Thursday
May312012

Go Greyhound

 

As a groomsman in my brother’s wedding (yes, a groomsman! Aren’t we modern and interesting?) I was invited to his bachelor party, despite the fact that I am a girl and not a stripper. The wedding isn’t for 2 months, but for reasons that I have either forgotten or did not bother to learn, the festivities were held last Saturday. I did not find out about this until just two days before, because John is a total jackass and didn’t tell me (and because I am a total jackass and don’t call my brother enough) so I had a very limited amount of time to get to St. Louis from New York City. My tax return had STILL not arrived—three week turnaround my ass—and airfare for the next day was outrageously expensive. The train was almost as bad, and I still haven’t figured out the ins-and-outs of identity theft, so I was forced to get a little compromising:

Greyhound.

25 hours.

Each way.

This is a cautionary tale.

 

At the risk of sounding like an over-privileged asshole, (I am kind of an over-privileged asshole, but I will try not to sound like one,) I can say there is perhaps no better way to lose faith in humanity than to cross half of America in a Greyhound bus. The passengers are, for the most part, either on drugs and/or insane and/or smell, the terminals are decrepit sinkholes at the shittiest location in any given city, and the legroom is criminal. There are some redeeming factors (they let you out to smoke and eat and pee! Also, no security lines!) but by “redeeming” I mean “just barely keeping you from suicide.” From the moment I decided to embark on this perilous quest, I knew I was in for some curious and possibly uncomfortable experiences, but I had a worthwhile purpose and a positive mindset. I was on my way to a full on bro-down with 25 asskicking karate dudes that involved not only golf, booze, and party-bussing, but the watching of the Ultimate Fighting Championship with a dude who once ripped the arm off a prisoner in the midst of PCP-madness and was then forced to beat the still-raging inmate to death with his OWN DISMEMBERED LIMB. This would be, I knew, worth every painful second. Oh, young naiveté.

 

Now, this was not my first ‘hound experience. I knew better. In the summer of 2003 Fun Bobby, my usually delightful Toyota Corolla, threw a rod going 90mph down Interstate 475 right on the Macon County line in Georgia, and had to be sequestered in said county for several weeks while he received a new engine block or transmission or whatever the hell blew pillars of flame through the hood of my car. In order to get him home, my boyfriend and I were forced to bus it down to the Peach State in the heat of August and drive him back. That trip was not exactly fun, but was made bearable by the company and the relative brevity of the ride.

This time, I was dealing with a different animal.

 

8:55pm. I will arrive at my destination at the same time tomorrow. I am outfitted with:

1 bag clothes

3 lengthy books

1 fully charged iPod battery

1 bag assorted candy

1 bottle water

1 Mogu pillow

4 Nyquil capsules

$$ for casino

$$ for strippers

2 Vicodin (5/325mg) for hangovers

 

I also have a Sennheiser microphone case with a small bag of non-medicinal goodies inside, because my friend Sabir is a beautiful, beautiful man who helps his friends out like that, even if it is an hour before I leave and the day before 4/20. This will definitely come in handy later.

The trip begins with a good forecast despite starting at Port Authority, indisputably one of the foulest places in Manhattan. The bus is half empty, and I can put my feet on the seat next to me. There are no screaming babies (yet.) Since the route begins in New York, the cleaning crew has just been through. I am unafraid.

 

12am. Philadelphia. We do the get-off-the-bus-wait-for-20-minutes-get-on-the-bus routine, and when I return to my seat the one next door is filled. My heart sinks. He does not get up to let me in and I am forced to do the ass-in-face slide over him. He smells strongly of something like bleach and faintly of something like body odor. Head and Shoulders? (It’s not working.) He has a long, stringy ponytail to his mid-back, which looks even better next to his bald spot; His tall, trim figure is wrapped entirely in Canadian-tuxedo denim, completed by some ass-kickin’ boots. Overall, he appears relatively harmless. At least he’s not the 400lb woman in the front row, next to whom some poor small child was forced to sit on the now-full bus.

