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My Most “Memorable” Trip Home
My Journey Begins
An anxious moment gripped my spirit on my way to Marion's Greyhound station that memorable Monday evening. My second brother and four of his five children—my charming two nephews and two nieces—took me to the bus station.
I prayed silently in my heart that the bus wouldn't be too full. Praying as Jesus did when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Father, not my will, but Yours." And so, yielding my will and ways to God—my Heavenly Father knows best His plans for me in what I was about to experience the next few hours.
Maybe, too, my anxious moment that the bus might be full was an "intuition," as my hopes banished when the bus finally arrived, nearly 40 minutes late.
When I boarded the bus I found, to my disappointment (anyway), that that big "dog" was indeed full, loaded to the hilt. I stood all the way to Columbus (Ohio)—for nearly two hours, I guess.
Hence, if my return trip home to Columbia, South Carolina, from Marion, Ohio, was any indication of Greyhound's business, then Greyhound isn't hurting for business. Of course, too, perhaps it was because the southbound route from Marion to Columbia was on a Detroit to Tampa run, Florida a popular destination. But who in their right mind wants to go to Florida this time of year? Having lived there myself for a bit over three years, I've concluded that the best time to be in Florida is the fall or spring.
Thus, my vacation drawing to a close all too quickly (as all holidays do I suppose, recalling the familiar cliché, "Time flies when you're having fun"), boarding that crowded Greyhound I settled back in my standing position. Turning to my "stand-up" partner, I commented, "Oh well, sitting for a long time gets boring too." He nodded.
As I stood, adjusting my standing position occasionally, I gazed about the crowd; it is somewhat challenging to peer out the window at the passing scenery standing. (Just as well, it was nighttime anyway.)
A few rows up ahead left of the aisle a little girl was probably enjoying her seat on a woman's lap, presumably her mother's lap. Behind me, on the opposite side of the bus, a few rows back, a small African-American boy, perhaps the same age as that little girl up ahead was happily seated by himself. A Black woman, presumably the boy's mother, was sitting next to him; she appeared to be fast asleep.
Hm-m, I thought, surely that woman could permit her son to sit on her lap, too, giving up her seat to one of us who was standing.
I stood next to a seat occupied by a young Black woman, wearing an NBA 2001 Eastern Conference Champion sweatshirt. Hence, I assumed she was a basketball fan, particularly favoring the Philadelphia 76ers.
"Do you want to put your seat back?" I asked, noticing what I thought was an attempt on her part to adjust her seat, thinking I could be of some assistance.
"No," she answered.
After a brief pause, she then asked me, "Do you want to sit down?"
"No, that's okay," I said. (Dah, I thought, she offered me her seat, and I didn't take it? But I guess I figured that wasn't the "gentlemanly" thing to do—to take a seat from a woman.)
Hm-m, as the bus rolled along, I continued collecting my thoughts in observing the crowd: for sure all of these people aren't going all the way to Florida, a few, at least, would get off in Columbus, and I could get a seat.
My fears soon calmed upon our arrival in Columbus. The bus indeed nearly emptied itself of its passengers, I'm sure many to make other connections to all points east, west, etc., some even reaching their destination, Columbus being a primary terminal. I then, at last, got to sit down when two women, I assumed, have apparently reached the end of their journey "graciously" offered me their seat.
Not expecting the bus to be in Columbus long—maybe about 15 minutes—I then settled myself in that seat where I would remain until Columbia. Not that I wouldn't get up occasionally to stretch my legs, but that was my seat until I reached my destination.
The Second Leg of the Journey
The bus refreshed with fuel, some new passengers, and a new driver was soon on the road again, toward Charleston, West Virginia.
"This bus is running 40 minutes late all the way down the line," the driver announced, putting forth the rules before his passengers. "There are no rest stops on this route," he continued, "We'll be stopping only to load and unload passengers. If you think you have time to smoke in the allotted time, go ahead and try, but you'll be left behind if you're not back on the bus when we're ready to go."
Boy, am I glad I don't smoke, or never had, was my thought grateful for my upbringing.
Sitting opposite me on this second leg of my journey back home, across the aisle, a White man, thin frame and hair and sporting a mustache. He reminded me of a pastor I had known when I lived in Pasadena, California. His countenance, however, and talk suggested he was anything but a person "of the cloth," but of one who could use some godly counsel himself from a pastor.
As I heard him conversing with a woman in the adjacent seat, I sensed that bitterness and anger racked his thin frame. His lips uttered a cuss word that caught the bus driver's ear.
"I'll not put up with any cussing on this bus while I'm driving," the driver announced, stating further rules. Heard throughout the bus, yet he was speaking in particular to that one who uttered that foul word. "If I hear any more such talk, by anyone," he continued, "You'll find yourself walking. Is that clear?"
