Thursday, November 22, 2007

A First I would Like to Forget

SayUncle mentions a couple of firsts he experienced this week; one was listening to our podcast on the Second Amendment with Bob Levy and the other was going to the local Greyhound station in Knoxville. The latter first is amazing to me, given that in the earlier part of my life, I spent a great deal of time at the Greyhound bus station going various places and can't imagine never having spend even one day at the local bus terminal. A trip at nineteen was the most memorable bus ride I can remember. I rode back from San Francisco to Knoxville on a Greyhound bus and it was one of the worst experiences of my life.

The ride was three days long and I sat next to a woman eating fried chicken for a day and a half. She made no qualms about taking up part of my seat and I sat slumped to one side for most of the ride trying to sleep in the middle of the night. I spent a day just going through Texas and have no fond memories of the place--you will understand this if you have experienced the seamy side of small towns on a bus for days at a time. I was traveling with a friend but the bus was packed and we could not get a seat together. At one point on the trip, people were standing in the aisle and had no seats. This led to some pretty grumpy behavior that soon turned ugly.

The driver stopped at one Texas town and told everyone to get off to eat and that we had only 45 minutes. "If you are not back on the bus, I'm leaving without you," he groused. The passengers herded off like cattle and went to find a fast food place for lunch. My friend and I got some food and got back on the bus, fearful that we would be left behind. At exactly 45 minutes to the second, the bus driver pulled out to the dismay of several passengers whose comrads had not come back to the bus. The driver took off and the passengers became irate and started accusing the driver of being prejudiced--the passengers he left were black and the driver was white. One passenger then stated that he was hijacking the bus, pulled a knife and starting yelling at those of us who were seated. My friend and I had been through such hell on that bus at that point that we looked up with boredom and tried to go back to sleep. The driver pulled into a police station that was nearby and the "hijacker" was taken off the bus and our ride continued. After this experience, I swore I would never ride a bus again, but I did and had a number of other adventures that I will not bore you with.

My bus riding days are pretty much over, and I doubt that I will ride a Greyhound again, but after my last airplane flight, I can honestly say that I can't really tell the differece between an airplane and a bus with wings.



Blogger DADvocate said...

Your experience reminds me of a segment of the book "Black Me" where a white man darkens his skin and travels through the South as a black man. During his adventures he takes a bus trip and describes a stop much like the one you had.

11:37 AM, November 22, 2007  
Blogger KG2V said...

Heh - I rode Trailways - once. Saw the level of customer etc, and decided from then on - if the only choice I had to get somewhere was to take the bus, I'd stay where I was

11:50 AM, November 22, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

25 years ago I was traveling on a bus from Montreal to Quebec City once at 2AM. A man pulled a knife on the driver, the driver managed to kick the man off the -20 degrees F with the wind gusting, in the middle of nowhere by a frozen lake. I wonder if anyone ever found that body. Buses aren't for everyone.

12:40 PM, November 22, 2007  
Blogger Helen said...


Your story has sure got mine beat! No, buses are not for everyone. I haven't ridden one in years so I don't know if they are better or worse than they used to be and am not sure I am willing to ride one to find out.

12:45 PM, November 22, 2007  
Blogger Jungle Jim said...

I always thought it would be a bad idea to ride a bus for any long trip. I'm glad you confirmed my suspicion, Helen.

Driving isn't bad, if you can afford the gas.

7:56 PM, November 22, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Buses ... I rode them as a teen, rode them a lot. Sometimes good experiences, sometimes bad. No hijackings though.

4:24 AM, November 23, 2007  
Blogger LZ said...

Third world countries usually offer the best bus riding stories, but these are pretty good.

10:03 AM, November 23, 2007  
Blogger Cham said...

Here is my favorite bus story for everyone's amusement. Back in 1980 I was busy completing my final exams one semester while I was in college. My university had a strict policy about having the dorms vacant immediately after finals, so after I finished my last exam I had barely 15 minutes to vacate the premises and go somewhere else. I went to the bus station in Albany and had barely 5 minutes to catch a bus to NYC. Once at Port Authority at midnight I found that if I hurried I could catch the next bus to DC. I was successful with my quest but realized during my journey that due to the constraints of travel and exams that I had not eaten since 10AM that day. I was overwrought with hunger.

