A bus full of prisoners and myself. (Huh?)

 

I may not have the giddy widget displayed on the face of my blog (currently, I don’t have the time to worry about such things), but nevertheless, I’m committing myself to the obligation (one to be enjoyed) of making a post here on wordpress *atleast once weekly.  To further enable that end, the “post-a-day/ post-a-week” enthusiasts have provided daily topics.. sentences, one-liners.. that prompt the noble writer to think creatively, remember with detail, and foresee with insight.  I’m pretty excited about it! Mainly because, while scrolling down the page (thought it curious, but wasn’t entirely sold on the idea yet), I saw that one of the “nudgers” read:

“Describe the strangest thing that ever happened to you on a bus.”

..and the memory it recalled, I felt an immediate sense of urgency to communicate and share.

So, at random, let me tell you about the WEIRDEST thing that has ever happened to me while I was traveling on a (Greyhound) bus.

First of all, it was a long-distance commute.  It wasn’t twenty minutes from the city of Hoover to 23rd Avenue South downtown.  I was traveling from Birmingham, Alabama (about 4 years ago – I was fifteen at the time) to sunny, central Florida.  It was a 10 hour drive.. and a 16 hour bus ride (you know.. the stops you sigh at, the breaks you don’t really need and the layovers that make it all last longer).   

Secondly, I was going on the first of my twice-annual trips to visit my best friends, Melissa and David (Melissa.. the best friend of eight years whom you’ve recently heard deserted me.. yeah, her).  In retrospect, it’s funny; during those eight years, I was always the one who made the effort — who saved up all of her cashier money to buy plane tickets, bus passes and (later, when I was “old enough,”) gas money.  I always left my family and stayed with hers.. I always had to pack my stuff so I could store it haphazardly somewhere in her room.  I always had to endure those 16-hour-long, smelly, dark, creepy-weird bus rides..

and while I got to know her side of the family most intimately, she scarcely knew two facts about mine.

Regardless, continuing..

My mom and I had stayed up the night before – all night.  I can remember eating a bunch of crappy junk food and watching some weird, petrifying children’s program around 2 am where a funny-looking baby creature whaled “booobahhhh.”  The psychedelic trauma has altered me as a person.  It was always my theory that, were one to deprive themself of sleep for a long period of time before traveling arrangements were carried out, they would be able to “sleep through” the boring travel time.  Sierra and I tested this out and..  I was wrong.  The 16 hour bus ride absolutely SUCKED, starting early that morning.

We left the house around 2:30 am, as the bus was scheduled to leave around 3:30 or so.. I can’t quite remember.  We drove down the long, obscure, absolutely deserted innerstate until we reached the long-awaited for exit.  After making it past the one-way streets, shattered windows and decaying buildings, we once again found the bus station (this wasn’t my first bus ride — it was one of many.  Periods of time, however, intervened between trips, so the exact location of the bus station was easily forgotten by the two of us.  Let it also be noted that Sierra always had me drive to the bus station; driving downtown terrified her, and driving at night was always something she sought to avoid).  We parked the car, lugged my guitar and singular duffle bag into the staging area and picked up my pre-purchased ticket from the attendant on duty.  Then, we waited.

Waiting always sucked.. the people around you are weird and creepy, the lighting is dim, it feels unnatural – to be so awake, lively and purposeful when it’s so dark and early.. it’s just awful.  Everything seems to take weeks and when the time for boarding does finally come, it feels like you should already be where you’re headed to.

I grabbed Charlie (my guitar) with one hand and let the weight of the duffle bag hang off my other arm.  “I love you sweetie,” Sierra would say.  “I’m going to miss you so much!.. make sure you don’t miss your second bus and please do call me during your layover — and please make sure that you’re kind, thoughtful and helpful when you’re staying at Barbara’s.  Go over to Grammy’s some days and spend time there and make sure-”

“Okay mom, I love you too,” I’d assure her.  “I will call you, it’s all good.”