 

12:30am-6:30am. I am going to fucking kill this guy. I go through a good amount of my sleep-inducing materials trying to ignore his egregious intrusions on my personal space.

I am 5’4" (almost) so I have the option of curling my legs up and attempting to sleep in the less uncomfortable sideways-upright-fetal position without crossing the seat border. This guy is 6’2 at the very least, and shortly after seeing my brilliant attitude decides he too can enjoy the luxury of this pose.

This places the whole of his ass directly in the middle of my seat.

I sigh. I squirm. I poke. I elbow. I make it abundantly fucking clear that he is really, really pissing me off. Finally I ask him kind of nicely to scootch. He obliges and puts his now de-shoed and smelly feet on the ground. I fall asleep. Two hours later I again awake to denim-covered rear all up in my business.

My reading light does not work, so I have no choice but to try to sleep through this. My iPod runs out of battery. I am not yet halfway there.

 

7am. It is bright and clear and we are somewhere in Amish country, illustrated by the homemade fudge on the counter at the gas station. (They use plastic containers and label makers. And have a digitally designed logo.) Back on the bus a child has awoken with an affliction for which the only remedy, it seems, is spontaneous outbursts of bloodcurdling screams and the playing of a little toy boombox that features one very poor quality MIDI rendition of the Sesame Street song over and over and over. And over. My neighbor continues to nap and occasionally attack me with his ass.

 

12pm. He has been up for several hours, and has done nothing but stare out the window and at me.

No reading material. No music. No cell phone. No computer. Nothing. Sitting. As I look around the bus, I notice this is not that uncommon. I ignore my seat mate, who I have now dubbed in my head James William Montgomery But Everybody Calls Me JimBob, and I decide that I do not want to know his real name. I finish Chuck Klosterman’s new book, which was sometimes very good. The bus is less full but not empty enough to facilitate moving to an empty pair of seats, and JimBob appears to be in it for the long haul. It seems I have nine more hours to avoid his roving eyes.

 

3pm. We get a new driver in Indianapolis along with eighteen thousand more passengers. She comes on the loudspeaker with, “ALL RIGHT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO THE TRAVELING CIRCUS. THERE IS NO SMOKING NO DRINKING DEFINITELY NO DRUGS OF ANY KIND, NO STANDING NO CURSING NO LOUD CONVERSATIONING. IF YOUR FRIEND IN THE BACK HAS YOUR CHIPS OR WHATEVER, I SUGGEST YOU GET THEM NOW. SORRY ABOUT THE CROWD BUT YOU KNOW— GO GREYHOUND.” I like her immediately. We are running late for some reason, but she assures us she will get us there when we get there.

 

3:30pm. JimBob speaks. He asks me how late we are running, and I pull out my phone to make it seem like I have some ability to answer that question. I tell him the time. He is immediately interested in my smartphone, which is a bad sign. I know he will not stop talking to me, so I finally relent and give him a brief overview of its features, which launches him into a story about how he was going to buy a laptop when he was in New York. This leads to a painfully long monologue about how he was going to leave from New York, but went to Philadelphia for a few days and decided to leave from there, but his ticket was from New York, but the tickets are all in segments and he had to go through Philly anyway, and isn’t that a well-maintained city with all the statues everywhere and have you seen that bell? And he gave his New York to Philadelphia ticket to someone for a t-shirt or something, and do I think it’s OK that he did that? After all they don’t check your ID like they do at the airport and blah blah blah. I am nice enough but cringe every time he ends another promising moment of silence after his increasingly mundane and odd statements. Then something catches my ear:

JIMBOB IS GOING TO SEATTLE.

Seattle.

3 and a half days on a bus and this guy doesn’t even get a magazine.

This is a big red flag.