In 1980 Port Authority at midnight was no exactly the most welcoming place for a petite blond tiny college student. Race relations weren't exactly what they are today. I boarded the DC bus only to look back at the passengers and all I saw were eyes and teeth, and none of them seemed friendly. So I placed myself in the seat behind the driver and hoped for the best.

Many people boarded that bus, all were black and none seemed to want to sit next to the lone white girl. Greyhounds had 44 seats and this bus had 43 passengers. The only available seat when we pulled out of Port Authority was next to me. I thought this was going to work out well figuring I might be awfully hungry but maybe I could stretch out and get some sleep.

As the bus pulled out of the station we heard a horrible scream. An extremely large fat black woman holding several shopping bags and wearing a hat that could have been a sombrero had it not been bright pink was yelling at the bus to stop. I prayed the driver would keep going.

Alas, I wasn't lucky, he stopped. The lady boarded the bus, she looked at the empty seat and then looked far and wide for another empty seat, of which there was none. I still remember how my body was slammed against the sidewall of the bus as she wedged herself into the seat next to me. I tried to adjust myself in a position so that there might be room for my shoulder blades.

The lady exchanged pleasantries with the driver and then looked over at me. She said, "My you are a skinny little thing." I didn't see the point in being flip because I knew I was grossly outnumbered so I smiled and tried to look inconspicuous.

Then that big fat black lady said those magic words, "Are you hungry?" I brightened up considerably. Then she said, "I've been cooking all afternoon, I've got fried chicken, potato salad, sweet potatoes and apple pie."

The next thing you know my lower extremities were being covered with a white table cloth and a bus buffet was before me. We had a delicious meal that lasted for 3 hours until we pulled into DC at 3AM.

Good times, my friends, good times.

1:56 PM, November 23, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

Dadvocate, I think it is called "Black Like Me" and I have read it before, but I don't remember the bus scene.

I just watched Ray last night (I'll be doing a post on it later today) and I was suprised that during the 1960s Ray Charles was banned for life, but then in 1979 they used his version of "Georgia on my Mind" as their state song.

2:29 PM, November 23, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

Cham, that is a happy ending to what seemed like a scary situation.

2:31 PM, November 23, 2007  
Blogger Darleen said...

youngest daughter came home from San Francisco State Univ to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving via the (new in the USA) Megabus company. Not only was it cheap, but quick and she said the seats were very comfy....much more than her few more expensive flights between Frisco and LA.

2:49 PM, November 23, 2007  
Blogger Sid said...

1987. Dallas, TX to Monterey, CA to report for duty at Fort Ord.

There were some weird fellow passengers. Some gentle people as well. Some would not shut up.

Worst part about the bus service was the lack of food service or options. If the bus stopped in Lostovershoe, your choices were Mel's Leftovers and the vending machine.

Never, ever considered riding the bus again.

7:16 PM, November 23, 2007  
Blogger 1charlie2 said...

Rode the dog a lot of times back in the 80's. Never a touristy experience. But, like Southwest Airlines, once I knew what to expect, it wasn't really horrible.

Most memorable was a trip back in '82 or '83. From Chicago, as I recall, and it would have been to either Denver or Austin.

I swear I had no idea that the Grateful Dead were playing that city then. . . the bus was jammed, and I leave the rest to your imagination

7:40 PM, November 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can remember riding on these kinda short, yellow buses as a kid.......

11:58 PM, November 24, 2007  
Blogger Old RPM Daddy said...

Rode the bus quite a bit back in the 80s myself: Indianapolis, Lafayette, Cincinnati, Dayton...only remarkable thing I remember was the lady who offered to share a doobie with me once we made Indy...

I politely declined, by the way...

11:44 AM, November 26, 2007  
Blogger Barry Wallace said...

I remember my grandmother riding Trailways all the time from Atlanta to Knoxville when I was a kid. We'd go to downtown Knoxville (which we rarely did - we lived in Fountain City) and visit the bus station. It always seemed a fascinating place to me. I never did ride one, though.

9:41 PM, November 26, 2007  
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