Sunday, July 13, 2008
The Basset Hound
Ahh, the Greyhound. What other mode of transportation is as inherently capable of providing the full spectrum of emotional response to its customers?
Is their any other experience in this world capable of simultaneously eliciting shock, fatigue, hilarity, aggravation, and awe? If there is, I don’t know about it. Allow me to provide some highlights from the two day journey Justin, Aaron, and I underwent less than one month ago. The one area of this bus ride I am unable to do justice is the time in between all these events I am listing. Sleep deprivation and confusion were the common theme throughout the following experiences.
The Bearded Traveler- (Salt Lake City hub, June 10th 7 p.m.) This wispily-bearded, well fed vagabond immediately caught our attention. Around one dozen, half inch to inch long gray hairs sprouted randomly from beneath the chin of this specimen. Deciding whether our fellow traveler lacked a mirror or self-consciousness took a backseat when the words being belched from its scraggly maw revealed a feminine voice! The three of us set aside our reservations and engaged this bearded beauty in conversation about what was to be expected from our impending bus ride. She gave us all a false sense of hope about the Greyhound when she informed us she rides the Greyhound around the country for fun now that she’s retired. She also informed us we weren’t guaranteed a seat, at any point, throughout the entire trip. Awesome.
Pot in the Pot- (somewhere in Wyoming, June 10th 11 p.m.) I decide to strategize and get some Z’s, since this might knock off eight or nine hours of our forty-five hour journey. Justin lets me connect my earphones to his iPod, and I begin dozing off to whatever he decides to play. This “I wish I was black, but I’m not” white guy sitting across from Aaron gets up from his seat, bumping my shoulder. I open my eyes just in time to see him pull his grossly oversized Ecko jeans back up over his butt and saunter into the lavatory. I close my eyes again, trying to focus on the music in my ears. After several minutes I hear the lavatory door click open over the sweet sounds of Joe Satriani’s guitar. I immediately begin mentally preparing myself for whatever foul odor Eminem decides to produce in the community shit pit. I was hit by a familiar smell, but it wasn’t what I expected. Within moments, the back of the bus was filled with marijuana smoke! Vanilla Ice swaggered back to his seat, and handed his buddy a pipe and the scenario repeats. Crazy.
Mr. Grey Hound- (Laramie Wyoming, June 11th 3 a.m.) At this point, we’ve all decided sleep isn’t possible on the Greyhound. The sights, sounds, and smells are more than enough to prevent sleep; and the journey has barely started. The three of us are still in good spirits though, and laugh at the fact we’ve been traveling eight hours and are only in Laramie. We stop at a gas station for food. Upon leaving, our nicely groomed, graying bus driver begins to hallucinate! Just when the driver began pulling out on to the street, he immediately slammed on the brakes and sprang to his feet. He wheeled around, facing all of us passengers. With his face contorted in rage, he exclaimed, “Who’s got the radio!?!? I can hear a radio! Whoever gots the radio is bouncing!” The bus was silent. Mr. Grey Hound, as we dubbed him, grumbled something and huffed back to the driver seat. No less than ten seconds on the road, Mr. Grey Hound sends his passengers catapulting forward in their seats as he punches the brakes and slams the bus into park. Grey Hound screams, “That’s it! I can hear a radio! (There was complete silence, no radio by the way) Who’s playing that Mexican music on their radio? There are NO personal radios on this bus! Who was it? They’re getting kicked off right now!” Nobody volunteered themselves, and rightly so. An aging hippy sitting next to us who just happened to be carrying a huge drum (weird in itself) quietly complained about how this feels like juvenile reform school. A few of us laughed quietly, so as not to upset Grey Hound. Again, Grey Hound emphasizes, “There are no radios on the bus! You guys are all assholes!” This insane man entrusted with our lives storms back to his seat, throws it into drive and hits the gas heading towards Denver. Bizarre.
