When I think about traveling in America, I think about the Greyhound. It’s a familiar concept to all of us who don’t have the luxury of a car. I traveled through California a few years ago. It was quite the experience. The strange people, the awkward timetables and eery bus stations. Honestly, next time I think I will consider hiring a car.
It all started when I arrived in LA, after a long trip from Flagstaff Arizona. It was 9 o’clock at night. It was dark and I couldn’t afford a taxi, so I walked to the nearest bus stop without having a clue about which bus to take. I met a bus driver on his way home and he helped me find the bus to the Union bus station. From there, bus 333 would go to Venice beach. While I was waiting several people approached me with weird stories that had nothing to do with me. An old man told be about his sister. He was pissed off because he hadn’t heard from her and then it turned out she’d been dead for weeks. It was all mostly humorous for the man. I tried to keep to myself, unsuccessfully. It seemed to take forever before the bus came, at 10.30PM. On the bus more people started talking to me and my big backpack. Strangely enough I felt a bit safer because I was on a bus. An hour later I was walking the streets of Venice beach to get to my hostel.
Getting out of LA was another challenge. It was 2.40AM when I got out of bed. At 3.30 I got on my bus. Not the greyhound, but the one taking me there. The driver was a big lady who liked to sing along to the portable radio she carried. She looked at me funnily. When I came to Main & 7th, where I had to transfer, she pointed out to me where the bus stop was. Then she came off the bus, walked me to it, looked me straight in the eyes and said: “Stay at the stop and don’t talk to anyone!” She was very concerned for my safety as downtown LA was no place for a little girl to be at this time in the morning. Back then I wasn’t as scary yet as I am now. I was so scared standing at that stop and so relieved when I saw the second bus coming. There were people just hanging around and I was sick of avoiding eye contact. Eventually I arrived safely at the Greyhound station and I even had a comfortable trip to Monterey.
From Monterey I went to Santa Cruz. In Monterey I’d met an English lad called Ian. It turned out we were getting the same bus and both of us were at the greyhound station early. We saw a police woman walking to the ticket desk. Four men were following her. Rumor was that prisoners got a greyhound ticket when their sentence was done. The men were wearing track pants. The lady bought four different tickets and handed them to the man. Then she left. Hmmm… In the meantime the cue for the bus had gotten longer. I noticed everyone cued up at the door. When the bus arrived 45 minutes late, it turned out that buying a ticket does not mean a seat is reserved for you. They just sell as many tickets as they can and then let you wait until there is a bus with a free spot on it. “Wait a minute. I have to count if any more passengers will fit.” The bus driver said. I was lucky. The bus was full when we left, but I was on it.
My trip from Santa Cruz to San Francisco was a bit longer than the previous one. After one stop a man came to sit next to me. The smell hit me before I saw him coming. He was fat and was not even trying to be less fat. When he launched himself on the seat he was half sitting on top of me and then he opened his legs wide as if he owned both of our seats. Then he started sleeping and his head kept falling on my shoulder. I was appalled. I wished I could simply disappear, but I was taking up as little space as I could. I couldn’t be any smaller. I just pressed my scarf to my nose so I wouldn’t smell his farting and burping. Every now and then I looked and saw his eyes staring at my boobs. His elbow hit my side whenever he needed something from his pockets or bags and he didn’t mind leaning on my legs. I was so happy when, just before San Fran, this disgusting man left the bus.
I survived though. I can’t believe how rude people can be! You always pay the price for a cheap ticket. I guess it did give me some stories to tell, but when I read the stories in my diary it all came back to me. In no country have I had such horrid experiences on a bus. It’s adventure travel, but perhaps a bit too much for me.