Day 43, Year 7: On the Road, Day 2-The People on the Bus
Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Weather: Warm and Rainy, Some Snow During the Night
Location: Bus Passage to New Mexico, Currently in Missouri

Riding across country on a Greyhound bus reminds me of the children’s song, “The Wheels on the Bus.” The wheels on the bus go round and round, the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish, but instead of the people going up and down, they go in and out of doors that open and close. We have changed buses three times now and I don’t think there is still anyone with us that started in Boston. But a number of characters who got on in New York are still with us. What kind of people ride the bus? The answer is all kinds. There’s a black woman with a blonde wig and inch and a half long fake fingernails that sends text messages constantly. I have no idea how she does this with those fingernails. There’s a man who runs around wildly in his wheel chair when we are at the stops and mutters to himself constantly. There was a blind man who got on in Boston and got off in Cleveland and there was another woman in a wheel chair. The drivers are very helpful with those that need it. But mostly there are a lot of people who appear to be completely normal and many of them are traveling longer distances than us. Then there were the two Hispanic speaking men who got on in New York and back off again in Columbus, Ohio. They acted more like Federal agents than mere passengers. One had on an Obama baseball cap and the other a NY Yankees hat and US Marine Corp jacket. They obviously spoke English but chose to speak Spanish to each other. Sometimes they acted like they were traveling together, but they didn’t sit together. Maybe my imagination was working overtime, but I somehow felt like they had something to do with the removal of two men by US Border Patrol in Buffalo last night. The Border Patrol officers got on the bus and checked everyone’s ID and then left with two men. It made for good midnight drama. But back to the song, the children on the bus do not go wah, wah, wah. During the night a young woman with a very young baby and a toddler were onboard, but I didn’t hear a peep out of the little ones. There was another young woman with a two year-old that boarded with us in Cleveland early this morning, and again, once on the bus we didn’t hear a peep. But I haven’t seen any little boys on the bus. I think it might not have been so quiet. A woman in the restroom in the Columbus station had her purse snatched during the night and lost $2,500. That was just before we arrived, but we got to watch the news report on the TV while waiting for our bus.

All buses we have been on have been filled to capacity. Lots of gray-haired mothers/grandmothers going to visit children in far flung parts of the US, children (in their fifties) going to visit retired parents in Arizona and place beyond, college students and young single moms with children headed home for the holidays, and young men in Army fatigues with matching backpacks headed somewhere. The color of the people on the bus reflects the color of America-red and yellow, black and white, but with a decided emphasis on the white. We learned early on in Boston that you don’t wait until the last minute to get in line or you won’t have a seat due to the high volume of people traveling. We were told to get in line thirty minutes ahead of time since there is no reserved seating, but the line started forming an hour and a half early. By the time we discovered this, it put us in the back of the bus. For the subsequent changes, we simply got off the bus, picked up our luggage, and headed directly to the next bus line. We then take turns watching the luggage while the other goes to the restroom or goes to buy a snack. Thankfully we made our last change in St. Louis early this evening. We have short stops between here and New Mexico, but we won’t need to deal with luggage. And we DO have luggage. One truck driver headed to Arizona to see his parents asked where in the world we were going with so much luggage. I explained that even after sending most presents ahead by US Post, we ended up with two big bags full of Christmas presents and items from our storage that we are delivering to Justin and Jo. The heaviest bag is 43 pounds and then there is the cardboard box suitcase we put together with duct tape to accommodate one particularly odd-shaped piece we are transporting. The Greyhound policy on luggage is that nothing can exceed 50 pounds. You can take one bag each and then pay $10 for one additional bag for each. Then you can carry on a person item and another small carry-on bag to store above the seating. They are much more generous than the airlines, but traveling with four large bags, two small bags, two backpacks, and winter coats makes the trip interesting.

The downside of the bus we are on until we reach Albuquerque is that it is an old one with very little room and no plug-ins. So no more videos, working on the computer, or playing on the phone. My computer will go for about three and a half hours, so Mark can use it to charge his phone. Not what we had come to expect, but you get what you get. We’ll have breakfast in Okalahoma City, lunch in Amarillo, Texas, and then we’ll arrive just after 4 pm. Can’t wait.

The weather has been dreary. Yesterday was not so bad as today as it was partly sunny with really interesting mid-level cloud formations. It rained and sprinkled snow all night long and today has been very cloudy. Just out of Columbus, Ohio, the man in front of us who just can’t keep his shirt buttoned and who is the most vocal character on the bus, exclaimed that he saw a tornado forming. We looked and did see some swirling clouds, but it didn’t look like a tornado forming-at least not by the time we looked. Nevertheless, the clouds looked threatening throughout the dreary, very warm day. It sure doesn’t look or feel like Christmas out here in America’s heartland. And unlike malls in the US, South Africa, Singapore and even in Malaysia, there is no sign of the holidays in bus stations. No music, no decorations-just more people traveling than usual life like any other time of year.