Twenty-5

I was going to write my first blog post about my twenty-fifth birthday, but on my birthday I was doing the adult thing (working a shitty job), so that I could go back to doing the not adult thing (travelling, not working a shitty job) that I was so very much enjoying prior to this second stunt in 9-5 phone answering that I’m currently doing. No, I won’t bore you with that, instead I want to tell the story of how I ended up dry reaching in a smelly Greyhound bus station chair at 3 in the morning somewhere in Sacramento…

I was travelling with June, a cherubic and sweet (looking) girl who happens to be my best friend and neither of the previously mentioned adjectives. She’s a menace and a pest. Remember that next time she does something sweet, do not be fooled, she will put rocks in your hood and then you’ll find them a day later digging into your back and wonder if you sleep walked in the night and forgot you went out and collected rocks. I digress, we had just come to the end of a great, albeit skin meltingly hot, stay in Palm Springs, which I now think is the physical manifestation of the word ‘oasis’ ’cause wtf  Palm Springs? What are you? Why are you here?

It was 6am. Or 5am. Somewhere around there. I am not a morning person, if I have to wake up before 7:30am my eyes do this thing where they refuse to do as they’re told and when I open them, I still see nothing. It’s really great fun. We have some good times.
Anyway, it was early af and we were packed (basically) and ready to head off back to LA to catch a Greyhound bus to Vancouver.
Yes, we were going to catch a bus from LA to Vancouver. Now, before any of you start, and I can hear you all because hindhearing is 20/20 (that’s the saying right), here was our reasoning:

  1. It was cheaper and, to be quite frank, June was starting to get that crazed look in her eye that she might just start swimming back to Australia at any moment from the stress of imminent brokeness.
  2. We’re young! (Shut up Rosie, the only other person than June who might read this) We can survive two days on a bus! (I have since learned that youth is not enough to withstand two days on an American Greyhound bus. DO NOT make this mistake. You need grit beyond measure. …Or drugs, that’s how everyone else on that god forsaken bus was doing it.)
  3. Having been on way too many plane rides, yet another one just did not sound pleasant and we wanted to do “something different” like a middle aged married couple would say after sitting around for thirty years and never leaving the country.

So we’re driving along whatever highway it is, I dunno, I wasn’t driving, I was trying furiously not to fall asleep like a normal person and failing pretty hard. Our GPS provided by the rental car company is a PIECE OF GODDAMN SHIT, and just refuses to play the game. It won’t stay on, it won’t tell us where we are, let alone where we need to go. It’s just a hunk of useless garbage. We have a deadline, by the way, the time of departure of the bus, so it’s kinda important we get there in time. By the time we get it to give us a little bit of vital information, we’ve missed our exit. Cool. Coolcoolcoolcoolcool, it’s fine, we’ll take the next exit.
We did not take the next exit.
To put it shortly, we missed the next three exits because, well, we couldn’t tell when we were meant to turn off because the GPS was programmed by Satan. It’s the only logical explanation. No, you shut up. No, you’re an idiot.

Here the sitch, we have just missed the third exit in a row and we have six unholy minutes to fill up the car, return it to the rental place and then get to the bus station… a ten minute drive away. We’re fucked.
I look over at June, who looks calm as ever… which naturally means she is about to implode and drive us off the freeway and into the ocean, her safe place.

I took a deep breath. I then used that breath to yell “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK” in the hopes that with the expletive, some of my building anxiety would leave my body. It didn’t really help. I remember telling June something to calm her down while I tried to think of what to do next. Greyhound bus tickets, while marginally cheaper than plane tickets, are still not cheap. Especially ones from LA to Vancouver. It was maybe $200 roughly. Each. Not to mention, I had no idea what the process for crossing the border into Canada is like via bus (and still don’t, because as I’m about to tell you, this trip did not go well).

Skip ahead a few steps, we had filled and returned the rental car and taken a taxi to the bus station. We had well and truly missed the bus. Sick. Sicksicksicksick, tight, this is great.

