Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Greyhound From D.C. Detoured Over the Folds Of Flannery O'Connor's Brain

Chuck Palahniuk said in his reading at the National Press Club this spring that he does not actually write fiction so much as water down real life in a way to make it presentable to a mass audience. I don't know about the people Chuck meets, but the other passengers on the Greyhound bus I rode from D.C. to Norfolk this Tuesday should have to pay rent to Flannery O'Connor's brain.

My Lord, that ride was the most demented, fascinating, and socially excruciating situation I have felt in a long long time. Plunging deep into the fabulously fucked-up mass psyches of a southbound Greyhound ride was a urine-tinged breath of fresh air in contrast to the sort of yuppie neo-bourgeouis business casual iPod professional scene in NorthWest DC.

Everybody was hideous and hilarious. That's why the bus is so cheap: it costs $30 to get from D.C. to Norfolk, but it makes each mile you travel makes you more unattractive. I began the trip wearing a filthy straw cowboy hat, a dress shirt with armpits so played out they looked like discount Hypercolor and a shitty attitude. Here's a quick rundown of some of the more colorful passengers:

A developmentally disabled child and his apparently fully able sister, gleefully indulging themselves in a burping contest. These two deserve some sort of recognition for sheer endurance. It was like a relay marathon, with loud belches instead of jogging. I didn't know whether to give them blue ribbons or throat lozenges.

Several apparent junkies who nodded off for the entire trip. While I could only see actual needle evidence on the arms of the man who was using my shoulder as a pillow, all three had a particular sort of facial creasing that more seasoned smacksmiths pick up after a while. Look carefully at the wrinkles around Keith Richards' or Iggy Pop's mouth and you'll know exactly what I am talking about.

A great big heavy brother in a maroon velvet sweatsuit who talked to me a bit too much about world travel. At first I was afraid he was going to wake my seatmate. I asked the traveler if he had ever been to Australia and he said he had. I asked "what part" and he said, "I been to Sindy one time..."

Two boisterous teenaged siblings who noisily and aggressively flirted with the girl sitting behind me the entire trip. One of them kept chanting the phrase "long tongue, dry throat," in this strangely catchy musical singsong.

A woman who kept talking about the time she caught a scallop that was the size of a dinner plate. For like, an hour. Seriously, I fell asleep on the bus for about an hour and woke up and she was still going on about that scallop. Then she told the whole bus about the time that her husband caught a flounder whose head and tail lolled off opposite edges of a card table.

A bootleg DVD and CD salesman who got on the bus in Hampton and walked up and down the aisles hawking his wares out of a pillowcase. He had a copy of Four Brothers that was going like absolute hotcakes.

Some guys smoking pot in the lobby of the Norfolk bus station.

The bus made it about half an hour south of Richmond, then broke down. We had to turn around and limp all the way back to the city, where we switched buses and started the trip anew. Before we pulled out of the station, the driver felt the need to calm the rowdy, disgruntled and burping crowd by getting on the intercome and saying

"If any passenger feels that they have something they got to say, please make sure that it is intelligent because I am feeling like a school bus driver up here!"

Now I'm cooling it down here in the Dirty South, safe and irritable...


At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can imagine the intensity of that bus ride... now switch the cities out and replace them with Los Angeles and Las Vegas, respectively.

I experienced the LA to LV Greyhound line about 4 years ago, and my mental scars are still soft and pink. The woman beside me had a really wet, very DEEP churning cough... like the kind that owns your chest when bronchitis is finally about to end you. This lady should've been surrounded by family in the hospital ICU, but instead, she was sitting right next to me on a bus heading off to Sin City. -johnny


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