As most of my writing argues, there is something glamorous about having nothing and doing nothing in New York City. The moments when I debate whether to spend the last twenty dollars in my bank account on Ramen or Sam Adams actually excite me. There are nights
where I sit on the subway and question everything I ever wanted and then decide that, indeed, there is nothing I want. Every myth of every artist that matters has similar stories of such reckless brokenness. Which doesn’t make me an artist. But it doesn’t make me not one.
Certain types of people are meant for this kind of life. New York City celebrates these types. I am one. I don’t have a business card and I don’t mind that. But the universe challenges this line of thinking, using a brutal tactic- the Greyhound.
Sunday I decided to ride the Greyhound. A ticket from New York to Washington D.C. for 17 dollars is a balling deal. I needed to be at Union Station at 8am. I figured leaving at 1:30am would get me there around 6. I’m in. Considering it is Black History Month, what better way than to celebrate than to take the famous bus line into the Nation’s capital? I was soon to be reminded that we, indeed, have so much further to go.
Greyhound argues that one ought not feel entitled to a seat at 1:30 on a bus their ticket says they have paid for scheduled to depart at 1:30. Scheduled departures, they argue, are like the pirate code. They’re guidelines, not guarantees. It’s first come, first serve. Like the Old Country Buffet. Once the fish fillets are eaten, there ain’t nothing nobody can do about it. Once the seats are gone, it’s just time to wait for the next one.
And so, at 1:15, I was told my 1:30 bus was filled. The attendant told me the news as if I was to blame for not assuming they’d be grossly inept at counting how many seats are on their buses and to match that number with the same amount of tickets they offered for sale. The next bus, she coolly explained, left at 3:45. I didn’t argue. I sat back and did wait I could. Which was wait.
And so began my night back at the Greyhound. This would not be my first time spending an extended amount of time doing nothing at a Greyhound bus station. In Atlanta. In Charlotte. In Richmond. Wherever you find yourself, they all add up the same way. Miserable as hell.
Any Greyhound bus stop is categorically not the most depressing experience you can find. But it sure tries hard to be. Each of us can imagine a space where everyone doesn’t want to be there. Like taking the SATs or the DMV or whatever. But the Greyhound is different. Not only do we not want to be there, we resent ourselves for being there. It is one of those few places that force us to consider the paths and choices that led us to being there.
I look for the benches and cringe at my options. Everyone around me looks like the rejects from another lifetime; decades that faded resurface in the form of an old couple asking what gate their bus left at to only discover that it left ten minutes earlier.
There is an old black woman in an oversized lime green hoodie doing Tai-Chi. Beside her, a postgraduate with a Patagonia bookbag finds his center by doing meditation, hands creating a circle over his waist. I drop my head. Jesus, these people.
There is the Greyhound expert. Every station has one. He is the guy who knows the intricacies of Greyhound scheduling, he recognizes drivers and attendants. He explains to those around him that the 3:45 will be packed. He never understood why, he explains. But he once came at 3:30 expecting four others and instead found a full queue. Keeping him stranded, as I was. He never made that mistake again. He is entirely comfortable. He isn’t phased by the time or the delays. This is life as he expects it to be.
There is a family. There is nothing more depressing than families that ride the Greyhound. Three generations of women watch their younger brother/son/grandson moan at how expensive the candies are in the vending machine. Now, they are expensive. 2.25 for a pack of Starbursts is a joke. But he’s a kid. And he’s up at 3am and he wants something sweet. Between the mother and the grandmother, nowhere was 2.25 found for a pack of Starbursts. And it killed me!
I fought the urge to give him something but I was forced to admit that I am no different than the kid. I’m riding the Greyhound too. That’s when I start to question everything.
Why am I waiting for a bus at 3:45am? Why am I sprawled on the ground like a directionless fuck? Why am I going to D.C. to hand out hot chocolate for a week? I’ve no answers. And unlike the dozens of other scenarios where that’d be all right, that isn’t good enough for me.
Most times, I share the life philosophy of Jesus Christ:
“… do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”
But notice how he never said anything about the form of Interstate travel. Perhaps, it is there that I start to worry.
The Greyhound bus is the only place where I am forced to admit that there is a life I do not want and there is a life that I do. I don’t want Rumour and Django to ever sit waiting for a bus that they should have been on. I don’t want to not be able to buy them candy for two dollars if they want candy for two dollars. I don’t want to take the Greyhound bus when I’m 40 or 70.
This doesn’t mean that I’m better than the things than the people that do or that somewhere in their past they royally screwed up their future when they were 23 in New York drinking Sam Adams. But as there is no shame in riding the Greyhound, there is no shame in admitting that I don’t want to either.