What an interesting day! And one full of insight into the workings the Greyhound world. (Making a page for that, so see the menu above).We left the hotel just in time to be a half hour early, as directed by the agent the day before. The station was near empty except for a few people, including some that would mark our day. One
lady, Toronto Lady, was having trouble with her oversized bag, and Jay helped her load it on and off the scale. She returned to sit with another woman who was holding an odd looking baby, almost as if an afterthought. I walked by her, trying to figure it out, and pointing to it, I asked a set of people who were sitting nearby, “Is that real?” They exclaimed a sympathetic, “I was wondering that, too!”, and the lady turned to say that it was a doll, and that she makes them. The people sitting, a mother and two sons, seemed relieved by this new information, and I went to sit down. I noticed later that Doll Lady and Toronto Woman shared holding the baby, so they were clearing putting on a show that bordered on creepy. Throughout all this a wheelchair man ran about in circles and in and out, zipping like mad. I imagined that he had souped up the wheelchair with a Tesla engine. He really enjoyed bopping around, and I had fun watching him.
Jay and I sat for a bit, then as the station began to fill and the line grew, we decided to join in, as I was hoping for a window seat, which seemed to have gone first on the other buses. We got in line, allowing a young couple with enormous bags and three or so kids in front of us.They were grateful, and left their bags to sit nearby. They were attached to an older father and mother and an assortment of more children. It was unclear who belonged to what, but they were clearly a loving family, and a couple of the kids were torn up over someone’s departure. What we learned later, when we boarded, is that the young mother – Mom, now – was leaving with three of the children, and the father and grandparents and other children were there to see her off. Putting Mom on the bus, the husband told her to remember to ask for help at Winston-Salem getting her large bags to the next bus.
The parolee got in line behind us, and Jay struck a conversation with her that turned into another full post here, so for that story see his “Samantha” post. Wheelchair man was near the front of the line, and he kept coming and going. And the line kept growing while keeping not moving. It seemed that the other buses didn’t have lines, and they kept coming and going while ours didn’t. Around 10:00 they announced “first call” for our 10:00 bus, and then not a word until well after 11:00, when we finally began to board. The guy behind me said that they were having trouble getting Wheelchair Man onboard, since the buses were packed next to each other. So we had to wait for the other buses to leave. I dunno, but from what we’re learning about Greyhound, makes sense.
Finally onboard, I took a seat next to a young kid who was busy busy on his cell phone. I noted “Pandora Kid.” He gave me a little advice on using Pandora, and otherwise we didn’t talk much, he on his headphones, and I crouching against the window, trying to squeeze my elbows into place so as to be able to type out a spreadsheet and emails for work. Not easy. Pandora kid was very nice, and we had a few words. I wish him well on his way to Indianapolis. Long trip, though. He changed buses at Winston-Salem, where Raven’s Husband got on and sat next to me. I wrote about him on the “Elena” post, so won’t go into it here.
During the layover at Winston-Salem, I noticed that Mom was leaving. I offered to help her with her bags, and she was very grateful. Letting the others off first, I waited and chatted with the two sons who had witnessed the fake baby thing at the station in Raleigh. They agreed that it was a little freaky, and we had a good laugh. I asked them if they wanted a soda or something from the station, and they both hesitated. The younger boy, though, shirked his head, and meekly said, “Maybe a Sprite?” “Sure!” I said, and asked the brother again. No, he said again. “Wait,” said the younger brother, “can I have a Mountain Dew?”
I got off the bus and found Mom herding her kids and waiting on her bags. I helped her move them inside and by a bench. Before I knew it, she had disappeared, probably chasing a kid or two. So I went off to buy a Mountain Dew. I got one and ran into Jay. While we talked, a rather scruffy lady asked us for a dollar to buy a Mountain Dew. I held up mine and said, “Here.” She was startled, but I insisted, and she took it, grudgingly. Obviously she wanted the dollar more than the soda. Jay gave me some more change to buy another Mountain Dew. I already had some change, so I just put the rest of it into the coin return, figuring that would make the next customer pretty happy. Before getting on the bus I went looking for Mom. She wasn’t back yet. So I asked a cop who was seated behind a security window if he would give her an envelope when she returned. He didn’t want to deal with me and suggested I speak with a Greyhound agent. I said that I just wanted to help her out and that she had three kids and three huge bags, and I needed someone I could trust. “Is it money in that envelope?” he asked. I nodded. “I’ll get it to her.” Great!
