greyhound, southbound, on christmas night

the trip was supposed to last 26 hours. it ended up lasting 45. and it was pretty much what i had wanted, even if with the timing a bit off. in retrospect, i am trying to come to terms with the fact that few people would take the greyhound on such weather, and no one on my bus would have unless they wanted to reunite with their families for christmas or some such. i was the one person in that group who was there on holiday – and  was expected by no one at the end of the road.

there was snow, ice and hail. they put chains on the wheels.the first night in seattle, with the station locked, we slept on buses with the door half-open, the overhead lights off and the heat going off every hour. and it was snowing: i watched the snow coming down in the bad light by the station entrance. it was morbid. going through washington the next morning we passed by an accident on the road. on the second night we were caught in traffic outside salem, OR, and crawled at about a mile an hour for what seemed like ages. at midnight we must’ve been around woodburn, OR – „literally in the middle of nowhere” the driver put it – and we cheered and clapped and wished eachother merry christmas, and people were talking in their cellphones to other people and saying i love you very very often. we stopped at foodmarts and i drank hot chocolate from a supersized cup, but by medford, OR i already had a throatache.

the drivers were heroes. we had four of them – but especially john (jon?), the guy who took us portland-medford and who was with us on christmas eve, was great. he’d just been the same route the night before, and was totally beat. when he took the chains off,past salem, he quoted something from the bible about ‘…deliver us from bondage’, and we all clapped. also, by that time somehow the bus was full because it had collected all the misfits from tacoma WA on, everyone delayed. i fell asleep as we were crossing the mountains, and woke up around 5 am at redding. the new driver was telling jokes about greyhound drivers. in a couple of hours the sun rose, and we saw it was going to be warm.

i slept ok, even on the first night. i had hot chocolate at night and bagels the rest of the meals. i called my hostel from portland on 24th the afternoon to tell them i wouldn’t make it that night – they cooed over my misfortune and changed my reservation. and as everyone should know, while one travels one’s free. it’s beyond my powers to influence the way the bus goes. i don’t mind if it’s delayed. i am there, by the window, my coat against the pushed-back chair, reading ‘middlesex’. i love being in transit. any kind of transit, where movement is involved while i actually sit and read.

i talked to all sorts of people. people who had been waiting for 2 days in vancouver or seattle while the airports and stations were closed. people meeting their parents, children, partners at different points along the way. in the van-seattle night, one girl was talking to her brother on the seats behind me; an intimate talk between two people catching up with eachother. he was telling her about a friend of his who had decided to go to india, and who had said ‘i don’t have any expectations’ – and he had replied ‘that’s wrong – you always expect something, whether you know it or not’. i listened and smiled, because that conversation,in the dark, made so much sense. (do you know what i mean? i wish you did.)

and the second morning, the sun shone over us all, and i told myself well i made it , although it hadn’t been me who had made it. also, because of the warmth and beauty, part of me said it wasn’t fair. but it was, all the way. it was the classical yarn of reaching paradise after going through storms etc. (the funniest questions i was asked on the way: „what’s your favourite fast-food place?” – girl, 18, travelling to salem to spend christmas with her boyfriend; and „how normal is what you’re doing?” – officer at the border, after i exposed to him the circumstances of my journey.)

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