Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bus Ride

There's something alluring to me these days about riding the bus cross-country. I don't know just what it is, but there's something inside me that, when I think about being on a bus, evokes a sense of loneliness and a feeling of being down on one's luck, but not far enough down to have let it get the best of me. I want to explore those feelings, but with the security of knowing I'm not there...at least not yet.

Those are artificial senses and feelings, I know, because I am neither lonely (in the sense of having no one around me who cares) nor particularly down on my luck. I'm a 55 year old guy who owns my own little break-even business and who lives with my wife in a perfectly respectable middle-class neighborhood in north Dallas. I'm the epitome of a middle class, middle-American, white man with a mortgage and a growing belly.

Those traits notwithstanding, I want to feel what it's like to have to scrape by to take public transportation from city to city. I'm not asking for poverty and heartache, I'm just looking for an experience that might help me understand something more about just a few more of my fellow humans.

I suspect that my desire to ride the bus would be viewed as symptomatic of an emotional void of some kind, at least by some. Or I would be just another pitiful liberal with a capital "L" who wants to understand and even walk among the "little people." Or maybe I'd be seen as someone who needs to demonstrate that he has a "bond" with the blue collar working man who defines America.

The unfortunate thing is this: it may be that all those things are true. Or none of them. I just don't know. I can't explain in terms my wife can understand why I want to jump on a Greyhound and ride to Austin. No one else seems to "get it" any better than she does, or I do.

"Why would you want to get on the bus with a bunch of people, many of whom don't even speak English, and be stuck there for hours while they sweat? Wouldn't you rather be in a car, where you have control and can stop whenever you want?"

The answer is, 'sometimes, but not always.' There are plenty of times when I just want to get on a bus and go. Maybe I don't want to take a trip to Austin and then come back. Maybe I want to take a trip to the West. Maybe I want to buy a ticket to the next town, then buy another ticket to the town after that and then the one after that, but not leave a trail. Maybe I want to escape.

Riding a bus isn't what it once was, though. I remember riding a bus many years ago with two of my friends. We travelled from Corpus Christi to Dallas, with our parents' consent, on a Continental Trailways bus, I think. I remember an old man was kicked off the bus for groping children; it may have been us he was groping, but the memory is now long-since clouded. He was put off the bus in the middle of the nowhere. Of course there were no cell phones then. He was just suddenly on the roadside, left to his own devices. I don't think that would happen now. Everyone, almost, has a cell. But back then, the old guy probably got a ride quickly. Not so today; who picks up hitchhikers anymore?

Maybe I'm looking for experiences that are just no longer available. Maybe I'm wishing for a way of life that's gone. Maybe the bus ride is my attempt to travel to places that no longer exist, except in my mind.

Whatever the reason, whatever the emotional draw that the cross-country bus-ride has for me, I'm planning to take it, and soon. And then maybe I'll know enough about my emotions to write intelligently, and intelligibly, about them.

By the way, as I was exploring my senses about the bus, I came across this blog as a result of a search for "the allure of riding the bus." Read it; you'll like the blogger.


bev said...

It probably goes without saying, that if I were you, I'd just get a bus ticket and take off and go somewhere just for the hell of it -- without thinking too much about why I was doing it, or what anyone else would think of my motives, but you know that's just how I am. (-:
I have traveled a bit by bus up here in Canada and the part I don't care that much for is that, once in awhile, you get a really shitty driver. About 15 years ago, I traveled from Ottawa to Sudbury and back again a day later. I had a great bus driver on the first leg of the trip as far as North Bay. At that time (and perhaps even now), you took a Voyageur bus as far as North Bay, then switched to Greyhound to go on to Sudbury or further west. Anyhow, the Greyhound driver from North Bay to Sudbury was a bit fast, but acceptable. On the way back, we had another great driver on the Greyhound as far as North Bay. However, on the homestretch, a distance of perhaps 200 miles, we had this incredibly shitty driver on the Voyageur bus. He would drive like a nut case between towns, and then park and run into a roadside truck stop for coffee and a cigarette or two (a couple of passengers took it upon themselves to investigate). He kept doing this and was making our schedule get further and further behind. But much worse, his driving was so scary and atrocious that all of the passenger were really getting freaked out. The roads coming down from North Bay aren't particularly wonderful, so you usually take them a bit conservatively. Not this guy. On the winding, hilly sections, he would be going so fast that people's luggage was falling off the racks above our heads and sliding down the aisle. Some people actually got off the bus way before their towns as they were so frightened by this guy. I and a friend and some people who had come all the way east from Calgary, remained on the bus all the way to Ottawa -- against my better judgement. Once we got to the 4-lane section of highway from Arnprior to Ottawa, we thought this guy's driving wouldn't be such an issue. How wrong. He tried to make up for all of the time lost in the truck stops. He would race up behind cars on the freeway and start laying on the horn like he was driving an ambulance or something, until the cars ahead of him scattered and let him by. I seriously wondered if we would arrive at our destination alive. It was one of the scariest three hours that I can remember having to endure. If there had been anywhere to stop and stay on the way down from North Bay, there's no way I would have stayed on the bus, but it's kind of a desolate stretch of road. Anyhow, I think that trip took away any interest I may have had in bus travel. If not that, then reading about the insane passenger who killed the guy in the seat next to him on a Greyhound bus in Manitoba last year.
Still, I think bus travel can be interesting -- probably a good place to strike up some interesting conversations.

bev said...

I see that the URL of that link didn't come out right. Actually, if you are thinking of taking a bus trip, maybe you'd be better off not reading this story. Pretty scary and morbid. However, here's the URL. I'll paste it in two parts which you'll have to stick together.

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Well I for one, would love to read about your bus expoits. If a busride provides anything, it's plenty of blog fodder.


Springer Kneeblood said...

Bev, I think you're trying to dissuade me! : ) Seriously, you had some horrendous experiences. But mine might be better. We'll see!

I promise to write, Ellie, about my exploits.

For the moment, though, I have to delay my trip. My sister in Houston is in the hospital and I'm off to see her, via plane, tomorrow, in the hopes I can help and be her advocate.

bev said...

Sorry to hear about your sister. Hope all is well. It is good that you'll be with her. About the bus trip -- no, not trying to dissuade you at all. Every day is an adventure, and the bus trip would be yet another.