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The Bus Schedule--A Love Story

Feb. 13, 2009

It started with the bus schedule because I didn't own a car. (How does any student in New York City manage to afford a car?) I was in my final year of medical school and I was interviewing for residency positions.For my first interview, I flew to Shreveport, La., where I had to rent a car and stay in a hotel.

The following interview was considerably closer to home. I rode a Greyhound bus from the Bronx to Albany, N.Y. The bus schedule presented me with a problem. One bus to Albany would arrive one and a half hours before my scheduled interview, the next would arrive only 15 minutes before my scheduled interview. I decided that I would rather wait than risk a late arrival.

Tiffany window at Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rich thought he would propose to Heather in front of this Louis Comfort Tiffany window, Autumn Landscape. Photo: Rainer Halama.

Rich, another medical student in his final year, faced a similar dilemma. Albany was going to be his first residency interview. But Rich had a car. Although the drive from Westchester to Albany normally takes about two and a half hours, morning traffic can be unpredictable. Rich left extra early and gave himself plenty of time.

I had been waiting at the interview location for about thirty minutes before Rich walked in. Out of our mutual caution (or shared neurosis), we were the first interviewees to arrive. We struck up a conversation. We were both wearing suits and hoping to become ophthalmologists. That was enough for a beginning. We talked about our previous training, our research experiences and our up-coming interviews.

Ophthalmology is a small world. Rich and I kept running into each other as we interviewed for the same programs. Eventually, we exchanged phone numbers. He gave me a ride to another interview site. We began to talk regularly. We discussed which programs had the best reputations, which programs would provide the most surgery experience and which programs were more clinically oriented as opposed to research heavy. Sooner or later, we started talking about his photography hobby, my favorite exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the best places for Chinese food.

It took a few months before we went to a movie together, Bicentennial Man. In the beginning of the movie, there is a shot of robot eyes going down an assembly line. We both thought this was hilarious. A month after chuckling at robotic eyeballs, I flew to visit Rich in Denver where he was completing his radiology elective. Soon after that, we met each other's parents and I went to his grandmother's funeral.

I loved many things about Rich: he would stop his car to rescue a turtle that was crossing the road, he was a fellow Star Trek fan and was even learning to laugh at Monty Python. He shared his love for photography and taught me about aperture size and film speed.

We ended up in residency programs a plane ride away from one another, so we flew back and forth to see each other. We built up many frequent flyer miles with flights between Louisiana and New York. We got to know each other's families through holidays, weddings and phone calls. Our conservations took a serious turn. We discussed career, places to live, children and God. Rich agreed that he could raise Jewish children. I agreed that I could move away from my Northeastern family to escape the snow.

I was visiting Rich in New York during a holiday break when Rich proposed. His plan was to propose in front of my favorite exhibit at the Metropolian Museum of Art, the Tiffany glass exhibit. Unfortunately, he also planned to propose to me on a Monday, when the museum was closed. No motorcycle-riding man with a pet snake had ever been so upset at not getting into the art museum! But, Rich was determined to propose that day. He briefly considered proposing under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, but realized that site wouldn't be nearly as special for me.

Instead, we spent the day walking around the city. At dinnertime, Rich suggested eating in Times Square. Even while waiting for the glass elevator that goes to the top of the Marriot Marquis Times Square, I had no idea that Rich was planning to propose that evening. At the top of the building on the 47th floor, the rotating restaurant had a lovely view of the city. We looked down on all of the skyscrapers and felt like we were on top of the city, maybe on top of the world.

Rich and I have been married for five years and I've never regretted catching the early bus.

Heather Seith

Heather Seith and Richard Seith are ophthalmologists who live in Florida. Their families suffer through the snow each winter in New York and New Jersey.

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