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A Romance with Greyhound
Amy Thorpe
Every bus trip is different in it’s own little way.

There is just something so romantic about riding the bus. Any bus. When it comes up to the terminal and you see that it is your bus ready to load passengers, there’s a certain excitement bubbling up within you. You know that it’s time to go and you may be going to someplace that you’ve been to a thousand times before, but there is always that uncertainty about changes and what may happen on the way there. Every bus trip is different in it’s own little way.

I distinctly remember my first trip on Greyhound. I was nine years old, going from San Jose, CA, to Sacramento, to see my dad. I didn’t really know what to expect. When I was dropped off at the station, there was so much confusion; I wondered why my parents were putting me on a bus and not driving me themselves. I mean, we’ve driven to San Jose numerous times; it was only about 2 hours or so. But I got on apprehensively and the driver pulled out of the station and I was on my way.
I was on maybe 5 minutes and I didn’t know what to do. So I pulled out a book and started reading. Then the driver asked me where I was going. I told him and he seemed to take an interest in making sure nobody bothered me. Nobody bothered me the whole trip. I got off in Sacramento with no problems to report to my dad. It was actually an enjoyable experience and I couldn’t wait to do it again. I got that chance a month later.

Quite a few years later, I had to take the bus again. This time it was from Tacoma, WA, to Roseburg, OR, to go to Job Corps, which was about 35 miles outside of town. That trip was a little more exciting- I was older, 18 to be exact, a little wiser and was hoping to meet a few people that were going to the same Job Corps center I was. I was lucky; I did meet a few people. We sat there for 6 hours swapping horror stories of what was going to happen to us when we first got there. We also tried getting some beer, at a stopover, from some guy in Vancouver, WA, but to no avail. We got back on the bus, disappointed, but still wondering what was in store for us. Those last two hours from Eugene to Roseburg, were the scariest. We were getting close and it was too late to break free. We were doomed!

The bus pulled in to the Roseburg station and a staff member from our awaiting Job Corps center was there, with a big goofy grin on his face. As soon as we stepped out and got our luggage, he made us circle around him and he welcomed us and told us not to worry, all the rumors we heard were not true. He also told us that the first couple of weeks are kind of rough, but not in a bad kind of way. "Adjusting takes time," he said, "Sure, some of them will try to ‘get you’, but don’t sweat it." His words didn’t make it any better! But, I will say, when we got there, it wasn’t so bad, I adjusted, and it was the best year of my life.

Some trips, though, are ones I wish I never did. I didn’t really have a choice with one of them. I had just gotten out of the army, eight months pregnant and was thoroughly convinced they would get me a plane ticket. Not so! They gave me a bus ticket from Ozark, AL, to San Francisco, CA. This made me very angry and I tried to dispute it with the traveling office, but to no avail. So, I took the ticket, thankful that I was getting away from the military and waited for the day I had to leave.
The closer it got, I was actually getting excited about it. I was going through country I had never seen before. I really thought it couldn’t be that bad, despite my big belly in the way and transferring luggage.

The day arrived. I waited almost an hour in Ozark and here comes my bus, bound for Birmingham, my first transfer. I had no problems getting my bags on the underside and my big-bellied self into a seat. All seemed well for almost half the trip and then I got to El Paso, TX.
There was chaos everywhere! There weren’t any baggage people around and I had to go to the bathroom - bad! So, begrudgingly, I gathered up my bags, found a locker and went to freshen up. When I got out, there were no free seats. My feet or ankles didn’t hurt, and I had a couple of hours to kill, so I walked around town. There wasn’t much to see or do; this was about six in the evening and most things were closed. I debated going into Mexico, but decided not to for fear of missing my bus, if I got too preoccupied.

I walked back, got my stuff out of the locker and sat down until they started lining us up. I was one of the last people in the line. I had to drag all my bags over to the line, and stand there for about 20 minutes. By this time, my feet were hurting, and I really wished I hadn’t brought so much stuff with me. By the time I got to the front of line to get my ticket checked, I was so relieved! A nice gentleman took my bags, put them under the bus, and I walked up the little stairs… There were no free seats! Nobody even bothered to move, either. Finally after a couple of minutes, a woman got up, gave me her seat and got off the bus. Next thing I know, the driver comes on there, giving us a lecture on giving up seats for people with children, the elderly, pregnant women and disabled people.

Everybody just kind of sat there, in a hushed silence, for a few seconds. The woman didn’t come back on, despite a few more people getting off. I don’t know if she took the next bus or what, but I thought her telling the driver of how inconsiderate people could be, was really valiant of her. I felt bad, of course, I could have done it myself, but at least I knew that there were some people that really cared for other’s people welfare, especially when traveling.

The rest of the trip went pretty well. The Los Angeles stopover was kind of a pain - it was almost four hours long, but I got through it and arrived in San Francisco ten hours later with no problems. I had to make the same trip again, on the same route, going back to Alabama. That trip went pretty smoothly. When I got back I vowed never to ride the bus again, at least not while I was pregnant.

I’m not very good with holding promises, though. About a year and a half later, I had to take the bus to from Ozark, again, to Birmingham to catch a flight going to Oakland, CA. My son, a little over a year old, was going with me this time, but he’s a good traveler. I started thinking of all that could go wrong. My trip when I was pregnant with him brought back some bad memories. The trip went well, though, and my son loved looking out the window. My faith was restored in Greyhound, just from being on this four-hour trip. There is just something romantic about catching the bus, sitting on it for hours at a time, the stopovers, everything. Try it sometime! The experience may prove to be as romantic for you as it is for me.

© Amy Thorpe November 2002

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