Monday, November 28, 2011

Greyhound adventure

Yesterday I woke up at 4 o'clock in the morning, rode a Greyhound bus for fourteen hours, and almost got stranded in Cincinnati.

It's the type of adventure I've wanted to take for a long time. Many of my friends (especially the ones who are writers) think it's one of the best ways to find something to write about.

Sarah was in Michigan for Thanksgiving and her birthday (which was that week as well). Then she planned to drive to Bowling Green, KY to visit her boyfriend. So she invited me to come with her, and picked me up along the way. She's driving back to Oklahoma today, so I had to find a way to get myself back to Michigan.

Amtrak was out because there aren't very many Amtrak stations in Kentucky, and the ones I did find were nowhere near Bowling Green. So I decided to take a Greyhound bus.

I purchased a ticket less than a week prior to the trip, and because of the Thanksgiving holiday, decided against having it mailed to me; I wanted to make sure it arrived on time. So I opted for a "will call" ticket; I'd show up at the bus station half an hour before departure and pick it up at the ticket counter.

Except when we got to the bus station in Bowling Green, it was closed. I assume that's because it was five o'clock in the morning. So Sarah and Kevin waited with me for the bus to show up, which was nice of them. It was dark and rainy.

My lack of a physical ticket turned out not to be a problem, so I hopped on the bus and rode it to Elizabethtown, then Louisville. In Louisville, they made everyone get off the bus and then get back on. And my internal monologue was like, "Oh shit, I should probably go to the ticket counter and get a ticket." But there really wasn't any time to do that, so I tried to re-board without one, and didn't have any problems.

So then we rode to Cincinnati and repeated the process of getting on and off the bus. I was slightly irritated by this policy, because for one thing, I'd been riding the bus for about six hours by that point, and was tired of accounting for all of my things. And secondly, we were only expected to get off the bus at the big, busy stations. I've posted before about my spatial impairment; because of it, I get really overwhelmed by crowds and signage and whatnot. And it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so everyone was out and trying to get themselves home after the holiday.

But whatever. When I got off the bus, I took my purse with me, but left everything else near my seat (duffel bag, coat, library book). But then I wasn't allowed to re-board the bus as I had been in Louisville. I knew that lack of a ticket would catch up with me sooner or later. But why did it have to happen at a busy, crowded bus station right when everyone was boarding?

[Insert headache here.] I was pissed off and upset (if the station in Bowling Green had been open when I arrived, this wouldn't have happened). But I maintained my composure and trudged over to the ticket counter. Except I was right behind a cranky alpha mom who was trying to get a ticket for her teenage daughter. And the lady at the counter wasn't too pleased about having to deal with her. And let's face it: I look like a teenager myself. So she snapped at me about how I should have gotten my ticket in Bowling Green and then muttered something about having to work at the Greyhound station during the busiest travel day of the year.

And then I looked out the window and saw my bus pull away. With most of my shit aboard with it.

At that moment, I sort of wished that I had a pushy alpha mom to stick up for me; I saw the teenage girl line to board a bus to Chicago and shot her a dirty look. And then I started crying and called my mom to let her know what was going on. The conversation went something like, "People are assholes and my stuff is on its way to Detroit but I'm not. Instead, I'm stranded in a city hours from home where I know no one. Fuck, fuck, fuck."

She told me not to start any fights with anyone (lulz?) and to maintain my composure and if worse came to worse, she and Dad would drive down and get me.

It was kind of comforting to know that there are people in my life who love me enough to offer to drive all the way to Cincinnati from Detroit to pick me up on the busiest travel day of the year. Since I knew my bus was gone anyway, I took my sweet time calming down. I went pee and found some coffee and got myself into another long ticket line to see if I could get onto another bus to Detroit.

As I was waiting in line, I received a text message from my Dad asking if I knew yet whether I needed him to come get me; he was looking at maps online to figure out the fastest route to Cincinnati.

For the record, I hadn't planned on taking my parents up on their offer. I was exhausted anyway; I figured that if I was indeed stranded, I'd get a hotel and take the earliest bus the next day. But I have to hand it to my dad. I complain a lot about how he's the family patriarch; he's protective as fuck, and I'm pretty independent. But he'd do anything for me.

I got to the ticket counter and tried to stay calm as I explained what had happened. The woman took my debit card and ID and once she realized that I wasn't some kind of blubbering incompetent teenager and that it was Greyhound's fault I was trapped, she apologized and got me a ticket for the next bus to Detroit (which turned out to be not too far behind the previous bus I'd been on). Then she called the bus station in Detroit to tell them to hold my stuff for me when I got there. I was happy to know that the problem had been fixed, but still irritated by the fact that people only treat you kindly if they know that you've given them money.

Anyway, I boarded a crowded bus and called my parents to let them know that I was fine and would be home in a few hours. The guy sitting next to me overheard my end of the conversation and said, "It sounds like you've got a long way to go."

"Detroit," I said. "And I'm traveling from Bowling Green, Kentucky."

The lucky bastard got off in Dayton and a whole slew of new people boarded. We repeated this process in Lima, Findlay, and Toledo. The Toldeo-to-Detroit leg of the trip was the roughest for me. Between Findlay and Toledo, the bus had been pretty empty, and, beyond exhausted, I'd put my purse beside me and greedily took up as much space as possible. I had sort of intended to do the same between Toledo and Detroit; by that point, I'd been Greyhounding for thirteen hours and wasn't in the mood to interact with anyone. But as more and more people boarded, it became obvious that I'd have to give up the seat beside me.

"Stop being a dick, Amelia," I told myself, and cleared the seat beside me. And instantly, another passenger appeared and sat down in the seat. He was a friendly old man who wanted me to teach him how to use his very basic cell phone. I took a few deep breaths and mustered all of the patience left inside of me. Normally I would have been happy to help someone with something like that. But hours ago, my internal monologue had started whining about how it just wanted to go home and eat dinner.

An hour or so later, we finally arrived in Detroit. I picked up my things and waited outside for my mom to pick me up. I was actually glad that she was running late; it felt good to walk around in the cold air for a bit.

When I got home, I took a shower, changed into my pajamas, ate some eggs and toast, drank a cup of tea, and fell asleep with my kitten at my feet. I never thought I'd be so happy to be in Grosse Pointe.

Weird and stressful as this experience was, I'm glad I did it. And I think that my writer friends were correct; I sort of think that everyone (writer or not) should spend fourteen hours on a Greyhound at some point in their lives. The world would literally swell with interesting stories.

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