Pennsylvania, and shook his hand. Eli was headed for northern Michigan to visit friends, so it appeared that we would be together for several hours. We sat together on the bus. The odd thing about Eli is that he has repudiated his Amish roots. He now calls himself a “Christian”. He thinks that the Amish have gone astray and have distanced themselves from God. One of the first questions he asked me is whether I am a Christian. “No”, I said; “I’m an agnostic”. This caused a look of consternation on his face, but it didn’t seem to affect our relationship. We became friends instantly.

As the bus rumbled along, we talked about the Amish religion, the difference between agnosticism and atheism, the relation between religion and morality, and certain doctrines that Eli holds. Eli, as I say, was dressed in traditional Amish clothing: denim jeans and overcoat, heavy boots, and a black, flat-rimmed hat. He had a long, gray beard and moist, sad eyes. But Eli was a proud man. He raised ten children, some of whom are Amish and some of whom are “just Christian”, has a wife, and is seventy years old. He lives a simple life in Pennsylvania. He plows his fields with a horse, heats his house with a wood stove, and eats basic foods. He seems to be in good shape, physically, and has an active and fertile mind. I loved our discussions. In Cleveland, where we had a twenty-minute stopover, we used the bathroom and ate. I treated Eli to a chicken sandwich and orange juice. Rather than thank me directly, Eli said that the Lord had blessed him by my presence. He prayed before each meal. When we reboarded, I leaned back in my seat to rest. It had been a long and volatile day, but I was pleased with the outcome.