And then, we would part.  I would cry on the bus – I always missed my mom – but she never knew.  Quickly thereafter, however, I became excited.  Finally!  After six months I get to see Melissa again!  It was always the highlight of my year and the very joy of my life, spending time with my best friend.  No other person was as close, dear or valuable to me (aside from my mother), other than Melissa.  She was my confidant, counselor, partner-in-crime, comedian, and biggest fan.  Anyways.

The ride was long.. and very EVENTFUL.

Here is where the “Oh my goodness it was soooo weird” nudger finds it’s accomplishment.   The setting has been established – you’re prepared. 

Well..

During the long ride of drudgery, somewhere along the way, I fell asleep.  Upon waking, a group of prisoners were staring at me, and smiling.

Yeah.. they were sitting in front of me, their heads turned – facing me – and they were smiling.  Upon seeing me stir, they shifted in their seats and removed their gaze.. but I knew where it had been and I was totally freaked.

“Why were the prisoners staring at me? and WHY are there prisoners on the BUS??”

I was horrified.  But, it was also an interesting occurence.. and one I planned on making memorable.  (Of a certainty, I knew they were prisoners, simply by virtue of their shaved heads and identical orange garb). 

After a period of silence between the two parties – the prisoners and myself – a gutsy inmate had the courage and audacity to remove himself from his seat (I appreciated the distance) and to place himself DIRECTLY beside me, arms almost touching (I didn’t approve of this, but didn’t reprove or deny him for fear of being hurt, molested, murdered, etc).  He began some small talk, to which I replied in Christian accents.  It turned him off immediately (this made me glad), and he soon picked himself up and found another seat – perhaps his first one.  (Praise God! The sword of the spirit indeed.)  This wasn’t the end, however; the flirty, mach0-man inspired some of the rest (his contemporaries) to present themselves to me — as dashing, marvelous, bad-boys of rock and roll.  Huh?

A group sitting behind me somehow caught my attention — I can’t remember if it was a cough, a question, or a laugh.  Regardless, the self-proclaimed leader of the pack began speaking.

“Yeah.. we’re a traveling rock band,” he began.

“..really?” I quieried in sudden amazement

At this time, you must understand that I was an amateur musician – a hopeful, floating in the clouds, dreaming of stages and lights and crowds and microphpones, idiot.  And so!, this being a bad-boy rock band, I was very amazed, full of admiration and ready to hear more!

“Tell me about your band!” I insisted.

It came out, eventually, that they weren’t really a rock band.  He explained that they had just gotten out of prison, at midnight, and were headed home.  One of them asked if I had a phone he could borrow.

Immediately, the workings of my silent thought-processor:

He’s a criminal, so he might steal my phone.. I should tell him I’m running out of minutes and spare mother the money.  Wait– he’s a criminal! He might know I have a phone with lots of minutes and kill me! Or, he might believe I don’t have the minutes and be angry that I don’t have them and kill me!  What do I do!

 

“Oh sure!  Use it as long as you’d like,” I smiled.

He grasped the phone and began making his phone calls. 

 Once he had dialed the number to every individual, I believed, whose number he had memorized, he handed the phone back to me.  I was pleasantly surprised, but didn’t let it show.  Then, of course, another jailbreaker requested the device.  Slowly, my phone made it’s way through who knows HOW many hands.. (and no, I hadn’t brought germ-x with me.  Now here, I am not implying that prisoners are any more germy than non-prisoners.. but come on; look at how much breathing and touching and lips and sweat my phone met with!  that bus wasn’t pumping sixty-degree air). 

But all that matters, is that I did get my phone back and they were all able to contact the individuals they needed or wanted to.  It was a service that I felt proud and glad to offer. 

