Bus 1300, ????
Finally, Salt Lake City! Moron…I mean Mormon capital of the world! I had a three hour hangover…I mean layover here. My whiskey Pepsi had gone flat and was the warmest thing in Utah. There was less snow in Scarface. I had the plan of leaving my Pepsi bottle on a bench outside while I went in to charge my electronics, losing Jason somewhere along the way, and passing Arthur waiting at a different gate. After a couple minutes of intense Indian-style sitting, a very heavyset girl waddled over and sat next to me, then plugged in her laptop. I began to pull out my WinCo chips and donuts, laying them around me in a semi-circle and munching down.
“Do you want some food?” I asked, being a smartass.
She stopped for a second and considered the offer. “No, I’m alright.”
“You’re sure? Not even a donut?” You hungry, girl? You hungry?
“I’m fine, thanks.” She was smiling.
“Okay, yeah, I’ll take some Starburst!”
I dropped the remaining colorful squares in her hand and she pocketed them. She asked the usual questions, as did I: where are you going, what’s your name, how long are you here, etc. Her name was Kanja, and she was headed to somewhere in Mississippi.
“You’re not the only one with food, you know.”
“Oh yeah?” I didn’t know what to say to that.
“Yeah. Do you like Whatchacallits?”
I temporarily forgot what a Whatchacallit is, like I always do when I’m talking about things I don’t give a rat’s ass about.
“Oh, um, yeah.”
She reached into her bag, pulling out two full-size candy bars and adding them to my inventory.
We were there for three goddamned hours. Let me give you the run down on Kanja. Kanja was 29 years old, slightly religious, read fantasy novels about fairies, and had just gotten out of a bad relationship with a tweaker named Milo. There isn’t much else to say about her other than that she seemed like a genuinely nice lady of moderate intelligence who had a good, level head. Why the fuck was she on a Greyhound bus? Apparently on her last plane ride, her ears were popping so bad that one of her eardrums burst. Why the fuck was she not rich from a lawsuit? Supporting a tweaker boyfriend’s habit gets expensive. Kanja made me sad; so very, very sad.
She kept me company through the layover as I attempted to indulge in my special Coke, to little avail. Jason floated over briefly at one point and handed me a Styrofoam box obviously containing Chinese food, called me “babe,” asked why I had been sitting over here, said he would be right back, and never showed up. Eventually, we were called to the gate through the crackle of an intercom. My cough had gotten worse. Rather than paying $2.14 for a two pack of Nyquil to stop it, I went with the Greyhound motto: fuck them! The line ran from the gate, curved around the wall, past the bathroom, and waved a hello to the exit sign at the end of the hall. At the very end of this luggage train were myself and Kanja. Jason had gotten ahead in the line to ensure he procured a window seat.
Let me take a moment to stress to the reader the importance of a window seat on a bus you are going to be riding in for the next ten hours. The previous bus had hardly anyone on it. I had two seats to myself. The short time I did sleep, I was laying down. I’m a small man. I can fit in most anywhere. I dare say I could fit into the pouch of a kangaroo. I’ve never tried it, but if you provide me with a kangaroo, I am almost certain I could fit into her pouch. Motherfucker! But there is no way in Hell I can manage to curl up in just one Greyhound seat. In a sleeping situation, the aisle seat, for all intents and purposes, is no more a helpful than a ball of cocaine, a pot of coffee, some mini-thins, or a Mountain Dew. All of those things are better and/or would be improving upon the tragedy of spending ten hours on a full bus without a window seat. Without the window, you have nothing to lean against, except the person next to you. That is something we’ll get into later.
While Kanja and I stood around, mostly silent and looking around, a slender fellow wearing a blue Yankees beanie and a medical mask stilted over towards the line.
“Is this the line for gate (whatever)?” he said, swaying back and forth.
“Sure is.” I extended my hand and he shook it, looking back down at his palm. I looked at mine.
“Oh hey, are you a boxer?” He bounced around a bit and threw a couple jabs.
“Nah, I lost my teeth in Portland, Oregon,” I coughed. He took a step back.
This went on for a bit, bullshit questions and me coughing, until he said the most peculiar thing.
“Yeah, and you should always wear your seatbelt.” I was caught off guard.
“Your seatbelt. You should always wear it when you…” he mumbled.
I coughed a little. “Yeah.” I smiled.
This was Rob.
Let’s talk about Rob. He was from New York and on his way to Chicago. The guy didn’t talk too much, but you don’t forget a man in a SARS mask. Let me start by saying I hate the New York Yankees. Fuck the New York Yankees. The New York Yankees can suck a fat baby’s dick! Rob would not really talk to me after I started hacking up a lung; he appeared to be terrified of death. You know what? Fuck Rob. That guy was fucking weird.
