Monday, August 10, 2009

"Leave the driving to us!"

In 1973 I took a Greyhound Bus ride from Salt Lake City to San José, California, to spend a couple of days with a friend and to clear my head of a crippling bout of depression. I'd lost my job a couple of months earlier and needed to collect my thoughts. I got a job right after getting back from San José, so the trip must've done something, broken my self-destructive routine or upended my downward spiral.

At the time there was a program called Ameripass, where European students and travelers could pay to travel across the USA on a Greyhound bus. I met a couple of young people from England who told me they never realized America was so huge until they had been on the bus for five days. I was depressed, and spending 16 hours on a bus was bad enough, but five When the lights were turned out in the bus one of the English girls, who was hanging out with an American lad from Washington, D.C. immediately climbed onto the young man. They began a procedure I'd loosely call making out, although dry-humping is also a phrase that comes to mind.

I sat for much of the trip next to a woman from Oroville, CA. She was a large woman who crowded me a bit. She said, "If I fall asleep and snore just nudge me." That night after falling asleep she opened her mouth and while her lips flapped with a loud smacking sound, she also emitted the sound of a chainsaw. The passengers around us looked at us uncomfortably, and, as per her request, I gently nudged her. She sat bolt upright and at the top of her lungs shouted, "IT WASN'T ME!"

After a few days in California I rode back to Salt Lake with a bullshit liar sitting next to me. He told me he was a custodian in an elementary school, and that seemed reasonable, but he also told me his wife was, "Oliphant, the editorial cartoonist." I let that go unchallenged but he told the wrong person, because I knew she wasn't. Pat Oliphant is a man, for one thing, and does not live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the man did.

The only other thing I can say is that riding 55 mph across Nevada is a quick way to understand that there are parts of America that are uninhabitable. Nevada along Interstate 80 is best seen in the rearview mirror.

Here are a couple of other stories I got when I googled Greyhound Bus:


From News of the Weird: Another one rides a bus

The normal way that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons transfers "low-risk" inmates between institutions is to buy them bus tickets and release them unescorted with an arrival deadline. In the past three years, reported the Las Vegas Sun in May, 90,000 inmates were transferred this way, and only about 180 absconded. Although supposedly carefully prescreened for risk, one man still on the loose is Dwayne Fitzen, a gang-member/biker who was halfway through a 24-year sentence for cocaine-dealing. Because the traveling inmates are never identified as prisoners, Greyhound is especially alarmed at the policy.


Greyhound scraps ‘bus rage’ ads after murder;
Canadian passenger allegedly beheaded, ate fellow traveler

TORONTO - Greyhound has scrapped an ad campaign that extolled the relaxing upside of bus travel after one of its passengers was accused of beheading and cannibalizing another traveler.

The ad's tag line was "There's a reason you've never heard of 'bus rage.'"

Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said Wednesday a billboard and some tunnel posters near a bus terminal in Toronto are still up and would be removed later in the day.

"Greyhound knows how important it is to get these removed and we are doing everything possible," Wambaugh said. "This is something that we immediately asked to be done last week, realizing that these could be offensive."

Vince Weiguang Li, who immigrated to Canada from China in 2004, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old carnival worker Tim McLean. He has yet to enter a plea.

Thirty-seven passengers were aboard the Greyhound from Edmonton, Alberta, to Winnipeg, Manitoba, as it traveled at night along a desolate stretch of the TransCanada Highway about 12 miles from Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Witnesses said Li attacked McLean unprovoked, stabbing him dozens of times.

As horrified passengers fled the bus, Li severed McLean's head, displaying it to some of the passengers outside the bus, witnesses said.

A police officer at the scene reported seeing the attacker hacking off pieces of the victim's body and eating them, according to a police report.

Wambaugh said the ads only appeared in Canada and that some in Ontario and western Canada have already been removed. About 20,000 inserts of the Greyhound ads were scheduled to be put into an Alberta Summer Games handbook but they stopped the presses.


Despite some negative publicity in those stories--and unguarded prison inmates or a guy hacking pieces off a fellow traveler and eating them is what I'd call negative--traveling by bus is a safe and economical way to go. I wouldn't recommend it for cross-country travel unless you want to spend hours in a seat next to people you probably wouldn't normally talk to. Local travel would seem the best bet. Like all travel, the shorter the ride the better.

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