Did you know that Greyhound is still the largest intercity bus service and has 3800 stops across the US of A? Having grown up with a dad who spent his entire career working at a local bus manufacturing company, I find these little “factoids” interesting. Even more interesting, however, were my own experiences riding on these behemoths of the highways.
I didn’t become a car owner until I graduated from college and accepted my first job offer as an RN. I didn’t even have regular access to one, as we were a one-car family when I was growing up at home. So, given that college was an hour and a half away from home and I didn’t really have any close friends at school with a car either, I had the rather unique experience , over a 4 year period, of occasionally riding the Greyhound bus from Columbus, Ohio to Loudonville.
The journey always began at the big, rather intimidating bus station in downtown Columbus … a unique destination all on it’s own. You could see all manner of humanity there, at any given time. Of course, to even get here, I first had to hop on a COTA city bus up on the OSU campus. You just never knew what interesting characters you might encounter here …. anything from sweet little old ladies to belligerent drunks with roving eyes. Being the small-town-gal-in-the-big-city that I was, I was always extremely cautious and observant of my fellow passengers and surroundings. One must bear in mind, this was right at the “birth” of the 80’s … not exactly a time when environmentally conscious, peace-loving hippies were purposely taking public transit to ‘save the world’. No…these riders were mostly there by circumstance….not choice. Myself included.
When I arrived at the station, thankfully unscathed by any of the nefarious-looking characters on the city bus, I had to ‘schlepp’ my luggage to the ticket office; not an easy task, as most of us women do not travel light. I’m pretty sure I just heard a collective male “Amen”!
A sidenote for you young whippersnappers in the house: this was way before cell phones and computers, so there was no such thing as booking a reservation ahead of time online. You walked up to the man at the ticket counter and actually engaged in a conversation that resulted in you handing him money and he handed you a paper ticket with which to board your bus. Shocking, I know. We actually made eye contact and everything! Hard to fathom such unobstructed communication. Then I would again schlepp my suitcase over to a row of seats where I would wait until my designated bus arrived from who knows where. During this waiting, there was no phone or iPad to look at. I had to either read a real PAPER book that I brought along in my purse or just sit and look around or……..Heaven forbid….talk to someone else sitting around waiting too. During the entire procedure up to this point, the butterflies in my ‘nervous nellie’ stomach were all very busy filing their own little flight plans, but, Good Golly, when those massive engines pulled into the loading area, they all stopped their frenzied flying and stood at attention. Maybe it comes from growing up watching the huge building down the street from my house give birth to whole fleets of buses with engines that vibrated the streets. I don’t know, but I have an appreciation for the loud, heart-thumping growl of a big engine of any kind; so exciting and powerful!
At this point, you could start to see your future travel partners gradually coming forward from all their various waiting spots throughout the station. An announcement came over the PA system advising you could now board the bus and we all lined up. The driver was usually friendly as he greeted each of us as we got on, which made my next critical task a little easier. Since Loudonville was not an official stop, I had to have a conversation with the driver wherein I told him that I needed to get off there and then sit back and hope and pray that he remembered and that I didn’t fall asleep … lest I end up in the wilds of Cleveland!
One of these trips in particular stands out in my mind because of an unexpected and exciting encounter with a handsome and sweet young guy in the seat next to me. I rarely ran across anyone my own age on these treks so this was an extra special treat. I chuckle every time I think back on that day. As a young 20 year old, I was very fashion-conscious. I was especially fussy about all components of my outfit coordinating properly. On that particular day, I was dressed to the “nines” in my matching trench coat, hat, umbrella and a pair of cute pumps…looking perhaps very much like Diana Rigg who played Emma Peel in the original version of The Avengers from the 60’s…..or so I must have thought. I often wondered later what this cute guy thought of me in that get-up; even though I was told I carried it off quite well. Not exactly typical garb for riding a bus and having to manhandle a big suitcase by yourself. The folly and vanity of youth. I only remember quite fondly how he happened to have a bag of Hershey kisses and every little while during a break in our conversation, he would turn to me and say, in a very pointed way, “would you like a kiss?” Of course back then my young hormone-filled self was not really thinking at all about chocolate during those moments … anymore than I suspect he was. Insert chuckling here. I’ve always considered that my best Greyhound trip ever …. for obvious reasons.
The return trip was always an even more nerve racking procedure. My parents and I would drive down to our Central Park a little before the time the bus was predicted to come through town. The driver had no idea I was getting on. As he approached, my dad, who HATED any kind of ‘public scene’ would very discreetly step to the curb with my suitcase and raise his hand and motion for the driver to stop. I was at that age where I was highly mortified by all of this, but, it’s the only way I could get home many times and believe me, I was so extremely homesick my freshman year, it was a miracle I stayed in school.
Fast forward 37 years. Sadly, buses are no longer ‘minted’ in Loudonville and haven’t been for many years. I personally haven’t even been on a bus since those long-ago Greyhound days. But those sweet memories of a simpler time when I had far less and yet so very much more, will live on in my mind forever.