I really enjoyed Phoenix and Tempe Arizona. The people I met there were great, but I needed to keep moving. I had a small going away gathering at Monkey Pants, where I felt right at home and was treated like a local. I got to say goodbye to the wonderful staff there and even managed to meet a couple new friends while finishing off the night.
The next evening I boarded a bus heading East. It was going to be a long haul, with many stops and transfers but little sleep. My initial route took me South and East, through San Antonio and Houston, on towards New Orleans and on to my ending spot of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It would have been about a 2 and half long trip.
At the first transfer point, in El Paso, Texas, I and a large group of other passengers from a few other buses were informed that there had been a problem and the driver that was connecting us to San Antonio had left early. No indication of why. Was he fired? Quit? Sick? Misread his watch? In any event, we had to reschedule out tickets. They started fitting people into other routes through Dallas and other points to make the connections. Since my schedule was wide open, I let the people who seemed to more concerned about timing go ahead of me and get the tickets they needed. I ended up with a very new itinerary, which would put me on the bust for 12 hours more or so, but would also take me through more places that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
The thing to remember about riding a bus is to get a row to yourself. Most buses are set up 2 seats to a side, and when the bus is loaded, it might be impossible to get a row to yourself. The best way to do this is to pick an empty row towards the front, and sit in the aisle seat. Put your bag or coat in the window seat. Everyone will be trying to get a row to themselves, so most people will pass you by, hoping for one in the back that is empty. When they get back there and find there are none, they are most likely going to take the first seat next to a normal looking person they come up, hopefully before they get back to the front where you are. The other way to get a row to yourself is to look crazy. No one wants to sit next to the crazy person on the bus, with one exception. Actually crazy people. That’s why the first method is the preferred one.
In between transfers, layovers and miles of open road, I met a handful of interesting people. It’s always been interesting to me the comradery that builds between people when they are all stuck in a seat with hours to kill. The conversations that come out when no one can really get comfortable in their seats can be pretty revealing. I met a truck driver who was returning home after a trucking company he was working for had run out of excuses for why the paychecks were late or short. I met a young woman who told me she was pregnant and returning home as well, returning home after trying to patch things up with her husband of 5 months and father of her child. There was the young man who started the trip reciting bible verses and talking of religion and philosophy, but ended the trip getting kicked off the bus for cussing out a relief driver riding with us after being asked to take his phone off loudspeaker because it was disturbing the other passengers. There was the man in the bus station in Atlanta that worked for a catering company for the stars. There was the young French-Canadian carpenter on vacation who spoke of travels and life well into the night while we waited for the people nearby to quiet down and turn their lights out so we could all catch a few minutes of fleeting sleep.
It was interesting to watch how people handle travel. There were two families with children that I rode with for about a day or so. One with 6 kids ranging a few months to 13 or 14. the other was a mother and 4 boys, from toddler to 9 or 10. The kids were kids, get rambunctious and loud at times. One family was very strict and had no problem disciplining the kids then and there. The other was fairly relaxed and seemed to let the kids get away with quite a bit, almost to the point of being uninterested in them. The thing that really struck me was peoples’ reactions to the kids. I would have expected very grumpy passengers, complaining about the kids. Instead I saw people offering to help where there could. Giving the kids tissues when they sniffled, offering them snacks once the parents were asked first. Even offering to hold the smallest children while mothers situated themselves and the other kids better. I carried several bags to help out where I could. Overall the good in people is more common than we think of it. It’s just not as newsworthy as the bad in people. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be careful, but it is nice to know that there are more good people than bad in this big world of ours.