Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"BUS IT! Part II"

As Valerie says "A bus is a story." We had taken so many busses on our travels that it seemed only natural to take the bus up to Humboldt to see my mom rather than rent a car or fly. With gas and jet fuel prices being at an all time high, the bus seemed like the obvious choice. How bad could it be?

On the way up, the Amtrak driver, after showing up late, yelled at us for trying to board the bus without waiting in line- though the line was clearly for people putting their belongings underneath in the luggage compartment. An hour into the drive, we were already behind schedule, but the driver took an extended smoke break. At the next stop, he accidentally left someone behind whom we had to go back for. We ended up getting to Arcata a few hours late. What a yutz!

Spent a few days with my mom in Arcata, which was great. So good to see her. She took us to Rita's. Oh man, if you get a chance to go to Arcata, Rita's is some of the best Mexican food I've had.

On the way home, just to really get a whiff of the underbelly of American society, we took Greyhound. You know, you can take a chicken bus in a poorer country and have a lovely time. You might meet a toothless Gypsy popping one chocolate bon bon after another in Hungary, or be leaned on and held onto for support by ticket takers and old ladies in India, or help look after other people's kids in Laos. But nothing, nothing will prepare you for the palpable anger and unsavoriness that accompanies a ride on Greyhound.

Before you get on, you run the gauntlet of panhandlers from the rehab clinic across the street. That's OK- they're just trying to survive. Then the tattooed, Elvis-do, straight-from-a-John-Woo-film, cigarette voiced driver will explain over the PA that any shenanigans and he will not hesitate to kick you off the bus. And he will: when the guy who smokes a cigarette in the bathroom takes a break from telling all his friends on the other end of his cell phone "Yeah dude, I just got done seeing my son for the first time. No- different mother... On the ride up we totally partied in the back of the bus- someone had a joint and we busted out the vodka- she was hot but I didn't get her number..." Yep, the bus driver will righteously kick him off at the next stop even though it was "Just one puff, dude." Then the guy will plead his case with the driver and eventually be let back on to sit next to the fresh release from Pelican Bay Prison who will say it's because the driver is "one of those uppity yellows who thinks he is better than everyone." Finally the bus ride will culminate with some skanky lady calling the bus driver a "piece of shit" for yelling at everyone.

Now, contrast this with the California Shuttle bus ride I took down to LA a few weeks later to go to my friend Alex Baker's wedding. This is one of those "low-cost carrier" style bus companies where the first seats sold for any particular ride are only $5. I paid something like $19- much less than greyhound, mind you. But, the clientele are credit card holding, internet users who are less inclined to racial epithets and ad homonym attacks and more inclined to tip the driver.

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