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Bus Rape Soliloquy I. [Travel Tips and Reminders]

December 28, 2009

Traveling cross country by bus, it’s better to be a little hungry.  This gives you certain advantages. First, if you eat less, you’ll have to shit less often. Pissing in Greyhound station restroom isn’t that big of a deal; a urinal is a urinal, and they are universally disgusting things. (And everybody knows the urinal cake is a high class option for discriminating proprietors.) But the toilets are at best gross and at worst frightening monuments to the disgusting dietary and not-so-hygienic hygiene habits of humanity; at absolute worst, a bus depot toilet is a new and putrid life form that must be destroyed at all costs.

Restrooms in the bigger depots – like Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, or Memphis – can be okay. Sometimes. To their credit, they do work a little harder to take care of the facilities and throw money at trying to make the weary-assed traveler forget he is traveling by bus instead of by the more prestigious mode of flying or by the more nostalgic and classy rail. The biggest problem with depots in bigger cities is that you must keep your bags with you at all times. If you’re waiting to transfer and you have a lot of stuff, this can be a problem; naturally there are lockers, but none of them are big enough for a medium-sized suitcase or large duffel bag. And even though they have locks on them, you are ultimately responsible if something happens to your bags while they are locked up; if the roof leaks, or the bag in the locker next to yours has a firecracker that inexplicably goes off, or if your stuff is just plain stolen, you are shit out of luck and there are signs informing you of that fact. Sometimes you can find a sympathetic fellow weary traveler to watch your stuff.  But chances are that person will be on the same bus as you and will see your request as an offer of bus friendship; this means you’re going to spend hours listening to him or her rattle on about their divorces, their kids, their “for real” religious experiences and horribly flaccid philosophical meanderings they stumbled upon while watching Dr. Phil reruns. You might find a decent place to leave your stuff – but this increases the chances of someone walking off with it – and, like a murder in Downtown Cincinnati, no one will see or hear anything about it. So you’re better off keeping your stuff with you at all times. But having more than a carry-on bag can make using the restroom problematic. And even if the stalls are big enough (Yes, there’s always a handicapped stall, but it’s usually the dirtiest; and not because of any disabled person, either.) and even if the floor isn’t covered in a suspicious layer of liquid, you still have to take your eyes off your stuff for a second, even if it’s just to unzip, drop trow, and try to avoid coming into contact with the science experiment running amok inches from your ass. 

 The other advantage of being a little hungry while traveling cross country on a bus is that a little hunger sharpens your senses and keeps you alert. This is crucial.  You’ll need to stay alert at all times to make sure you don’t leave anything behind on the bus and to make sure you’re getting to your connections on time – since no bus driver in the world will wait for you just because you don’t know where the hell you are or because the geography of the bus depot is such that you need to cut through the lines of every other gate just to find yours. Naturally you need to stay hydrated, and you should try and eat a little if you can when you’re traveling for more than a day. Too much hunger is a painful distraction and it will be something you will be reminded of at nearly every stop; because the odds are better than average that your fellow travelers will eat every chance they get – not so much from hunger but because it’s something to do. There are stops between major stops: at small stations (where the restrooms aren’t even worth mentioning. Imagining them is enough.), gas stations and small town depots where there will always be an over-priced vending machine or a two for one special on all candy bars. They will buy bags of salty chips and masticate on them as noisily as possible.  They will buy big slurpy drinks and slurp on them like livestock. These sounds are annoying anyway; but when your stomach is eating your small intestines, these sounds are torture. So it’s important to be smart; snack a little, but not too much, and avoid foods that run right through you and might cause you to have to resort to the onboard toilet which is never really private, since everyone in the three or fours back rows can hear (and sometimes smell) you, and which never has soap or paper towels.

 There is one more thing to keep in mind. You will be sitting. You will be sitting a lot. You will be sitting so much that your ass will ache worse than that beating you got for spilling paint in the garage when you were nine. Also, your knees and your lower back will hurt; about two and a half hours into the trip you will find it impossible to get comfortable for very long. You won’t be using a lot of energy to do anything except engage in the futile quest for a more comfortable position; and while brain activity does require sustenance, if you’re lucky you will either be incoherently drunk or asleep for the biggest part of the trip. Loading down your gut with over-priced shitty depot food will only make it that much harder to be comfortable … and Greyhound bus seats, like airplane seats in coach, aren’t made for anybody of normal size. Packing it on will only make it worse.

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