After that bastard Rob wandered off and we were close enough to see the gate, Kanja and I noticed a native man lying on the ground, passed the fuck out with his hand over his heart. Oh shit, a guy died. Everyone just stood still. Oh, fuck me, am I looking at a dead guy? Why the hell isn’t anyone helping him? I would hate to die in a Greyhound bus station in Salt Lake City. The security guard came over, in charge and literally large—fat fucker—just to lean down and poke the corpse in the arm. What a pro. I watched him look around and then call for help on his walkie talkie, his weapon of oppression against the Greyhound passengers. Hell, at least if he was dead, there was more room on the bus.
After several minutes, three EMTs arrived with a stretcher. All three of them had blonde hair and blue eyes and wore huge smiles on their faces. Jesus loved them and it did not matter if this man died; he would just get to see our Creator sooner. Everyone just sort of watched; occasional eye contact was met with a “wonder what’s wrong with him.” The lead Mormon boy pulled out a needle and stuck it into the arm of the lifeless body, which made it twitch. Just when I thought I was the only one drinking in the entire state of Utah, the mystery was solved. The fire department showed up to say a prayer and laugh at the poor old degenerate, helping him to his feet as the police arrived. It would appear this soul had blacked out from 2.3 percent beers and decided to take a nap in the station. They asked for his ID and took him away un-cuffed. He got a free ride to detox. We loaded the crowded bus in the pitch black. I found a seat next to a kid in glasses and a fedora. His studded and chained shorts worked well with his black flame button-up, which read “Proud Regular of the Salt Lake City Mall.” I just put on my headphones. No reason to talk to this tool. His early 2000’s “cool” reminded me of my younger brother, a lanky dork who wore ironic T-shirts with the exact opposite intent. He had long hair, a bad mustache, glasses, and was filled with ill-conceived, Fox-induced ideas of both American culture and—worse yet—counter-culture.
We rode for a while in the dark, everyone trying to sleep, nobody getting any rest. This mobile irritability machine trundled along the dark highway until the man across the aisle exclaimed “Hey! A mouse!” I looked down to see a cute little furry critter. Everyone was slightly excited until a tall, dark-haired older woman who I could only describe as “classically beautiful” shouted in a thick Russian accent, “Zat iz no mouse! Zat iz hamster! If she iz crushed, my daughter will cry forever!” It seemed her daughter had been traveling with her pet and it chewed its way out of its box. “Quick, git her! She iz very fast, grab her tight!” The passengers shined cell phones under their seats, careful not to stomp the poor, lost rodent. No dice. She could not be found. I eventually gave up: not my hamster, not my problem. This went on for a bit as the Russian I wanted to rub hips with argued with her husband in their native tongue until we arrived at a McDonald’s.
I was careful not to crush the missing “mouse” while making my way out into the cold of Evanston, Wyoming. The McDonalds was full, the dining room closed and sectioned off by chairs; it would seem they had stayed open just to serve us. A mashup of 50 Cent and Rick Astley was playing over the loudspeakers and the employees looked as if a special order would result in a stab wound. A McRib? Well, fuck me. I knew I had to take the opportunity while it was available; it had been years since I had choked down that shaped, pressed, and processed meatloaf dipped in barbecue sauce preserved from the last time this limited time legendary sandwich made its way back onto the menu. I had to, and I did. The service was relatively quick and I made my way back onto the bus with the same haste. I greedily unwrapped the mess, anticipating scarfing down the top tier sandwich of the Micky Dee’s lineup. Son of a bitch! It appeared this particular Arch Mart had run out on the actual McRib buns and opted to slap my grizzled meat steak on a sesame seed bun, the ends hanging off both sides, lathering runny, dark red batter wherever it made contact. I shut up and ate it. It was lackluster.
The next stop was a Maverik station in Nowhere, Wyoming. We all skated across the rink towards a big white building bearing the slogan “Adventure’s First Stop,” which I thought was a particularly bold slogan for a fucking gas station. I lost my footing and fell flat on my hip. I laughed; nobody asked if I was okay. Nobody else even smirked. What a miserable crew of travelers the ‘Hound had made us. I could only imagine the stiff lips I was in store for in Ohio. My mother and I had never once shared a laugh in our entire relationship. It made me wonder if everyone else was dreading their final destination as much as I was.
Inside, I discovered two things that simulated the feeling of autoerotic asphyxiation. The first was a three-foot (I am not making this up) stick of cow heart. This oversized Slim Jim only cost $3.99 and, though not advertised on the package, was sure to cut at least fifteen minutes off of your lifespan. Had Maverik—Adventure’s First Stop—accepted EBT, I would have purchased one. I’ll bet death by beef is moderately quick and painless. The second shock of Adventure’s First Stop was the price of cigarettes. After tax, I added a pack of Pall Mall 100s to my inventory for the grand total of $4.69. Sweet Jesus! Hallelujah! Wyoming was worth something after all: $4.69 after tax. I sprawled out in my seat awkwardly and tried to sleep, dreaming of the last time I actually had sex. It had been just as awkward as my current situation, though much more rewarding. Just in case you’re wondering, somebody did eventually find the hamster: it was alive and well. The parents scolded their child in Russian.
For all installments of “My Love and Peace Letter to Greyhound,” click here.
- Part 1
- Part 2
Ben Johnson is not a writer; he just drinks a lot about it.