It seemed like a good idea at the time. Saving Mike a 3 hour drive each way, I elected to try the famous Greyhound bus on a trip to Dallas from Abilene to catch my flight.
Fumbling with my phone and fat fingers had me booking a cheap $45 seat for the correct date but next month! A 15 minute phone call to someone in Venezuela resulted in a $20 dollar penalty to change it 10 minutes later.
Having not travelled by bus for 25 years I was not prepared for the culture shock. Mike dropped me off at the ‘bus station” at the local 7Eleven. The waiting lounge consisted of a rusting car port with a few steel seats and no walls. It gets well below freezing here in winter so who knows how many passengers they lose before the bus arrives.
I knew that I was in Texas when idly looking up at the rusted notices I saw “Under Texas Regulation 411 (b) it is illegal to carry more than one hand gun on public transport”
The 7Eleven which serves as the depot was manned by a black guy who I first took to be one of the range of beggars in this part of town. He was dressed in baggy shorts and a dirty black shirt 4 sizes too big for him hanging out but I did spot the small “Greyhound” logo on the pocket.
Taking a seat in the carport I prepared to wait the 30 minutes before the bus arrived. I have travelled extensively and am a fair judge of appearances (always a risky assumption) and can say without a doubt that none of my fellow travellers would be booking first class on their next flight to Monte Carlo.
It is human nature to bond together in times of trial and soon the 5 of us became a family. I eventually found out Rene and Leroy had both been released from prison that day and were holding a government issued ticket to take them home to a life on the straight and narrow. Terry, a 60 year old retired Hells Angel with one leg and a flowing Father Xmas beard was most impressive with his extensive tattoos. I never did find out the name of drug-man with his rotten teeth and inability to finish a sentence with out bursting into giggling.
Drug-man went inside to get his regular 15 minute can of Red Bull and managed to relay to us that our bus, due in 5 minutes had not left Sweetwater and was still an hour away. He had better news for Terry, Rene and Leroy that their west-bound bus was delayed 4 hours. No word directly from the Greyhound agent.
During this time I managed to decipher that drug-man was going home to Wichita Falls to “clear his name” and voluntarily enter an 8 month rehabilitation program to get his wife and kids back – good luck! Terry told me he had unsurprisingly lost his leg in a bike accident, Rene had done 9 months for repeated car stealing but Leroy had a bit of class and did 6 months for stealing high level pedigree dogs to order and transporting them across State Lines.
90 minutes late, the bus finally rolled in. The geriatric driver slowly gathered his bags and headed into the sunset while the 50 government welfare recipients and illegal Mexican families with 5 kids each disembarked for the twenty minute stop to restock their supplies of 2 litre Coke cups, packets of crisps the size of pillow cases and bags of various sweets for the kids.
Another geriatric driver appeared from the back room of the 7Eleven and climbed into the bus, climbed out again, then started fiddling with his phone. Meanwhile the more seasoned travellers, fully aware of Greyhound timetables, had wandered across the freeway, with no hope of returning in the 20 minute window, to get more nourishing 1,500 calories triple cheese with Jalapeno hamburgers.
45 minutes later everybody was sitting back in their seats staving off death from starvation while drug-man and I stood at the door with our tickets waiting. The new driver was wandering back and forward texting and looking worried.
In the absence of the agent I walked up to the driver to ask what was going on. It appears because the bus was so late he had run out of driving hours for the day and they were trying to get another off-duty driver from his grand-kid’s birthday party in Abilene to throw on his uniform and come to drive us all to our destination.
Eventually, only 2 ½ hours late, the reserve driver appeared and had a long conference with the proper driver. Both walked up and down the aisle counting seats.
Now, you can not make this stuff up. The following is absolutely true!
The new driver stepped down from the door and said “Who is first, we only have one seat” I nearly fell over. Drug-man was first and he got on. The driver, a very gentlemanly black geriatric, was obviously embarrassed. I quite forcefully put my case that I was getting on an International flight first thing in the morning.
The conversation went like this:
“ The Mexican families have 5 kids but only pay for 4 but it is impossible to count them because they spread all over the bus, mixed up, with none speaking English. We know your seat is in there somewhere but we cannot find it”
“I will stand up in the toilet, so long as I get on. Can’t we get a mother to hold a little one?”
“ I understand your problem and it is our fault. The toilet is out of service, would you really be prepared to sit there to get to Dallas? If so you can ride, it is illegal because you have no seat belt but it will get you there.”
So only 3 hours late, with nobody even commenting on this turn of events, I took my seat on the toilet, with the door clipped open, right at the back of the bus. There were a few raised eyebrows and some incoherent shouts from my pal drug-man to give me my money back but we were on the road!
It was now approaching midnight as we cruised towards Dallas on our 3 hour journey. I was dozing off comfortably wedged on the toilet seat when there was a bang and I opened my eyes. Nothing! Absolutely no light. My God, I have gone blind!
I reached out and found the door not only shut but appeared to be jammed. It was only a light door and I could bend it but it was stuck in the bottom corner with a bit of cloth. Pushing hard I managed to spring it open. Three feet away in the back seat I could make out in the light of the passing traffic a girl with her dress up around her waist straddling her partner. In her enthusiasm she had pushed the toilet door for leverage unlatching it and locking me in.
In the dull light I held up the cloth that had jammed the door to see a pair of lace knickers.