 

4pm. We return to the topic of the Blackberry, which is apparently limitlessly, magically interesting. JimBob tells me he even sat next to a guy on a plane one time who had a Blackberry AND a laptop, and was using them at the same time! He thinks this man was French. He wishes to see the miracle of retrieving web pages via my supernatural device so I show him the Google home page. Google, he tells me, is a stupid site, because they filter out a lot of stuff. There’s too much! They filter. He does not like that. He asks if you can see ANY web page on the Enchanted Box, or if it too filters like the evil Google. I tell him I think you can see basically anything, thinking longingly of my dead iPod in my purse. JimBob then proceeds to pull out a long receipt, on the back of which are many scribblings in a small, cramped hand, and asks me if he can try a website, presumably from this list. I say ok, preparing my thumbs to type, but JimBob promptly takes the device from my hands, asking for instructions for each step in the page-visiting process. Well Goddamn, he is astounded that you can indeed see anything on this! Just look!

 

THIS IS THE WEBSITE HE WENT TO.

 

I am breathless and astounded. Am I on camera? Where is Ashton? Dom?

Allen Funt?

IS THIS GUY FUCKING SERIOUS?

And then

Look! Free video!

 

I grab the Blackberry back, clutch it to my chest. I attempt to think of an appropriate response to this incident and can only come up with, “Uh, I use this for work. And that is gross.” JimBob laughs. He is not even uncomfortable. He is still wrapped in happy, wide-eyed astonishment that a phone can retrieve porno. I consider going to my friend at the front where she is driving, running up the aisle and screaming that there is a pervert in our midst. Then I remember that this bus is beyond full, and I also don’t want to sit next to the 400 lb woman. I stare at my book hoping to set it on fire with my eyes so that we will have to pull over and evacuate our seats.

 

5pm. JimBob continues to try to speak to me. It has not entered his head that I am beyond uncomfortable. Models of cars driving by, cornfields, sports—there is no end to the topics he wishes to pontificate on, and they are all at the top of the List of Things I Have No Opinion On or Interest In. Every word furthers my suspicion that he is going to follow me into the next rest stop and proceed to rape and murder me. Or start jerking off on my leg, like that guy in the giant coat on the F train last year, or the guy who ruined my lunch through the glass at Chipotle on St. Mark’s Place.

At the next TA TravelCenter of America, I smoke as much of Sabir’s magnificent gift as possible, making the situation much funnier while I am relaying the afternoon’s events to interested parties via the now contaminated PDA. When I get back on the bus I am subjected to another string of drivel, this one ending with the disclosure that JimBob once banged a girl with three nipples. It now occurs to me that 1: JimBob thinks these awkward sexual suggestions are a great way to hit on chicks; 2: JimBob is hitting on me; And 3: JimBob is probably getting off on this. Before he can ask me how many nipples Î have I put on my silent headphones.

 

5pm again. I have just remembered the time change. The extra hour is about to turn into a giant buzzkill when I realize, yes, the bus is emptying out quite a bit, and yes! There are empty rows. I wait eagerly for JimBob to move. A few seconds go by, I start to tap my foot. This stretches into a minute and I am screaming at him with my mind and using every ounce of brainpower I have to achieve telepathy, begging him to get up and take the smell and nipple stories with him. I do not have the nerve to ass-slide across him again. Finally I am moved to remove the obviously silent headphones. “Looks like we can spread out now, huh?” He nods. He moves!

I am ecstatic, relieved, grateful to Hermes.*

He moves to the seat right in front of me and reclines it as much as possible, situating his dandruff directly in front of my face. He can swivel his head and talk to me.

I replace the headphones quickly and am only slightly less ecstatic, relieved, grateful to Hermes.**

 

8:55pm. I am free! I am here! The moment the Arch passes by the far window, a wave of relief fills my heart, envelopes my very soul. I have never been so happy to see the shit-filled colon that is North St. Louis. I could almost hug the cracked-out woman who demands and then begs for money in exchange for her unsolicited, incorrect directions to the street. I breathe in the bleach-free air, elated, prancing with glee like an eight year-old at Disneyland toward my brother’s jeep.

I have survived my ill-advised journey through the sludgy trenches of America; I have reached the summit; I have conquered the Beast.

I have arrived safe and sound, dirtied but unscathed—save for a now diminishing leg cramp and a (haha!) tainted box.

 

 

*The Greek God of land travel.

**Who also, appropriately, guided the souls of mortals to the underworld.

 

 

Addendum: Worth it.

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