Tag Archives: The ‘Hound

Greyhound Story #4 (Utah)

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At the end of June of my 29th year, I rode a Greyhound bus from Texas to Utah. I was going to the tiny town where my friend Ivy and her partner Jay lived. I wanted to be there for Ivy’s birthday on July 2. My friend Sheff dropped me off at the crowded bus station, and I was on my way.

When I planned the trip, I didn’t realize I’d be traveling with crowds of people trying to get somewhere in time for 4th of July festivities. I was only thinking about Ivy’s birthday on the 2nd, but hordes of people were thinking about Independence Day. Every bus was packed, every seat filled when the bus rolled. Every bus was running late too.

It was well past the time to make my connection when the bus I was on pulled into the station in Denver. Still, I hoped that bus had been delayed too, and I’d be able to get on it.

First I had to claim my luggage, a large backpack. I found it among the other suitcases and duffle bags, but when I grabbed it, I saw the brand new self-inflating pad to go under my sleeping bag was gone. It had been firmly attached to my pack, but now it was nowhere to be seen. I shuffled through the unclaimed baggage. Nothing. I asked a totally unconcerned and uninterested worker about it. He didn’t even suggest I fill out a lost-item form. It was simply gone, and I’d have to deal with the loss. (To this day, I think the pad was securely attached to the backpack and was actively stolen by a Greyhound employee.)

When I made it into the terminal, I found my connecting bus was long gone. I also found the information desk and the ticket counter were closed for the night, so I had no way of finding out what bus I’d need to get on in the morning or what time it would leave.

I sat down at a table in the snack bar area, exhausted by hours on the ‘Hound. I contemplated my options. I didn’t know anyone in Denver. I’d never been to Denver. I didn’t know if there were any cheap motels near the bus station. I didn’t really want to spend money on a motel anyway. Although I had a credit card and money in the bank, I was on a tight budget because as an AmeriCorps volunteer, I only received a small biweekly stipend. I didn’t want to waste a chunk of change on a motel room I’d only spend a few hours in. Besides, I didn’t know when I’d need to be back at the station to catch my bus to Utah. I wanted to speak to the person at the information desk or a ticket agent as soon as one of them started the work day. I reached my decision. I was going to spend the night at the bus station.

I got up from the table and heaved my pack onto my back. I went to the restroom where I washed my face with Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap, brushed my teeth, and attended to other calls of nature.

When I’d gone into the restroom, the large waiting area had still been busy with the bustle of people, but when I came out, it was officially Late At Night and the space had mostly cleared out. I had no idea if I’d be allowed to spend the night in the station. Would the security guard think I was homeless? Would I be kicked out? If I was, where would I go?

I went back to a snack bar table and sat down. I wondered if anyone would try to steal my pack if I slept. I wondered if I could stay awake all night. I sat there for a while, read my book, but soon I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I was going to have to sleep, even if I only managed a short nap.

How to protect my backpack? I lifted it up onto the table in front of me and wrapped my arms around it. Then I lay my head on it. It made a lumpy, uncomfortable pillow, but I managed to catnap throughout the night. Mostly I was awake.

By the time I was able to ask questions of a Greyhound employee, travelers who knew where they needed to be were already lined up in front of numbered doors. When I explained my situation to the Greyhound representative, there was no apology for the late buses causing me to miss my connection. A new ticket was issued and I was directed to a door with a long line of people in front of it. When I asked if there’d be room for me on that bus, the worker shrugged. She mentioned the possibility of another bus headed in my direction but remained vague.

Once my new ticket was printed, I queued up at the back of the line. Other people filled in behind me. A bus arrived and passengers began boarding. The bus was full long before it was my turn to get on. Passengers started to grumble. I thought maybe a riot would ensue. Finally, a Greyhound worker confirmed another bus was on its way.

Once on the bus, I finally allowed myself to relax a little. I was exhausted and emotional. As we passed through the Colorado Rockies, I cried and cried at their beauty. When I saw the giant red rocks of Utah, I wondered if we had somehow left Earth and landed on Mars.

I finally arrived at my destination and was relieved to see Jay there to pick me up. We still had an hour’s drive before we arrived in a town so tiny it only had a public library (opened four days a week) and a movie theater (opened only on weekend nights). My friends shared a house in the town with their friends who were about to become my new friends.

By the time we pulled up to the house, I was exhibiting symptoms of the cold that would plague me for my entire visit, but I was grateful to eat a real meal, then stretch out on a bed and get some real sleep.

Greyhound Story #3 (Whatcha Reading?)

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I thought I wanted to move to Austin, TX. I’d never been there, but it sounded like a cool place. I decided before actually moving there, I should visit so I could make an informed decision.

A friend of a friend had a room in a co-op house in Austin. Since he was more or less living with his girlfriend, he said I could stay in his room while I visited the town.