"Clear," responded the one who incited the driver's attention.
Silently I prayed, "Thank you, Lord. I know you consider such talk profane and unwholesome and inappropriate for good, moral character."
As the bus rolled along through the dark hours, that bitter man related his story to the woman sitting next to him. I could hear him as well. Apparently, he had gone through some hard, trying times, which included a struggle where he suffered a blow on the head. Bending his head toward the woman, she felt it and apparently found evidence of a severe wound.
From my seat, I listened as the man shared with the woman a devastatingly crippling operation he had experienced. His arm poised upon the armrest, he pointed at the elbow's bend. "A quack dug in right there and ripped out a nerve. I have little feelings now from here to here." He gestured along his forearm to his hand.
Gasping, the woman remarked, "You've been disabled."
"Yah. Well, he better get out of town when I return, or I'll disable him right to his grave," he said.
A “Hardee” Break
The Greyhound rolled on through Circleville, Chillicothe, and Portsmouth, Ohio, making short stops only to load and unload passengers, as the driver said he would. Smokers, as soon as the bus stopped and its door opened, jumped off to see how many draws on a cigarette they could get in the allotted time.
Through Portsmouth, however, the driver gave in a little to his demand of no rest stops; he made a deal with his passengers. "Thirty minutes outside of town is a Hardees," he said. "I'll give you a ten-minute break there. Get something to go and return to the bus." To that, the people agreed.
At the Hardees restaurant, many passengers got off the bus, taking the opportunity afforded them by the driver to stretch their legs and get something to eat. I, however, remained on the bus and enjoyed the lunch my sister-in-law had prepared for me, consisting of leftovers from the drop-in my brother and his family hosted at their home in Ohio, near Marion, celebrating the oldest son's high school graduation. That was the main reason for taking my four-day vacation then. Too, that day of celebration was my youngest niece's half birthday, celebrating 4 ½ years of age.
It was an enjoyable visit, as generally, most vacations are—a break from the regular work routine. In considering the trip and the mode of transportation I would take to Ohio, I had tossed about whether I should drive or go by bus. Ah, well, I guess my decision is apparent now, being this far along into my story, taking Greyhound's suggestion to "take the bus and leave the driving to [them]." And, indeed, as I learned later, even though I was unable to see in advance I would experience the crowded bus on my return trip, that was the wiser choice.
The ten-minute break now fast expiring, one by one the passengers returned to the bus with their purchases. The bitter man with the injured arm also got back on the bus with a box of chicken and a cup of coffee. He seated himself a row behind his original position but still on the opposite side of the bus from me. He then commenced dining.
The driver, too, resumed his position at the wheel. In grateful appreciation, one passenger started singing, "For he's a jolly good fellow…" Others, too, began singing with that one.
With a chuckle, the driver responded, "I know."
Soon we were on the road again toward Charleston and points south.
I observed how that man with the crippled arm did manage reasonably well eating his meal, yet with some difficulty having limited use of one hand. My heart went out to him, spiritually as well as physically, apparent that he lacked the real joy and peace, only available through Jesus even through trying times.
The woman, with whom the bitter, disabled man mainly conversed, reached her destination at Ashland, Kentucky, in the dark hours of the night. That angered injured arm man reached the end of his trip at Huntington, West Virginia. At Charleston, West Virginia, we yet again changed drivers. It was also time once more to service and refuel the bus. Thus, we all left the bus while that servicing took place. An incredible surprise awaited me inside the bus terminal.
A multitude of tired, weary-eyed people crowded the terminal waiting to board or re-board their respective bus. Most of the seats in the terminal occupied; many people stood in line at their particular gate or sat on the floor of the building. It was a comfort for me to be on my feet as well (not that standing was a stranger to me), but I was eager to get back on my bus and continue my journey home.
In so waiting I watched the servicing of the bus. I thought it interesting in my observation: the one performing the service seemed quite efficient at the task, appearing determined to get it done as quickly as possible.
Then, continuing my observation, looking about, to my surprise, a thought incredibly ran through my mind. Could it be? Some of the people inside the terminal looked very familiar to me. Baffled, I couldn't believe my eyes. It seemed for sure they were on the same bus as I which came in from Columbus, yet they had departed the coach in Columbus. Mainly, I'm sure I recognized that Black woman and the boy whom I thought could have given up a seat to one of us who was standing.
Could it have been? They got off the bus in Columbus for another connection to Charleston only to change coaches again in Charleston back to the one from which they got off in Columbus? Unbelievable. Uh, oh well, yet when it was time to re-board, they too boarded that Florida bound bus I was on, supposedly for the first time in Charleston.
