A Hitchhikers Guide to Finding A Greyhound

Do you remember when Jay-Z and Beyonce got married?
I do.
I was standing in a gas station somewhere on the border of Montana and Idaho waiting for a shift change to be carried out. On a Greyhound bus, I’d just learned, each passenger must disembark before the drivers change places at a different location. I had boarded the bus four hours previously in Bozeman, Montana at 3:15am and while I’d rather not have parted with my seat and my pillow, I held my tongue and walked sleepily into the freezing cold morning. Had it been a less ungodly hour, I might have protested, or at least had the wherewithal to grab my purse.
Instead, I walked into the gas station groggy and shivering. It was heated and like a dog curling up in front of the fire, I settled in to the magazine rack. This was 2008, long before Bey ran the world, when Jay was still the power of the couple by my estimation and before they named their child a color. People magazine had printed a story about their very private penthouse nuptials. “From the White Orchids (70,000!) to the Famous Guests and the Crazy-Expensive Cigars, Inside the Power Couple’s Ultra-Private New York City Wedding” read the by-line.
Seventy thousand orchids, I thought, I better see what that looks like. And, obviously, I hoped to see a picture of the dress.
I didn’t get to see pictures of either. I shut the magazine a little disappointed, but also kind of happy that they’d actually pulled off a celebrity wedding that the paparazzi hadn’t infiltrated.
Good for them, I thought, placing it back on the shelf.

“Weren’t you on that bus?” the meth addict cashier said to me. I looked through my red eyes at her brown teeth trying to process the tense she was using.
“What?” I asked, mentally preparing myself for some kind of atrocity.

Outside of the front door, where there had been forty-some haggard people moments before, there was a flagpole and whatever the cold weather version is of a tumbleweed. Mostly, just white. In both directions.
“Damn you, Beyonce!” I cursed into the snowy vacuum before me. Then, I stormed back into the gas station cursing myself and the old driver and the new driver and the kid who I had made the sort of warm acquaintance with that two strangers fall into whilst stuck on a smelly bus full of crazy people. “When does the next bus pass through?”
“What time is it?”
“Seven. But I don’t mean eight this morning. I meant eight tonight.”
“Eight, tonight?” my eyes were suddenly wide open.

I walked back outside. I looked left, again, and right, again. It looked even more bleak than before.
The flagpole I’d seen was sitting in front of a post office that looked like Lincoln’s cabin. There was a trailer park on either side. I wondered whose number I knew within a thousand miles who I could call collect. I was going through the useless motions of asking myself how I could possibly have left my whole purse, not to mention my luggage, with my laptop, on that bus, when a purple ’64 Camaro pulled up with a stringy haired mad hatter driving it. I considered my options. Best case scenario I’d get on the 8pm bus high on methamphetamines. Worst case scenario I imagined ending in gang bangs while chained in a basement waiting for Dexter-like dissections. So, I made an executive decision.
I walked onto the highway with my thumb out and before I could get more than fifty feet from the on-ramp a young woman pulled over and threw her door open.
“Honey, what the hell are you doing?”
“I got left here by my Greyhound bus,” I explained.
“Seriously? That’s illegal.”
“I’d guess so. Thanks for stopping.”
“You’re lucky I was here,” she said and stepped on it. “There are some real creeps out there.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I said.
“Where are you trying to go?”
“Salem, Oregon.”
“Well, I’ll get you over this canyon and on to the Silver Dollar and I can introduce you to my friend Candy who will get you set up with a real nice trucker who will get you on to Salem. Don’t you worry. Do you hitchhike often?”
“Never in my life.”

I looked out the window at the gorge below. Amidst the striking beauty of the deep green trees and cascading rocks and rushing river that had all been there long before me, and would certainly survive long after me, I couldn’t help but wonder what my chances were for survival. I thought about my mother, and what she would think. How she would hurdle security counters and steal planes to reach me, if she had any idea what was going on. I didn’t like the plan of the Silver Dollar or the nice truckers. I wondered how far my purse actually was from me at that moment and how long it would take forensics to figure out where I’d gone after the gas station. I thought, for the first time in my life, I had gotten myself into grave danger. Not in the wild theatrical way that usually presented itself in movie form in my head of the outlandish scenarios that might play out, but in a very real, what-the-fuck-have-I-done kind of way, that made me think I’d throw up quite soon.

“Well, here we are. Go on in and ask for Candy.”
“Ok,” I said getting out, “thank you.” I felt most uneasy about the fact that I didn’t have any thing to carry. Back on the bus in my purse was a good hunting knife. No use to me now.
Please, God, I thought, help me.
Then, out of my right ear, I felt a tickle and heard a car engine start. I heard it as clear as any sound I’d heard in my life – the sound of salvation. I ran to the Toyota Camry and knocked on the window.
An old man turned, surprised, but kind, and rolled down the window.
“Hello,” I smiled, swallowed, tried to remain calm. “Hi,” I squatted so that I could see his wife. “Do you happen to be heading west?” I swallowed again, sure that throwing up on them was not the way to secure a ride.
“Well, yes, we’re heading out west to Portland,” he answered.
“That’s good news,” I smiled. And I knew I was safe.

A juice box, a granola bar, and a call to the Salem Greyhound station later, (“I told you it was important we keep this cellular phone for emergencies,” Ira had said to his wife. “You were right,” she’d answered.)

Ira did his damnedest to catch that bus at the next stop on its route. And by God he did.

I was waiting for them when they got to the terminal, and for all the horrible things I had thought about those passengers, they were genuinely happy to see me.

“Damn girl,” said the self-proclaimed ringleader of them all, “I want to ride with you. How you beat us? Redbull gave you wings??” I had to smile.
“I’m so sorry,” my bus friend started as soon as he saw me, “I told him to wait. We all told him to wait. I’m so sorry.”
“Where’s my shit,” I snapped.
“No one touched it,” he said seriously, “everything is right where you left it.”
“Thanks,” I said and had to smile again.
He wasn’t lying. Not a thing of my things was out of place.
We all boarded a newer, nicer bus, and had a very uneventful ride to Salem where my dear friend picked me up. He couldn’t believe the day I’d had. I could hardly believe I had lived to tell him the tale.

This is a true story. And there truly are angels if you get yourself into shit deep enough to see them. I don’t recommend riding a Greyhound, though the manager of that station offered me a life pass, I hope to never board one again. I don’t recommend hitchhiking, either. I’m not a religious person, but I do believe that if you put your faith in goodness and humbly ask for help within each cell of your molecular fiber down to your soul, that you will find what you need.

Just look how well the Carters have done for themselves.

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