I took the Greyhound to Austin. I don’t remember anything about the trip. I don’t remember arriving at the bus station to depart the land of my birth or how I got from the station in Austin to the co-op. I must have taken a city bus, because I’m not the type to take a taxi, or maybe the friend of the friend and his girlfriend picked me up in her SUV.

I remember the room I stayed in.  It had cinderblock walls and was very dark. It was tiny and made me think of a jail cell or a room in a mental hospital, although at that time in my life I’d never been in either. The friend of a friend had left it messy, and I didn’t find it very welcoming.

I don’t remember much about what I did in Austin. I know I walked The Strip, the stretch of Guadalupe Street passing next to the University of Texas campus. The co-op where I stayed was close to the University, so I could walk to The Strip easily. One night the friend of a friend and his girlfriend had me over to her apartment for spaghetti. I didn’t go out to listen to live music. I didn’t go out drinking in bars. I didn’t join the residents of the co-op viewing Star Wars after I was invited in the kitchen.

Sapphistry : The Book of Lesbian Sexuality
I did go to Half Price Books near the community health food store. I enjoyed myself there. I enjoyed walking among the thousands of inexpensive books on the closely spaced shelves. I found one to buy for myself as a souvenir of my trip Sapphistry: The Book of Lesbian Sexuality by Pat Califia.

I’d recently discovered Pat Califia when my housemate introduced to the book Public Sex, a collection of essays about sexuality in late 20th century America. From there, I discovered Califia’s collections of BDSM themed short stories, Macho Sluts and No Mercy and her dystopian novel Doc and Fluff.  I enjoyed Califia’s writing style, and the sex scenes were hot, although I realized eventually that I wasn’t into BDSM in real life.

Public Sex by Pat Califia (1-May-2001) Paperback

I’d never seen Sapphistry, so when I ran across it for a few bucks at Half Price Books, I scooped it up.

Compared to Califia’s other works, Sapphistry was more of a how-to book for lesbians. There were no BDSM stories, no hot sex scenes. I was a little disappointed with the content, but as a budding bisexual with precious little experience with women, I thought perhaps I could gain some knowledge from the book.

Other than Half Price Books, I didn’t like much about Austin. I barely gave it a chance, I realize now, but in less than a week, I decided I hated the place and didn’t want to live there.

I got back on the Greyhound and headed home.

I’m not a gregarious, outgoing person. I mostly keep to myself when I can, especially in public, especially on the ‘Hound, so when the loudly talking man boarded, I hunkered down in my seat. I thought if I stayed low, kept my nose in my copy of Sapphistry, and didn’t make eye contact, he’d ignore me.

Wrong!

He chose to sit in the seat behind me. He leaned over into my space and demanded, Whatcha reading?

A book, I replied coldly, thinking I could give him a social cue that I didn’t want to talk.

He didn’t have a clue about my cue.

I know it’s a book! he exclaimed impatiently.  What’s the topic?

There are moments in our lives when we must make split second decisions between telling lies and telling truths. I was living such a moment. If I told the man I was reading a book about lesbianism, would he think I was a full-fledged lesbian and therefore off limits or would I open myself up to homophobic abuse? There was no way to know what telling the truth might bring.

I’ve never been a very good liar. Instead of trying to make up something about the book in my lap, I just blurted out one word: Lesbians!

The man sputtered and stammered and sank into his seat.

I thought he might come at me later with some negativity, so I prepared myself by putting on my headphones and listening to Tool for the next couple of hours. The angry hate music prepared me for battle, but the man must have considered me off limits because he didn’t try to talk to me again.

Greyhound Story #2 (Fried Chicken)

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I was living down south, in the land of my birth, when I decided to attend an anarcha-feminist gathering in Wisconsin. No one I knew would be there, so I would have a comfort zone expanding experience among strangers.

I didn’t have a car, and my job made my travel time limited. I decided to fly to Chicago, then take the Greyhound to a small Wisconsin town where I’d be picked up in a car and driven to the women’s land where the gathering would be held. I’d probably be the only woman flying to the anarcha-feminist gathering, but I decided to do it because I had the money but not the time.

The flight to Chicago was uneventful. From the airport, I took public transportation to the tiny Greyhound station which I think was downtown. I got on the ‘Hound at the appointed time, and we took off to Wisconsin.

The bus was full. At first everyone was quiet, but as time passed, a few people started talking to their seatmates or the folks across the aisle. I sat quietly and read a book.

As more time passed, passengers started getting restless. I could feel the shift in the energy as people started shifting their bodies.

When are we stopping? someone called up to the driver.

I need a smoke, someone else hollered to the front. The other smokers chimed in with agreement.

The bus driver named a town and said we weren’t stopping until then. The people who knew how far we were from that town groaned.

Knowing how far we were from cigarettes and food did nothing to soothe anyone’s agitation. If anything, people seemed more on edge.