The bus at last on its way again south, the next to the final leg of my trip home was from Charleston, West Virginia to Charlotte, North Carolina. We had yet another driver.
Departing the terminal the driver began the usual announcements, yet rousing some chuckles from the wearied eyed, tired passengers in his manner of speaking, "Welcome aboard," he said. "As you know this bus is bound for Fl-o-o-o-ida. But, I see all of you don't want to go that far. One will be jumping off at Beckley, West Virginia. Since there's not much going on around Bluefield, we'll pass right on by…" He concluded, "Now my employer would like me to thank you all for going Greyhound. And so do I, as well as my wife and children, because I don't get paid for driving an empty bus."
A truck driver joined me on this part of the journey, seated in the aisle seat. He was headed west to Tennessee—Chattanooga, as I recall—returning to work, making his westward connection at Wytheville, Virginia. He carried on board a pillow and a red sack. (Ah, no, he wasn't Santa Claus.) Placing that red bag in the overhead compartment, the pillow he put behind his head. He expressed a concern that the baggage handlers got his suitcase on board in the baggage compartment below.
His concern was put to rest, however, upon our arrival in Wytheville. Just moments after we arrived, his westward connection also pulled in, right beside our southbound bus. And so he departed the southbound, and as the baggage compartment below was opened up there to his glee, he found his suitcase. Taking it off the southbound, he placed it in the baggage compartment of his connection, bound for San Bernardino, California, as I observed. Relieved and satisfied, he then boarded his connecting coach and settled in his seat. Soon that bus was off, continuing its way West.
(Whew, I took, a cross-country run by bus several years ago—certainly a long trip, to put it mildly, for people headed that far, not one I care to experience again, anytime soon —uh, not at all.)
Soon, my bus was on its way again, also, continuing its southbound trek; next stop, Charlotte, North Carolina. I had another sitting partner. "Is somebody sitting here?" he asked me as he sat down.
"Now there is," I answered.
Catching my one-liner, he chuckled, "Oh, thank you." And that was that. Perhaps we both fell asleep until Charlotte (It's a wonder if we didn't.). Arriving in Charlotte, now in the early morning light, the bus had to be emptied yet again for servicing.
Interesting, unlike at Charleston, West Virginia, there seemed to be more confusion at the Charlotte terminal in servicing the bus. Several people hovered around the bus. One person did seem to be in charge, however, appearing to direct the others of their duties. The servicing finally completed, the coach was on the road again to Columbia, about 90 minutes away, making one stop in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
On that, my last leg of the trip, we had our fourth driver. In departing Charlotte, however, I thought it strange: the bus arrived in Charlotte in time, one would think, for it to leave on schedule, 6:15 a.m. But, still, it left Charlotte about 40 minutes late. Hence, I arrived in Columbia 40 minutes behind as well.
Having made no arrangements for someone to meet me at the bus station to take me the remainder of my way home, taking the city bus home was the next better alternative, probably far cheaper than taking a cab, I'm sure.
If the Greyhound arrived in Columbia on time, I would have had nearly an hour wait for the city bus. But since that big "dog" was late getting into Columbia, I didn't have to wait long at all for the city bus. Just a couple of blocks or so from the Greyhound terminal, the short walk to the city bus stop was a "comfort," too, after my long "comfortable" experience on the Greyhound. My "memorable" trip home was nearing completion.
Ah, what do I make of it all, this my most memorable Greyhound experience? Well, I love to travel, even by Greyhound, even more so by Amtrak. And the standing part wasn't all that bad either. But I suppose driving myself, in my own car would yet be most enjoyable, setting my own schedule, stopping at my own stops, etc., forever as long as I deemed it necessary.
Maybe I missed my "calling." Perhaps I should have been a traveler. Indeed, it's an enjoyable way to meet people—to hear their story, to share mine.
For sure the one I'm most likely to remember is the one of that disabled arm man. (I never did catch his name, but God knows him.) I pray for him that he would come to experience, as I have for myself, God's love for him through Jesus. Only Jesus can heal his evil heart, quench his revengeful spirit, and give him real joy for living in this time, and for all eternity.
Hm-m, considering it all, I have come to realize I am a traveler, trekking about this temporal earthly homeland. And continuing, journeying this vale below, I have a fifth driver. In reality, however, He is my first (and only) "driver." He is Jesus, my Pilot—my Commander.
Riding with Him is indeed always a comfort, under His protective care. Even at times, as sheep do, I too, need a poke from His correcting rod, to keep me on that straight path of His direction.
As I journey on through this present time, I pray I will always revere Christ as Lord, prepared, ready to speak as the Spirit so instructs me to share from His Word to others, what to say, yet doing so with gentleness and respect.
© 2016 Charles Newcombe