April 17 II 2009
Atlanta loomed large and sleepy in late night, early morning orange street lamps. Their flickering orange lights highlighted my own reflection in uv darkened bus windows as I found myself spending more and more time simply staring out of them in the hopes it would make this trip go faster.
I don’t honestly remember much of Atalanta, although I remembered the bus station. I’d been through there before several times years ago in several different bus trips. The bus station in Atlanta seemed crowded as well as protected by the broken-teeth rows of old, abandoned factory buildings. Brick buildings everywhere, including the station itself. I was never so glad to get off a bus in my life, as I did not have to sit and smell the armpits of Stinky Australian man who sat behind me, the reeking pot stank of Fifteen Scent, or listen to the quiet snores of Mr. Nap who, whilst saving me from losing my bus ticket–really shouldn’t sleep on large, fat, tired geeky white women.
Atlanta was cold. Atlanta was colder than I’d expected; living in Florida had spoiled me rotten against winter. I had thought all those past months of complaining about how hot it was might actually do the opposite and help me embrace my long distant Canadian winter blood. Alas, this was not so. My teeth began chattering the moment I trundled off the bus and onto the ramp leading inside. Atlanta, however, gave me my first hour and a half at a station to do several things. Up until that time Grayhound had herded us on a bus, then herded us off, then herded us in stations, herded us in lines immediately and then called for boarding even if our tickets said 2 or more hour layover.
There are no showers or any other facilities past a toilet, sink and mirror in every Grayhound station I can remember, so I packed smart. Let me just tell you plainly at this very momoment–after two days on a bus surrounded by coughing, sneezing, farting, drinking, smoking, snotty people there is nothing quiet so awesome as a baby wipe bath. A baby wipe bath that you scrub so hard you emerge pink and squeaky. It was one of those moments where I realized how grateful I was to have a home with running water, a place to have a shower or bath if I wished.
I didn’t spend too long in there however, because as per usual with Grayhound, there was an immense line up for the Atlanta to St. Lois bus and by the size of the line? I knew boarding call was coming soon.
When we all trundled onto the bus, most of us were over tired, cold, exhausted and simply wanted to get back into our iron maiden chairs cleverly disguised as being bus seats. I didn’t pay much attention to the happy-go-lucky driver as I piled myself into a chair near the window and tried not to kill anyone with my uber-bag of emergency everything. As I was settling, I heard over the bus’ intercom, “Heh. Heh. Heh. ” I can only describe it as the most laid-back, cool, ‘heh’ I have ever heard in my life. Was it possible to make ‘heh’ sound both as awesome as the Fonz’ eyyyyyyyyyy and as funkin’ as Shaq’s theme song?
It was. It so was.
“Ladies n’ gentlemen, welcome to the big daaaawwwwg buslines,” mellow and drawn out, he took his time pronouncing each word and made sure to dramatically pause here so he could say, “also known as Grayhound, heh, heh, heh. Just want to inform ya’ll that there will be no smokin’ in this here couch,” pronounced: cowch. “There will be no ingestin’ of alchoholic beverages of any time. Please don’t smoke in the bathrooms, s’bad for ya’ll anyway.
“Before we go on our trip I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind you that while we are all together on this here cowch, we’re all just tryin’ to get some place. So let’s spread some love out there in the world today. We family, and I want ya’ll to treat one another like family. Ain’t nobody here to look after one another but each other, so remember that. Treat your fellow cowch passengers as you’d like to be treated, like y’treat your mom, your dad, your sister or loved one. This how we do it–how we start spreadin’ the love all over the place, in little spots like this, you know? Then it’ll get bigger and spread more.
“I’ll be your driver all the way to St. Lois, if you need anything please feel free to ask. Thank you for choosin’ the heh big daaawwwg, grayhound.”
He was without a doubt, one of the coolest and best driver’s I ever remember having. He walked up and down the aisles after to talk to everyone while we waited for refueling to finish, smiled and listened to people. When the trip got under way and it was time for some bus passengers to leave, he’d always remind them to ‘Spread th’ love,’ and thank them for riding the big dawg.
It didn’t seem to matter so much that the stranger sitting next to me kept elbowing my boob, or that the bus smelled like a salad of gas and shoes–I felt like perhaps there were pockets of hope scattered around the universe, just waiting for us to spread the love and reward us. That was the first time I was able to rest my head against the bus window and get several hours of sleep. The sleep was almost as glorious as the magnificent St. Lois Arch I was greeted with, awashed in the gray morning light of a cold rainy day.
I had one more day to go before arriving at Alberta. I was full of niave hope that the trip there might finally go without a hitch.
This is part III of a series of writings pertaining to Mel’s experiences traveling four days on a greyhound bus from Florida to Canada. Miss the first post? Why not read it: here? Check out the second post here