We were on that bus for a long time. I know it’s hard for a smoker when the body says it’s time for a cigarette and s/he can’t have one, but everyone on the bus seemed to be growing increasingly disgruntled.

Then the women in front of me pulled out the fried chicken.

One of the women was young, early 20s probably, and the other was a senior citizen, so I pegged them as grandmother and granddaughter. These women obviously knew the ropes of long distance bus travel because they were prepared to provide for themselves if the bus went a long way without a stop.

The hungry travelers who were waiting for a stop at a restaurant or a truck stop or a convenience store were not happy with the aroma of chicken wafting through the bus. The rumbling of the passengers increased. Those women were braver than I was; I would have never risked my fried chicken with that crowd.

Girl, give me some that chicken! the man across the aisle demanded. I thought he might be ready to start what the future would know as The Great Greyhound Fried Chicken Riot.

The people in the nearby seats held their collective breath. Would the women share their chicken?

This is not a loaves and fishes sort of story. No miracle occurred. The fried chicken was not multiplied to feed everyone on that bus. The women did share even one piece.

I wish I could remember what sassy words the young woman snapped at the man, but they shut him up and slumped him down in his seat while everyone who heard the words laughed.

The women ate their chicken while the rest of us waited for the driver to get us to a place where we could eat too.

 

Greyhound Story #1 (Surprise!)

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When I got on the bus in the Midwestern college town, nearly all the seats were taken. I pushed my daypack into the overhead bin and looked at the woman stretched out across both seats below. She got the hint and pulled herself entirely into the window seat.

She was a white girl, younger than I was, probably in her early 20s. She had lank blond hair down to her shoulders and flat bangs. She had the blank face of someone who’d already been on the bus for a long time.

Our first rest break was at a truck stop deep in the flatlands of Kansas. I used a flush toilet in the truck stop in hopes of avoiding the smelly, swaying restroom on the bus, then filled my water bottle with ice from the soda machine. I saw my seatmate standing outside, drinking a Red Bull.

Once back on the bus, I read, listened to music through my headphones, and dozed as the prairie passed outside the windows. My seatmate had nothing to say.

We had another rest break before we hit Colorado. This time the bus stopped between a McDonald’s and a Taco Bell. I dutifully used the flush toilet, put ice in my bottle, and bought two bean burritos for my dinner. I took my food back on the bus and reclaimed my seat.

When my seatmate returned, she had a Red Bull in her hand.

Red Bull Energy Drink

I wonder where she had to go to get that, I thought as I stood up to let her back into her chair.

It was dark when we stopped again. I did my routine of restroom and ice, looking forward to closing my eyes and trying to get some sleep while the bus rolled through the night. When I returned to the bus, my seatmate was already there, yet another Red Bull in hand. I didn’t see how she’d be getting any sleep.

That’s when she started talking.

She was coming from Chicago or Des Moines or Omaha or one of those other big Midwestern cities. She was going to Utah, to Salt Lake City.

Her speech was rapid, choppy, evidence of all the caffeine coursing through her veins.

Her boyfriend was in Salt Lake City. He’d moved there. She was going to visit him, to surprise him. He didn’t know she was on her way.

I kept my mouth shut. There was no sense discouraging her now. However, I wondered if surprising a boyfriend who’d moved halfway across the country was such a good idea. What if my seatmate arrived to find him shacked up with another woman? What if she discovered him satisfying his previously secret bisexual curiosity? What if he was doing drugs or dealing drugs or cooking drugs and she walked into the middle of illegal activity? Personally, I wouldn’t want to surprise a boyfriend (or girlfriend) living in another state. I’d want to give a person fair warning if I was on my way.

I don’t remember how I managed to untangle myself from her. Maybe I just told her I needed to get some sleep. When I closed my eyes, hers were still open, staring out the window into the darkness, the land invisible in the night. Every time I woke up, she was in the same position.

We arrived in Denver to make our connections just as the sun began to peek over the horizon.

I must have gone to the ticket counter to find out which numbered door to line up in front of. Although my seatmate and I were both going to Salt Lake, we were standing in different lines.

She approached me, yet another can of Red Bull in her hand. She was screechy and twitchy from some combination of exhaustion and caffeine.

Why are you in this line? she demanded. Aren’t you going to Salt Lake City too?

I must have mentioned to her that I’d be passing through Salt Lake on my way to the Pacific Northwest. I couldn’t tell if she was worried about me being in the wrong line or if she was concerned for herself.

I explained I was in the line the woman at the ticket counter had told me to get in. I conjectured we were in different lines because her final destination was Salt Lake City, and I was just passing through. My explanation seemed to satisfy her, and she went back to stand with her luggage. Shortly, we boarded our separate busses, and I never saw her again.

I’ve always wondered what she found when she knocked on her boyfriend’s door.