The Wheels on the Bus

Even though I am quite well-traveled, I had never taken a bus trip before. You see, Lyle had traveled across the country to college, from California to Indiana, back in the 1980s and he said it wouldn’t be safe for a woman to travel that way for a long distance. He’s always been willing to drive me anywhere I have wanted to go, and on the few occasions when it wasn’t possible for him to go, I’ve just flown. However, this past weekend I finally got to experience a bus trip!

It came about this way: A few weeks ago at the Christian Heritage homeschool conference I was visiting with Susan Marlow, author of the Circle C Adventure books, about the writing process. She told me about the Northwest Christian Writers Association conference that was coming up in 3 weeks and invited me to stay with her and attend the conference.

Lyle immediately agreed that I should go. (Because, of course, my schedule is not full enough this month. I needed one more thing on the calendar! Seriously, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.) However, he said I could not drive the little old car we recently bought because he’s just not sure how reliable it is. He was willing for me to drive the pick-up, but I wasn’t so willing. A full-sized pick-up in Seattle traffic? No, thank you! So I began to explore other options. I discovered that a bus ticket to Seattle was only $78 round trip, and for one person that was cheaper than driving. I remembered what Lyle had said about safety, though, so I asked what he thought about that. Since it was such a short trip and in daylight hours, he decided it would be fine.

And it was. But, oh, my. The experience!

When Lyle dropped me off at the Spokane bus station I had to stand in line to get my printed ticket and have my bag tagged. Then I went to wait for the bus and watch the people. I had taken along a book to read, and a Sudoku book, and my crocheting, but I didn’t need any of that. Just watching and listening to the people was entertainment enough.

There was the little old lady who kept fluttering about like a bird trying to find out why the bus was running late and when it would get there. I was amazed at the casual security in the bus station. She just left her bags and baggage sitting in a pile while she fluttered downstairs and back up and all around.

Then there was the portly gentleman who was loudly describing his business in great detail to anyone who paid him the slightest attention. He gets a pay raise every month, and they just place their orders right online. They have several divisions, one of which is cleaning products. Uh-huh. I know an Amway spiel when I hear one. I didn’t make eye contact.

Next on our cast of characters was the bride on her way to her own wedding. She was concerned that the bus was running late because she didn’t want to be late. She was pretty sure they wouldn’t start without her, but still… The Amway salesman was trying to convince her that she and her new husband should go into his line of work. At one point, she politely excused herself to go to the restroom and when she came back, the Amway guy gleefully announced that he had a wedding present for her! It turned out to be a lighter (with his logo on it, I have no doubt).

About that time, one of the bus station employees propped the door open. Miss Flutter-by came flapping over to me. “Oh! Something’s happening! The bus must be coming!” She was right. It was. So we all lined up to board.

The bus was pretty full, so I took a seat beside Miss Flutter-by, fulling expecting her to chatter to me all the way, but figuring that was better than Mr. Amway or some of the other seedier-looking characters. Much to my amazement everyone was quiet most of the way to Seattle. I had noticed that phenomenon on flights before, but didn’t expect it on the bus. We stopped twice between Spokane and Seattle, and people did chat a little more while we were stopped. As we came into the city conversation picked up a little, and I discovered that my seatmate had hearing aids that she had turned down because of the highway noise. So that explained why she didn’t talk as we traveled.

The bus was dingy and smelly. The seats were comfortable enough, but primarily I enjoyed the experience of it, rather than the pleasantness of it. I was slightly dreading the trip back home again on Sunday.

I was to change buses in Seattle and go on another 45 minutes to Tacoma, which is closer to where Susan lives. I was a little concerned about making my connection since the bus was running late. As soon as we arrived, I asked at the counter about the bus to Tacoma and was told it would be departing in 30 minutes. Another passenger from my bus was ahead of me at the counter to make the same inquiry. I was interested to notice that his “luggage” consisted of a black garbage bag. He plopped his garbage bag at the head of the line at the indicated door, and I lined up immediately behind it. I wasn’t about to leave my baggage unattended, and the bus station was kinda creepy, so I decided I could wait about going to the restroom.

When the Tacoma bus came, since I was at the head of the line, I was able to get a good seat and didn’t end up having a seatmate. Mr. Garbage Bag had not returned, so I just pushed his “luggage” out of the way with my foot when it was time to board. I wondered what would become of his bag. The bus was loaded and the doors were closed when he came hurrying out to board with his garbage bag in one hand and a pizza in the other. Apparently, he had gone out to get some supper.

The ride to Tacoma was relatively short and uneventful, except for the strange guy who came staggering up from the back of the bus about halfway there, and sat down right behind the driver. I wondered what led him to change seats at that time. As I watched him out the corner of my eye, I noticed he was making odd gestures with his hands. At first I thought it might be sign language, but the longer I watched, the more I was convinced that it was just random gestures. He did that for awhile, then stopped for a few minutes, then started up again. Pretty soon he got up and went towards the back of the bus again. I have no idea what that was all about.

I was very happy to see Susan waiting for me on the sidewalk when the bus pulled into Tacoma. I laughed as I got off the bus. “I’m pretty sure one of the characters in my novel will have to take a Greyhound bus trip,” I said. “This was research!”

This post is way too long, and I’m out of time for this morning, so I’ll have to tell you about the conference and my return trip in another post. Anybody else ever travel by bus?


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