The trip ended — some of the prisoners got off before my stop, others were still sitting on the bus when I finally jumped out of my seat, grabbed my belongings and headed out.  We exchanged smiles (I even hugged two of them) and said our goodbyes.. wished peace, blessings and prosperity to one another.

I descended the steps, listened to the engine carry the prisoners (and other travelers) away, and turned my eyes to the gas station.  Was the purple van there yet?

 

No; Melissa and her family hadn’t yet arrived.. (they had a knack for being late to everything), but when they did, they heard all of my (briefer than this) narrative in shock-horror (Melissa was very sheltered — a homeschooled Christian kid.  My story was about as thrilling and monumental as the account given of Germany, in 1941, in her history book). 

I will stop here – no need to recount the details of the trip (which I don’t remember clearly, as all the trips and visits of eight years have sort of meshed together in a pleasant but indistinctive mass), as that was not the focal point of the story.  But yes.  That was the most interesting experience I’ve ever had on the bus.  Well — there was that one time when the guy with scar marks (and dressed in all black) sat next to me and discussed his future plans to have fifty children and to either torture, sacrifice or train them to be evil world dictators.. (the which I tolerated the entire ride, gave a religious book to and let lean his head on my shoulder for weariness).  Different trip.  That was weird, too.. but not quite as strange.  I might have been sixteen then.

Really, come to think of it, I’ve had lots of creepy-weird encounters on the bus.. but, today, I wanted to share the story of the prisoners with you all.  I digress.

****

Presently, March 24th 2011, here’s what’s new:

The nominating committee, of which I am a part, is wrapping up their work of selecting officers for all church positions for this upcoming year.  We’re at the stage of making phone calls.. I’ve been only semi-successful, as, this being my first year on the committee, I’ve discovered that people don’t always answer their phones – and some people never answer their phones.

Christopher is still working full-time at Panera and, might I say, he is kicking butt.  His store is #1 for catering in the entire state of Alabama.. and that’s not my opinion; that’s based off of sales reports.  Every other store — doing half or not even the business — has a catering coordinator and atleast one (or multiple) assistants.  He’s flying solo and rocking it.  I’m very proud of him.  Additionally, let it be mentioned that he is the sweetest man in the whole entire world!  Chris is always stopping by my work after he’s finished working, and he’s always bringing me surprises.. cookies, my favorite smoothie, and – best of all – his gorgeous smile, and his heart-warming presence.

I planned on starting school this August, and in the process of getting everything ready, I’ve encountered some problems with college admission – not regarding residency (what I had expected to fret over).  No.. the high school I graduated with (an online program) is, I have been enlightened, nationally accredited — not regionally accredited.  And, the college I have planned on attending (due to it’s location and economic affordability) ONLY accepts regionally accredited degrees (ah, the paradox!).  So, as there were no other options, I went down to the school yesterday, paid my fifty dollars and have been scheduled to take the 7 and 1/2 hour GED test on April 19th.  Got a 600 page study guide at the library afew days ago and bought some index cards at Walmart last night.. I’ve never used the index card study method before, but, as you can probably tell – even in the very shortness of this blog – I’m an impulsive, vacillating, unsettled person who delights herself in trying new things.

So, I hope I pass.  We’ll see. 

I stopped by a thrift store in Hoover yesterday.  It’s eight weeks from closing, and the owner was very nice;  I’m pretty positive the discount she gave me, on the two purses and clay-metallic piano figurine I bought, was more than necessary. 

It’s Thursday – and what Chris said weeks ago is resounding in my ears, coming, again, to my mind,  and causing me, once more, to smile..
“Have a great day, Rose – and make sure that you smile.. because you’re the best thing ever, and it’s almost Friday.”

I’m loving my job, I am daily being taught, by my puppy, to have patience, I’m crazy about my husband, Christopher, and –

I’m actually, officially going to visit my family in Florida this June.

Life can’t seem to decide whether she wants to hate or adore me,

support or oppose me,

beautify, or destroy me..

Aun Aqui

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