When Olivier & I arrived at the Greyhound station in Erie, PA, we were giddy. It was 3pm on Saturday, the day after Christmas. We’d had a big pile of Arby’s earlier that day, so I had gotten my fix after craving their delicious, cheddary slop for the past 2 years. We were leaving behind the stress of a Festivus gone bad & were looking forward to a week at home in Colorado.
We had our bus tickets, 200 lbs. of luggage & a box of chocolate donuts. We were ready to voyage across the country for the next day & a half. We would have to change buses several times, but still… it was only a day & a half.
A day & a half. No sweat.
The first thing that we figured out was that there was no dicking around when it was time to board the bus. If you’re traveling with someone, it’s next to impossible to find 2 seats together. Most people are traveling alone. They all want a window seat & will not move if they see that it would allow a couple to sit together.
After the first bus ride from Erie to Cleveland, OH, we knew from then on that it was necessary to knock bodies out of our way in order to be at the head of the line.
Ok, so a day & a half of sitting in a bus & pushing strangers to the ground. No problem.
It was around 10pm when we stopped in Columbus, OH. We would be stuck there until 1am, waiting for the next bus to take us to St. Louis, MO. Olivier & I were parked at a table, eating a bus station cafeteria salad when another couple sat at the table next to us.
The woman kept silent, making strange faces with her mouth. I soon realized it was because she had no teeth. Her husband was a short, squashy little man who would jabber at anyone within a ten-foot radius should they happen to make eye contact. They carried black plastic garbage bags for luggage. He turned to younger couple seated at a nearby table.
“Where you guys headin’ to?”
“Uh… we’re going to St. Louis,” the younger guy said.
“Oh, yeah,” Squashy said. “That’s where we’re tryin’ to get to, but the guy over there at the counter just told me that there’s all kinds of cancellations in St. Louis. He said he could rerout me through to Texas, but me & my wife, we’re goin’ to California & I think we should just take our chances in Missouri.”
I turned to Olivier. “Fuck me… did you hear all of that?”
Olivier nodded. “Yeah, I heard it,” he said, getting up from the table. “I’m going to go check it out with someone who works here, just in case that guy’s got his information mixed up.”
I drank a cup of shitty bus station coffee & watched Olivier go to the counter, nod his head a few times, rub his beard & then walk back toward me.
“Well,” he said. “It seems that there is a bad storm in St. Louis, but it may clear up. We just need to get on this bus & not worry about anything until we get there.”
No problem. We knocked a few bodies out of the way & got into the bus. Within an hour, I was asleep.
I woke up for a moment when we stopped in Indianapolis, where we picked up a couple of hippies, a Rastafarian & a French woman. I managed to fall asleep again in spite of Squashy jabbering at full volume to anyone & everyone.
Without opening my eyes, I heard people getting on & off of the bus in Effingham, IL during a stop at McDonald’s. Everything remained blurry until just before 7am, when we entered St. Louis. The sun was coming up, not a trace of snow or storm clouds in sight. I didn’t see any reason why we would be delayed here.
Now I realize that this is because I underestimated the dipshittery of Greyhound.
With 20 minutes until our bus to Denver was to depart, Olivier & I dragged our 200 lbs. of luggage through the bus station. With our eyes half closed, we blasted anyone who stood in our way with morning breath & ran over their feet with our heavy wheelie suitcases.
An hour later, we were still standing in line with all of the other chumps trying to get to Denver. A stout, bored looking woman in a Greyhound uniform walked over to us. She leaned over & grabbed the address tag on my suitcase.
“Where you all going?” She read the tag. “Huh. Denver. Well, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
This was how they informed us that our bus had been canceled. She walked away without giving anyone any more information than this. It was easy to see why Greyhound has so many consumer complaints. While there hadn’t been any snow when we arrived in St. Louis, there was now a thin layer of fluffy white flakes on the ground.
We ate rubbery cafeteria bagels while listening to the hippies explain where they were going. “Oh, yeah, man… the Dead is playing in California, man… you really should go sometime. It’s not about the music, you know… it’s about the love, man, the LOVE. Everyone’s dancing & you can just feel the spirit of the LOVE all around you… it’s magical, man… magical.”
On the TVs hanging above us, a horrible movie with Billy Bob Thornton was playing. A skinny man that looked like Iggy Pop in a baseball cap was walking from one end of the station to the other, talking on his cell phone & rallying passengers together in an attempt to… well, I don’t know what. I couldn’t figure it out.
“He’s just the Layover Guy,” Olivier said. “There’s always that guy during the layover that has to make friends with everyone. In Columbus, it was Squashy. Now we’ve got Iggy.”
“Better him than the hippies,” I said. “Wonder what the penalty is in St. Louis if I were to go over there & bludgeon one of them, let them feel my LOVE.”
Olivier shrugged. “Dunno. They probably make you stay in the fucking Greyhound station watching bad movies.”
Instead of leaving for Denver at 7:20am, we left for Tulsa, OK at 11:30am. The reason that we were given for this detour was… Kansas. At all costs, we had to avoid Kansas. No one explained why, so I’m guessing that it was pretty bad. I would advise you, too, to STAY THE FUCK OUT OF KANSAS.
There were only about 20 people left in the bus station, all of us stranded, trying to get to Denver. Happily, we all piled into the bus bound for Tulsa. It was out of the way, but everyone was glad just to be out of the bus station.
The woman driving the bus didn’t fuck around. She made it clear that she wasn’t supposed to be working that day & that she was in a hurry to make the 8-hour drive to Tulsa. No one disagreed. No one complained.
We sat in the bus, happy to be going anywhere while we noshed on stale chocolate donuts. Olivier & I spent a lot of time watching our fellow passengers. Iggy Pop the Layover Guy was busy knitting, which explained why he appeared to be wearing a poncho that looked like a grandma afghan. The hippies were busy trying to convert Rasta Man to the Temple of the Grateful Dead. A guy who looked like Eric Estrada sat quietly, looking as though he was about to get all stabby on the next person that spoke to him. An enormous black man from Tennessee was shouting at someone on the phone in what sounded to be complete gibberish. His chubby daughter traveled from seat to seat, staring at snacking passengers until they became uncomfortable enough to shoo her away. A 20-something guy with a laptop & Hari Krishna hair was telling a woman what a seasoned Greyhound traveler he was now that he’d gone across the country 6 times & had only had his shit stolen once.
“You know,” I said. “I feel a little like I’m in a rolling, live-action version of that ‘People of Wal-Mart‘ site.”
“Yeah, it is kind of like that,” Olivier said, laughing. “Bus travel is colorful. At least the weather is clear here, so we’ll be in Denver tomorrow morning.”
We arrived in Tulsa at 8pm. Our driver informed us that we would have 20 minutes to take a break & change drivers. Leaving the bus running outside, she quickly disappeared.
30 minutes later, a little man in a Greyhound uniform & a Santa Claus hat informed us that there never was another driver, that there was no one available to drive us out of Tulsa. The gist is, St. Louis had 20 people to get rid of, so they took us to Tulsa & ditched us there.
Olivier & I stood at the door of the bus station next to Erik Estrada, Iggy Pop & the hippies as we all pressed our faces to the glass & stared longingly at our empty bus, engine still running, ready to go nowhere.