Denver Delirium- (Denver, Colorado, June 11th 7 a.m.) It’s been just under twenty-four hours since we’ve had any actual sleep. We have a brief layover in Denver, so we decide to freshen up the best we can. Aaron takes his toothbrush in to the bathroom while Justin and I watch our stuff. Moments later, Aaron comes out looking every bit as perplexed as he was entertained. He began speaking of an alternate reality, complete with short men in high tops, long range pissing contests, ‘in sink’ showers, nearly naked hobos, and a happy fat man soaping his shirtless gut, while needlessly raising one arm overhead. “Yeah right, he’s exaggerating,” I thought to myself. I grab my toothbrush and head on in, bearing witness to the exact scenario Aaron just described. I’ll tell you, it is so much more vivid when you can actually see this weird crap than have it explained to you. The happy fat man was still scrubbing his stomach with his arm whipping about over his head, short men in high tops were scampering about, a shirtless man was standing a yard and a half away from the urinal (he was accurate), and several others were all but naked while feverishly washing multiple body parts in the bathroom sink. Undaunted, yet amazed, I found an unoccupied sink and brushed my teeth. I walked out of the Colorado Carnival to tell Justin, who, lo and behold, confirmed the exact same scenario Aaron and I saw! Seriously, how long did these Bathroom Ironmen dance their uncanny, intricate dance?
Boredom ad Infinitem- (Middle America, who knows, who cares) We are passengers being held against our will. This isn’t travel, this is torture. Are we being carted off to a death camp? Why does everything smell like either piss or French fries?!? For the record, Kansas bears the most God forsaken stretches of asphalt, replete with absolutely no scenery aside from people that look like farm animals, and those Amish sheeple that came aboard at some point. Kansas is not a state of this nation; it is a state of despair. I hate Kansas. If you’re from Kansas, I hate you too.
Sinister St. Louis- (St. Louis, Missouri, June 12th 2 a.m.) We are now nearing two full days of no sleep. We pull up to the St. Louis hub, and the driver that relieved Grey Hound prattles on about something historic that relates to the St. Louis hub. The driver then gives the most confusing, illogical, directionless directions as to what bus we needed to connect with, and then immediately herds us off into the Sinister St. Louis hub. Remember how Bosnian architecture looked during the whole Serbs/Bosnian/Croat debacle in the mid-90’s? Fire bombed, gray cement buildings surrounded by barbed wire and concertina wire, right? This was our bus hub we were to enjoy for our two hour layover. So the three of us grab our stuff, and head in through the razor metal partitioning civilized society from the dungeon we were about to enter. Two dozen extras from Boyz In The Hood scowled at us as we walked through half a dozen cops stationed outside the hub. A female traveler wanted to go across the street for some KFC, but was stopped by one of the officers, who warned her she can’t leave the hub otherwise she’ll be killed. Good to know. We make our way inside the hub itself, which, from the inside, looks more like a dilapidated Egyptian dwelling. I guess that’s the history drivel our bus driver was proudly professing to us. Anyway, for some reason Justin looks like he’s going to die. He is sweating, has dilated pupils, wide-eyed, and wears a nervous expression. He has difficulty communicating with us. Aaron and I laugh. It’s time to leave for our next bus. We begin trying to make sense out of where we need to go. Nobody seems to know. We ask Greyhound employees. They all seem to know, but they all have different answers. We gamble, and choose “Bus 3.” We were right.
Lessons from the Underworld- (Maybe Kentucky, Maybe Tennessee, June 12th 4 a.m.) Still… no… sleep. Justin and Aaron are sitting together; I have to sit several seats away next to this kid I can barely understand. A doped up Southerner speaking nothing but Ebonics to a sleep deprived, delirious white boy from Utah makes for some communication problems. He pulls out a switch blade, and begins twirling it between his fingers. Great. I look back at Justin and Aaron, but they don’t notice. For the next hour, my eyes are transfixed on this guy’s knife while my mind plays out what I’ll do if he goes for my neck or something. Finally, I do what I do best and begin talking to him. Nice enough guy, once my mind is able to translate his gibberish. I ask him about the knife. He tells me, “Playa, you gots protek yo’ self on dis bus! Foo’s rob yo’ ass, whi’-boy!” I ask him how he knows this. He goes on to inform me that just before the three of us got on in SLC, a passenger got off in Boise who was robbed at gun point at the Portland bus hub! This was why he had his knife out. We soon made friends, but I was starting to really hit the wall of exhaustion. I don’t remember details from the rest of our conversations, but I assure you they were odd. He had a flashing hat that lit up the entire bus, horrible breath, and loved playing me all the ring tones on his phone. This lasted for hours.
Thoughts- At some point, Justin, Aaron, and I reached our final destination and had an awesome time at Bonnaroo. So many awesome memories. The thing is, we will never forget the memories from the Greyhound ride. I dubbed the Greyhound, “The Basset hound” because it’s actually slow and awkward. Aaron called it the “pit bull,” dangerous and unpredictable. He wins. Will I ever ride the Greyhound again? Definitely not. Do I regret taking the Greyhound? Definitely not. What an experience!