NEW PLAN: We would spend yet more money to catch the next bus to Vancouver. So we would lose $400, nothing we could do about it, the best thing to do is to move forward with a new plan and agonise about our shortcomings when we were safe on our next mode of transport and had nothing but our thoughts to torture us in the night. Shibby.

Actually, at this point in the story, we got a short reprieve. We were on a bus back to LA, because that was the route, but we were going somewhere. Everything seemed fine. We changed buses at LA and thats where things started to horribly, terribly, unbelievably wrong.

The connecting bus was packed. I’m talking sardines. Smelly, toothless, raggedy ass looking sardines. It was filled with scary looking people. They’re not here now so I can say it. There were also no two seats next to each other that were free. Here’s where I made the mistake that would ultimately end up almost costing me my lunch and sapping me of most of my strength. We were forced to the back of the bus to take the last two free seats, perilously close to the onboard lavatory facilities. I’m going to be real with you, it smelled like straight up shit. Also piss, but mostly shit. June was two life saving rows ahead of the toilet, but me? I was sitting directly adjacent to the door. I was at ground zero for some of the most horrific bowel movements I’m sure have ever occurred in human history. There was a stench so foul it curled my hair. A stench so rotten, I thought I’d never eat again. I wanted to physically and forcibly remove my nostrils with my bare hands and live the rest of my days as a Voldemort impersonator just so I wouldn’t have to suffer the literal shit and piss cloud that was relentlessly wafting into my face. I started to wonder, was this getting into my pores? What happens if your pores become clogged with human faeces? Am I going to die on this bus?

That’s when I noticed it. A festering wound. A horrible, flaking (but at the same time glistening with pus) multicoloured wound on the leg of the man sitting next to me. It looked not unlike what I would imagine a would to look like if someone had scratched themselves repeatedly with steel wool and then dragged that open would through a field of disease-ridden maggots that then threw up and defecated in the wound and then from the gluggy remains, up would rise new, stronger baby maggots that would then leave the wound-nest and evolve large pincers and take over the world.
There were dry, purple scabs in among wet, dark red and brown open parts of the wound, which was so clearly and horribly infected. I decided I would give up breathing, you know, for my health.

The man that this cess pool of disease lived upon was a large man. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but large men (and indeed men in general) tend to enjoy sitting with their legs so wide apart that their testicles can actually separate far apart in the nutsack that they can play table tennis. This man was one of such men. In addition to this, the seats in this bus, were like any bus and were stuck together, even more so due to the need to leave room for the hole at the back of the bus for people to shit in (the bathroom). What I’m trying to say is in addition to every disgusting thing that all hit me at once, I got 3/4 of a seat. Tighttighttighttight, mad. Brilliant.

I was trying to refrain from breathing too much, angling my legs away from the wound at a ever increasing rate, because the man seemed to decide every three minutes or so to stretch his legs even further apart, as his testicles moved on from table tennis to cross country marathons in there, I assume. I developed a cramp in my legs not long after boarding due to the struggle of trying to maintain constant vigilance so as not to come in contact with the wound, contracting whatever strain of flesh eating bacteria lived in there and actually dying. Then there was the man’s daughter.

Without ever speaking to this man, or his daughter, I learned her name. “HIIIIIIPEEEEEESHAAAAA” “HIIIIIPEEEEESHAAAA NO STOP IT” “HIIIIIIIIPEEEEEEESHAAAAAAAA GET OFF THE FLOOR” “HIIIIIIPEEEEEESHAAAA GET OUT OF THE BATHROOM, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?” the man would moan from his sleeping pill induced partial coma. He never actually raised his voice, more so whinged at his daughter while she, with a twinkle in her eye, caused more havoc that I ever thought possible. I looked it up later, it’s actually Hypatia, the name of a Greek mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher in Egypt. A name that did not belong on this girl, in that family or indeed, in that bus. The real Hypatia would be rolling around in her sarcophagus if she knew her namesake. She was kind of like I’ve always imagined goblins or pixies. Unless I’m mistaken and Hypatia was actually calculating the trajectories of the blobs of apple sauce she was flinging around the bus and calculating the best way to angle her body so she could perfectly fit underneath the seats of strangers, I’m pretty sure she was just a pest. Or she had ADD. I will never know. At one point, the girl draped herself over the back of her chair, into my lap and then made direct eye contact with me as she slowly sucked on her apple sauce pouch, and then squirted some at my face and I honestly, will be forever scarred by that moment.

