Last Friday night I boarded a Greyhound bus from Washington to Pittsburgh. The trip normally takes about 4 hours by car, but this ride would last 6 hours and 15 minutes, mostly because the bus stopped in Baltimore and for a 1/2 an hour break in Somerset, PA. But I’m getting ahead of myself. See, I like taking the bus. It feels safer than flying, and offers plenty of quality down-time, and you can stare out the windows at the countryside, which is better than seeing clouds or non-stop blue sky any day.
Our driver, named Leverett, brooked no funny business. He started out with the list of rules that we, as captive passengers, had to live by. Most of the rules were good rules, in fact. Like rule #6: If you are playing music on any sort of walkman, or music player, you must use headphones. And corollary #6a: These headphones must be set at a volume so that only you the listener can hear the music. He backed it up by telling the guy across the aisle to lower the volume on his headphones before we even left the station. You da man, Leverett!
Other rules seemed obvious, but apparently, passengers must be told that under no circumstances should they place bottles or cups on the floor or in the toilet. Lesson learned — in the middle of the night I noticed that my shoulder bag, which I had stupidly placed on the floor at my feet, was slightly damp from a sticky river of Coke™ that had made its way from a bottle/cup on the floor about 3 rows behind me. They could have started the rules in the station itself. Though it’s first come, first serve, at least 3 people felt they could just jump in line ahead of the rest of us.
Greyhound has always been cheaper than flying, and thus the passengers tend to be poorer than those on airplanes. So you don’t get the folks changing into their Abercrombie & Fitch terrycloth tracksuits after departure. You get a large minority population, college kids, and at least one single mother + infant. I’ve noticed that in my last few bus rides, a significant number of riders are Latino, which wasn’t the case back in the 70s when my parents and I would ride on ocassion. Back then, too, you’d see guys in movies getting released from jail and being given a Greyhound bus ticket. That was enough to make one of my Hindi teachers avoid Greyhound whenever possible.
We arrived 15 minutes early to Pittsburgh, despite getting lost on the mean streets of Baltimore (you know you’re lost when the driver stops at a 7-11 and asks for directions and ends up driving through a police sobriety checkpoint 5 minutes later.) Leverett spent the last 10 minutes of the trip announcing a list of all cities that you could take connecting buses to from Pittsburgh. He may as well have said “anywhere in the U.S.” because it seemed like he mentioned every city on the map with a population over 500,000. This list included places like Topeka, Phoeniz, Los Angeles, and Seattle. By the time Leverett mentioned Seattle, I guess one guy in the back had enough. I’ll try to put down his monologue verbatim, but I’m probably short a few “motherfuckin”s.
“Seattle? On the bus? That’s motherfucking crazy! Seattle! Damn! Who the fuck wants to go to Seattle? By bus? Goddamn! It about killed me just getting to Pittsburgh, but Seattle? I mean, damn, I gotta see this! I’m goin’ over to the line for the Seattle bus. I gotta see those motherfuckers. I think it’s time to call up alcoholics anonymous, ‘cos they must be drunk! Seattle? Goddamn! On the bus?”
Someone, somewhere, is on a bus to Seattle from Pittsburgh. God bless him. God bless Greyhound.