April 16th, 2009. 2:00 am – 9:00 am.
Earlier on the 15th when we arrived at the Orlando Greyhound bus station, I was in for a mightly surprise.
For three hours on the first evening when I started my trip I was literally in heaven. The bus was sparsely populated and I had two bus seats of my own to easily stretch out across. The bus, while not being new was at least relatively clean enough and it was quiet. All that changed in Orlando.
Inside the bus station was pretty much standing room only. Every seat had been taken and lines that spanned from the Greyhound boarding doors facing the parking garage, to the front entrance door spanned the building. Children were hot, bothered, cranky and screaming from within their mothers clutches. Some of them weren’t even held within their mothers clutches, they ran willynilly within the bus terminal stepping on other peoples luggage and screaming shrilly until it bounced off white-tiled walls. There may have been an air conditioner inside the Orlando bus terminal, but the humidity from everyone packed together exhaling, sweating as well as generating body heat made it as useless. Every face of nearly every person inside was twisted in some semblance of exhaustion or outright blank, soulless, oh-god-why-the-hell-did-I-take-the-bus expression.
After what seemed like the millionth time some kid kicked over my suitcase, I decided to retreat to the outside in hopes of finding some relief from the bleak, unusual hell also known as ‘inside the bus terminal’. The outside was little better than the inside of the terminal. Lined from one end of the curved single lane drive way meant for pick ups, to the other, were yellow taxis. Weaving in between the taxis were men and women begging to use stranger’s cell phones and spare cigarettes (because every 20 pack comes with an extra 5 dontcha know!).
Nearing boarding time, I head back inside thinking I might return to the sweet, sweet cave of a sparsely populated Greyhound bus from Orlando to Atlanta, Georgia.
How I was wrong. So, so, so wrong.
The line for the Orlando to Atlanta bus? It was one of those lines from one end of the terminal to the other. By the time I got myself in the right cattle-loading-lane, I was very near the end with a handful of other stragglers that moped about at the back of the line with me.
One was a young Australian fellow who I learned shortly would be traveling with me all the way from Orlando, FL, to Calgary, Canada. With me and the Aussie at the back of the line was an immense man who was a dead ringer for Michael Clarke Duncan, right down to the laugh. He made a quip about not fitting into the seats because he was so very tall and I made a quip about not fitting in the seats due to being very fat. He laughed, loudly, his voice definitely tipping toward basso. As I picked up my 49 pound bag of clothing, my second over-the-shoulder back of food, supplies, books and ipod as well as my camera bag…I once again thought, aw, well, maybe things are looking up despite the line!
That brief flicker of hope was cruelly snuffed when we were sardine packed within the Orlando to Atlanta bus to full capacity. No seat was left empty, no space in the above storage compartments that was not crammed full until it creak-groaned over every little bump. I was stuck one seat directly in front of the Aussie fellow I had met in Orlando, and my seat partner was an Arabic gentlemen who spoke perhaps a handful of words in English.
As the second night wore on, I realized that the Aussie, whom I had thought earlier I might offer him some ribbon candy to see if he’d get into my van marked: Candy–(He was cute and young. Put him on roller skates and I would have called him Meals on Wheels.) –smelled like three year old sweaty gym socks and ass cheese. The scent was wafting over me as the buses air circulation system kept blowing this unwashed, ass cheese, pit fungus scent like a drill directly up my nose holes. To make things worse, every time he lifted his arms a wave of death would arise out of the dark cesspools he called armpits. I literally spent the next two hours until the Aussie went to sleep (where he finally lowered his arms… ) struggling not to gag loudly. The icing on the cake was that the Arabic fellow who seated himself next to me fell asleep. He fell asleep on me.
I spent the next mind-numbing moments attempting to pretzel-fold my fat ass into a wafer thin greyhound seat and jostling Mr. Nap beside me so I could get comfortable. I didn’t get a wink of sleep. Every time I thought I would, the bus stopped, Mr. Nap fell asleep and slid over until his unconscious body hit mine–or someone decided to sneeze and not cover their mouths whilst doing so, spraying the people nearest them with a soup of spitsnot. To make attempts at sleep a bit more interesting at night; every single stop the bus made to pick up someone or drop them off the bus driver flicked on the lights. Now, I understand why they have to do this. Some schmuck would probably sue Greyhound if they ever tripped in the dark and got themselves a hang nail on the way down. But I am not sure those of you unfamiliar with traveling a bus at night, understand just how special these lights are. At night, these lights are like a thousand white-hot melty plastic stir-sticks jabbing into your eye to tickle or dislodge pieces of your brain stem. They are retina raping lights! And every stop the bus driver flicked them on for seconds to illuminate the newest member of this ride to hell on their way to their seat. One of these pupil violating stops picked up a half-drunk, horse faced beauty with limp brown hair.
The moment she stepped on the bus she was so goddamn loud you could literally hear her thinking. She settled down in her seat, which as fate would cackle about it, was one row away from being directly across from mine and behind Michael Clarke Duncan Clone’s seat. In the span of an hour, the entire bus learned this woman’s sex life, how much she liked to drink, where she lived, what she thought about “ignorant fucks who walk down the aisle with their elbows out,” and what kind of underwear she was wearing. As time appeared to limp like a freshly struck-by-a-car deer toward morning, I had visions of strangling her dancing in my head. Delicious, slow motion visions. At 1:30 am when the bus had stopped at a convenience store, she informed the entire bus she was not fucking sleeping, no way then trundled on in to purchase an arm load of energy drinks. As everyone boarded again, they settled in some semblance of quiet. I assume Crazy Loud Lady could not abide silence of any kind because At 2:00 am precisely she burst into “99 BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL! 99 BOTTLES OF BEER! TAKE ONE DOWN, PASS IT AROUND, 98 BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL.” To which, the Huge Michael Clarke Duncan look alike lead the majority of the bus in a hearty: shut the fuck up, it’s two in the morning! I felt the sting of proud tears prick my eyelids as I once again attempted to sleep snapped in half against the window.
I couldn’t do it–I couldn’t grasp hold of this beautiful, illusive creature called sleep so I dug around in the carry on bag I had stuffed full of random-bus-things for twenty minutes in the dark to find some of the cashews I was sure I had packed. On a whim, and because Arabic Mr. Nap was still awake, I offered him some cashews to eat. I think he said no thank you, and I continued to juggle the thought of committing seppaku on a packed bus.
I’m glad I offered Mr. Nap the Cashews. As we reached Atlanta and the lights clicked on for the last time, I was in a hurry to get the fuck off that bus. I wanted to stretch my legs, run around in the strange, alien cold that Atlanta had and get away from Crazy Loud Mouth Lady and Mr. Nap. As I was almost ready to step into the aisle with all my bags and leave the bus, Mr. Nap took hold of my elbow and pointed to the floor. In heavily accented English he said, “Is that your ticket?” In a panic I whirled about and look down. Sure enough! It was my ticket laying on the floor. It had fallen out of my bag with my earlier squirrel-digging when I was looking for my cashews. I swooped down and picked it up in a hurry and thanked him profusely.
So day 2 of my 4 day Greyhound ordeal was nearing to a close and I had already learned two valuable lessons:
- Don’t give Crazy Loud Ladies energy drinks and
- remember to offer cashews to whomever naps on you encase you drop your ticket.
This trip was looking more and more fanfuckingtastic as it went!
This is part II 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?
Credit for Stock photography in this article: bingevil-stock, prognar, lordmanchae,