I started to lose heart. We had been on that bus for two hours now and already, I was starting to wonder if I’d survive. I was so close to throwing up from the unrelenting smell of shit wafting into my face and I was so tired from holding my legs away from the wound and dodging flying apple sauce/spit mixture.

Putter. Putter. Splutter. Bang. Stop.

That’s right, the wretched bus broke down. I’m not normally one to be all ‘woe is me’ but seriously. What the hell? We were stopped somewhere in the middle of nowhere. There was a gas station with some of the worst pizza I’ve ever seen in my life on display behind an oil smudged glass window, and nothing else but orange dirt in all directions. Even though we were stuck in every sense of the word, waiting for a replacement bus to come pick us up, I felt a sense of freedom I don’t usually pay attention to – I could breathe. It was a welcome reprieve. I could snap my hips out of the permanent cramp they were in and I could finally breathe deeply without thinking about if poo particles were lodging themselves in my brain. Two middle aged women started yelling at each other over whether their kids could play together or not. Some weird white guy with dreads would not stop talking to us about where we’re from and then proceeding to laugh at his own incessant kangaroo jokes. Hilarious mate. I let June do the creep handling as I zoned out, laying unashamedly in the gutter outside the gas station, sipping the frozen coke June had bought, half watching half not the sun disappear below the horizon casting us all in a hazy, burnt orange dusk.

After what felt like an eternity, a new bus rolled in and we assumed our positions in the same seats as before, and I sunk into a defeated slump over the armrest, but not too far as to have my face on the wall of the bathroom and in direct firing line of  yet more apple sauce, I mean seriously, how many pouches does one kid need?

We drove off into the night. As we visited more stops, seats became available and I was able to escape my torture chamber, which was fortunate because I felt like I was about to blow chunks everywhere. It was as if my soul had left my body with a short, sweet “I’m out” hours ago, and my shivering, beaten body was left to fend for itself.

We arrived in Sacramento. Now, I was not all that familiar with the East Coast of the US and when I looked at a map, and I pinned LA and Vancouver and then I found out where Sacramento is in relation to those two places and realised we had been travelling all FUCKING day and had barely moved, I lost it a little bit. When the Greyhound bus station attendant informed us that we would now have to wait three hours for a connecting bus, I lost it a little more. But the final straw? Was after those three hopeless hours, absolutely physically and mentally exhausted lying on the floor, hoping not to get robbed or sat on or worse, we were informed that we would have to wait a further eight hours for a connecting bus.

No. Nope. No sir. Negative. Noooooo. 안돼요!

Fuck that right off, no. Greyhound Bus Company, you can take your eleven hours and your broken bus and your reeking filth hole and your barely cheaper than a plane ticket and you  can shove it you know where. I’m never taking a Greyhound bus again. I’m going to yell from the rooftops what a terrible service you are for as long as my lungs still have breath in them (even though, you tried your hardest to take that away from me).

I reached Mum mode. You know when you’re out with your mother and she finds something unsatisfactory and she just starts voicing her opinion loudly and angrily until she gets a refund? Just me? Either way, I became Hye-Young in that moment. Refund? Check. Hotel room? Check. Pizza and a shower? Check and check.

We flew to Vancouver from Sacramento the next day.

Moral of the story? Fuck you Greyhound.

Pat your dog for me,
Shan

 

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