I should take a moment to mention the bus itself, the tragicomic Pequod in my quest for nationalism and a cheap ride. When we were about to board the bus at the Port Authority, our first driver delivered an ominous message:
“When I saw this bus I thought they was playing an April Fool’s joke on me. She needs a loootta work. Lotttta work.”
Indeed, the bus in question wasn’t a shiny new blue bus, Greyhound’s 100th anniversary fleet from 2014, equipped with more seats, WiFi, and charging outlets. It was an old school white one with a giant hole to the outside world in the bathroom, a toilet without a flush, no PA system, and holes, stains and garbage on or around every seat. The air conditioner didn’t seem to work properly either, although it’s possible the driver simply didn’t turn it on.
One of my favorite passengers from the first half of the trip was a trans woman with a five o clock shadow and a curly blond wig who was terrified of getting left behind. Every time the bus stopped, she waited diligently in front of it, at the front bumper, refusing to move. In Pittsburgh, she was physically escorted away from the bus because they had to clean and service it.
In New York, when the driver came out to collect the tickets, she muttered something under her breath. Keep in mind we boarded around seven, way too early for an altercation.
“What did you say?!” Growled the driver, an older, no-nonsense white man.
“I said they didn’t take our tickets outside the last time I took a bus, all right?”
“MY BUS, MY RULES! TICKETS OUT! Don’t make this unpleasant, missy.”
She shouldn’t have responded.
“I’m not being unpleasant, YOU’RE being MEAN!”
“I can and WILL leave you on the side of the road wherever I want. So NO ACTING UP. You gotta do what I SAY.”
“No! Let’s get along!”
“YOU get along.”
“I will get along. I’LL GET ALONG!”
For the rest of the ride, she was in the back, totally silent, until she left for her connection in St. Louis. I forgot about her, mostly because other passengers were far more ridiculous.
In Topeka, I was chatting with this guy, a really friendly cyclist who I’m assuming was gay. We started talking about the hideousness of the stations and the odd passengers. Suddenly, he got a funny look on his face.
“So…remember that girl who was really paranoid about getting left behind? She gave me this note around two in the morning, right before we got to Indianapolis.” He pulled up a picture on his phone with this note:
“Hey you! I think you’re really cute and nice. Do you want me to suck your dick at the next rest stop? Circle one – Yes, No, Maybe. Hope to see you later!”
“Hey, at least she was classy enough to propose doing it in the rest stop and not the bus bathroom,” I said. “So wha’d you circle?”
“No,” he said, “and then I wrote ‘but thank you’ next to it.”
These Midwestern boys sure are polite.
But back to the bus. It lived bags s the April Fool’s joke, and somewhere around Columbus, Ohio, the bumper fell off on one side. We pulled into a rest stop so that the driver – now a flamboyant young black man with a giant paisley scarf draped over his regulation uniform – could fix it. The bumper fell off on both sides. Some passengers managed to tie it up (lord knows what these people are carrying in their duffel bags that allowed them to tie up a bus bumper) and we kept driving. It wasn’t until St. Louis, 13 hours later, that we switched into the blessed chariot we’re on right now.