Arrived at the train station after a small incident: I got caught in the door of the metro train and we were almost separated at the start! A small fight with the door and got in okay.
There’s a Greyhound stop in the parking garage behind Union Station. We both remarked about how all these years of getting on trains to NYC and back, we’d never seen the Greyhound station that’s right by the elevators we’d take to the car parking.
Jay was amazed that there’s no schedule of busses at Greyhound: just a line and a few self-check kiosks. We assumed we could walk in and look up the next departure. Doesn’t work like that… lol. So we asked, and the Greyhound lady said the next bus out was to Atlantic City. Of course! So we looked at each other and shrugged, okay, Atlantic City it is! Well, out first stop to Mammon wasn’t to be, as that bus was sold out. These buses sell out, and especially on Fridays, she said. Another question to the lady and we could choose between Ocean City or Richmond. Southward, then!
Waiting in line we had a nice chat with a young man who was in his way to Norfolk. Five hours! Two to Richmond (finding out now, a bit more than that…). Another young lady came up and asked about the buses. Which one to New York? She and we were confused until she said , “Bolt bus!” Gottchya. “That one,” we said, pointing to the line of buses nearby that had painted on each, “BOLT BUS.” People came by, getting on their buses, trying to catch an earlier one if there was space. I was hoping the guy with the box of fried chicken wouldn’t be on our bus. Not sure if I can make it to Richmond on fried chicken fumes. Two young girls came running towards us, asking for the Pittsburgh bus. It had just left. Such distress to have missed the bus! A Greyhound man kindly pointed them to the next bus for Pittsburgh and then asked the crowd if anyone else was headed that way.
(2:18 now as I write this and no sign of Richmond. Mile 92, so must be near. Tony, next to me, has to get to his shelter by 3:30 to have a place to stay tonight. He’s getting anxious, and traffic is jammed.. I hope he makes it!)
After a bit, as we marveled over the enormity of the station garage–huge!– and the fantastic driving skill of he driver who landed his huge ship inches from the barrier and in a perfectly straight line– — Norfolk kid pointed out, “There’s our bus.” I have no idea how he could know, because we couldn’t see the front with the destination sign, but that it was.
Since we left my house, Jay has been making fun of my bag, saying it weights 40 lbs. He claims that his bag and back back together weigh 13 lbs. I picked ’em up, and he’s right, dammit. Travelling light. So I’m watching everyone board the bus and I’m getting nervous about my bag. Will it fit? Will there be room under the seat? This is a new experience for both of us, so we shall see…
Up we go, and we see that the bus is half full — one person at every pair of seats, quite remarkable, actually. Our plan to sit together and work on strategy is out the window. But our next plan, to meet new people, hear the stories, see if there’s something we can do, is now in effect. The man behind Jay’s seat is in the isle, and he is very nice to let me in beside him. And my 40 lb bag… I sit with it on my lap like it’s a baby, and I’m feeling real dumb. The man next to me kindly offers to stand up so i can put it below me, which I do.
He’s very friendly, and tells me that he didn’t have time to get anything to drink before he got on the bus at the previous stop. Uh, oh, back up comes my bag, and I retrieve my bottle of water. Boy he’s grateful! He was really thirsty, and so happy to have the water. He offers me a bite from his snacks, which I decline, worried about bus air and fried chicken fumes still.
His name is Tony. He’s a little older than us, or looks it. Turns out he’s 48, I think. Younger. He is very kindly, and articulate. He’s missing teeth, but looks in shape otherwise, thin and fit, he says. He grew up in Calvert, MD, and to this history teacher’s heart, his favorite subject was history in high school. Tony is shuffling back and forth between Richmond and Maryland, and he doesn’t have a home. He is in and out of places that take care of him, as his health isn’t great. He smokes, and says that people who quit when they get lung cancer die quicker, so he’s just going to keep smoking. I told him that it doesn’t get most smokers, but it gets some, so he should be careful. I hope he’s like my grandmothers who smoked until last breath, dying of something else, and not like my grandfathers who both died of the tobacco stick and too young.
Tony knows bricklaying and can read blueprints. He went to vocational school and learned some skills — they built houses in two programs he was in — but it’s been tough since the recession and there’s not much work. He repeated to me several times the offer to do some yard work or little jobs for just a little pay. He has disability, and the “Healing Place” in Wendale (?) takes care of him. They gave him fare to get to the bus station. He had a dollar left, and was worried about the $1.75 he needed to get to his shelter in Richmond.
All he wanted was a dollar. I told him to wait for me outside the bus, and he did. I found Jay, who gave me the three dollar coins he was stuck with as change from the Metro fare. Tony was so grateful, so nice about it, and also a bit confused about the envelope I gave him, but understood it, and smiled. “Thank you,” he said, and headed to the bus station to get to his shelter on time.
God bless ya, Tony!