“Life is similar to a bus ride. The journey begins when we board the bus. We meet people along our way of which some are strangers, some friends and some strangers yet to be friends. There are stops at intervals and people board in. At times some of these people make their presence felt, leave an impact through their grace and beauty on us fellow passengers while on other occasions they remain indifferent. But then it is important for some people to make an exit, to get down and walk the paths they were destined to because if people always made an entrance and never left either for the better or worse, then we would feel suffocated and confused like those people in the bus, the purpose of the journey would lose its essence and the journey altogether would neither be worthwhile nor smooth.” – Chirag Tulsiani
Thursday, March 20th
Thursday was the first day of my trip to visit my best friend. We’d be meeting up with her three other friends and commuting the next day. I felt a pit in my stomach prior to leaving and couldn’t pin whether it was leaving my family behind (for only the second time on a solo trip) or traveling on a Greyhound bus. I had food poisoning the last time I traveled on a Greyhound and that trip left a mark on my soul.
I like bus travel, for the most part. It stretches travel out rather than distorting the perceived distance with air travel, but I don’t have to drive. I can see the landscape from a different perspective, but still from street level. The fellow passengers are usually freaky enough to keep it interesting and real, but I’m not obligated to talk to them.
I had packed a rather large bag for a four-day trip. Four pairs of shoes. A couple of pairs of jeans. Two dresses. That is not my style, but I knew I had to keep up with the other women on the trip. I rolled my suitcase into the bus depot and waited patiently over the hour. I, along with the other bus refugees, was trying to suck as much juice out of the outlets and into my phone before departure. The dock was stationed below the TV, and quickly ascertained that it had been set to the smuttiest “news show”. A woman was complaining that she had been asked to leave a gym for being too toned. A news flash on this would have been one thing, but the station had expert testimony weighing in on this world-changing story. Sheesh. This was followed by the about-to-go-viral videos posted on the Internet. Greyhound was doing an effective job anaesthetizing their clients’ brains with this trash. And yet, I watched on until it was time to line up.
I managed to keep my seat to myself until the very last moment when a young man slipped into the seat beside me. In younger years, I would have introduced myself and made small talk but I wasn’t up to it. This was slated to be a four-hour trip, and I was keen to make it through the rest of my book, “Love is a Mixtape.” It was likely that my imaginary version of what this passenger was like was more interesting than what I might gather through a few simple questions, so I left it at that. I didn’t even look at him. That is, until I grew bored with reading my book. Then I snuck glances at his shoes and his wristwatch and his earring. What did these things tell me about this stranger? It wasn’t until we were at the Canadian border crossing that I actually stood up and asked if I could pass to the restroom. I studied his face for the one or two seconds I had before we passed, and tried to fill in the rest of the story.
When I returned to my seat, he was gone. It wasn’t until we disembarked from the bus with our belongings that I saw him pass and head to the front of the line of passengers to talk to a Customs Border Agent. I was back fifteen or so people in line, so I took the chance to watch his exchange with the agent. It seemed she was questioning him on his lack of possessions for his trip. She asked him to stand over to the side in a waiting area, and then stood up to talk to her agent colleague. This is about to get interesting. The agents processed the university students and international students on spring break, and allowed me hassle-free passage to the other side of the counter too. Eventually we were allowed to board the bus again, but there was no sign of the mystery passenger. We sat and waited, on and on, until finally the driver started the engine up and moved onwards and forwards.
Rico the Driver got on the speaker and told us that three passengers were left behind causing the delay. And here I thought I had a great imagination; I never expected this sort of international intrigue! I had a whole other hour until we reached the bus depot to ruminate on why this man had been left at the border…
Do you ever let your imagination get the best of you?
- Amtrak Residency for Writers
- The Backseat of a Greyhound Bus, Blog
- Hallucinating Greyhound Passenger Causes Crash in L.A.