Our stop came up pretty quickly, but not really. The bus got off the highway, circled a bit, and
then got back on the highway. The customer service lady then announced, “Does anyone here know where the Hickory Citgo is?” Raven’s Husband turned to me, “They get lost all the time. One driver in Vegas got drunk at the casinos and they couldn’t find another driver. And once, a bum jumped onto my bus and starting backing it out of the station. A cop had to jump on and pull him off!” These are parts of the Greyhound world that we are discovering.
The Citgo was found, although it wasn’t in Hickory and instead by an adjacent town. Before getting off, I gave envelopes to the Brothers, Pandora Kid, and Raven’s Husband. I wasn’t very discreet, and as I shook their hands I heard from a seat behind, “Heh, I want one too!” I recognized the voice to be that of a guy who had watched me help Mom with the bags back at Winston-Salem, and as I passed him had said, “God bless you for helping her!”
Jay has blogged about what we found at the Citgo – perfect timing. I’ll wrap up the day from there. A storm was coming, and we were at a gas station along a highway with nothing there except signs to one town in one direction and to another in the other. I said let’s go, and we trudged off towards what we hoped was Hickory. The storm approached and it started to drop
rain a bit, so Jay and I checked phones for a nearby restaurant. Misreading mine, I said, “Heh, there’s a seafood restaurant 1/10th a mile away!” Jay noted that one ought not eat seafood in the middle of North Carolina, but he liked the idea of a tenth a mile away. We decided to run for it, something rather new to me these days, especially with 17 lbs on my back. We must have gone two or three tenths of a mile, and up a long, long highway hill, before I just had to stop. Jay, who
jogs, was nice and didn’t complain and let me walk ahead of him at my pace. A touch further and we say the sign of an Indian restaurant. Run down and closed, of course. I
looked at the phone again and realized that we had been one tenth a mile from nothing and that we had a long way to go before there were any seafood or other restaurants. Onward we walked, my calf cramped and hurting, Jay being patient, and the storm amazingly holding off to the northeast. By another 20 minutes we found a strip mall and chose the Irish restaurant as it seemed not to be a chain (which is was). We had a pleasant lunch, drying off, me unfortunately trying out the fried pickles appetizer (paying dividends just now as I write this), and otherwise winding down and resting. And no hotels anywhere near. We had walked an entire highway exit and now we had to walk another. At least it put us closer to Hickory.
We found a quiet place, the kind of hotel in which we hope to find someone who can use a hand. We decided not to bother anymore with trying to get to downtown Hickory, as we were told it’s still another mile away. Instead, we went for a 6pm coffee at the Waffle House nearby. Boy I wanted coffee! The only ones there, Daje (“deja”) greeted us and said to sit where we pleased. We took the counter, and I ordered my coffee — coffee only, Daje, coffee only please. Jay asked for a hot chocolate, and Daje said they only sell it in the winter. “Unless,” she smiled, “There one left down here.” She opened a fridge under the counter and proceeded to make him a hot chocolate. Daje was just enthusiastic about everything we talked about. You like storms? “Love ’em. In fact, my favorite picture is of lightening in Alaska that’s colored like a rainbow.” You like history? “My favorite subject!” Where would you like to travel one day? “Czechoslovakia!” Daje had an enthusiasm for every subject, and also for every client. We had earlier talked dessert but decided not to have any — Daje slipped one in front of me, anyway, and refused to charge for it. An old couple came in but were having trouble getting through the door. In an instant, Daje was out there hugging them and helping them in. Daje has a pharmaceutical degree, but she can only practice in Georgia. She works hard at the Waffle House, and she dreams big. The two other folks behind the counter were super nice, as well, especially the guy who had worked at the Citgo and also with another old bus company and knew by heart all the travails of bus travel. (Didn’t have a chance to speak with the other lady who was kindly and refilled my coffee at a glance). “DJ” I said, “is that it?” “No, “day-jah” she corrected. “Do I have to finish the crust?” She looked back at me all stern. “Yes.” Joy loved this revenge upon our argument the night before over whether or not a Rueben without sauerkraut is a Rueben. “Pie without crust isn’t pie,” he said triumphantly. Daje wouldn’t give, either, so I asked for a fourth coffee and swallowed it down. (I do hope my mother is ready this one…).
I borrowed a pen from Daje, wrote “For Prague” on the envelope and left it with the our payment for the three dollar coffee and hot chocolate.