February 2, 2023

American Gothic

I’ve heard they’ve gotten better but here was what a bus ride on a Greyhound looked like in 1998. 

The bus ride was fairly uneventful. The first person to sit next to me was a sweet looking old woman who got on the bus in Centralia, Washington. I made room for her and she pulled out a little crochet pillow and quickly fell asleep. It was about 10 PM. I was reading and watching the lights go by. Happy to be on the road to somewhere.

First she began to snore. I pulled out my walkman and put in a mixtape the girl I was madly in love with had made for me. That’s when I noticed the smell. It smelled like a dirty old turd on that bus. I took off the headphones right after ‘The Revolution will Not be Televised.”

She was farting. About every two seconds that old broad would let one rip. Pfthhhhwwwwrrrp! The smell was horrible. I looked around hoping that there was another seat open. No way. I was stuck. A guy across the aisle looked at me with sympathy and shared suffering.

It was a moral dilemma. Should I wake her up and ask her to please stop farting? Was that rude? Was it more rude than her farting? I looked at her sweet old snoring face and shook her awake.

“Ma’am? Ma’am?” I shook her harder. Another fart came out. She opened her old blue eyes.

“Is everything alright? Oh, goodness, was I snoring honey? “ She asked…

I couldn’t do it. “No, I just need to get by you so that I can use the restroom.” She kept farting all the way to Roseburg. Everyone on the bus seemed relieved when she left.

My next seat companion told me he had just been released from prison. I asked what his crime was.

“I killed fourteen people with an axe,” he said and then laughed, “but the doctor says I’m getting better. “ Was he joking?” Hey have you seen my medication?” Yeah, he was joking. I hoped.Prison humor. Ha ha.

He pulled a bottle of rum and a coke out of his bag and asked me if I wanted some. I handed him my half empty coke and he filled it with rum. I gave him a few of the morphine tablets I had in my pocket figuring it wouldn’t hurt to have him mellow. Just in case.

It was a pretty typical Greyhound experience. Nobody slept on my shoulder though. One of my good buddies had once sat next to a pretty girl on a Greyhound and then fucked her in the bathroom of the bus. Things like that never happened to me.

We arrived in Sacramento at about three o’clock in the afternoon. My buddy the axe murderer and I grabbed a beer in the dingy bar next to the bus station. He gave me his number and told me if I needed work to call him. I hadn’t told him I was catching a train at nine that evening back to where I had come from.

You gotta love travel just for travel’s sake. Sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me.

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