Things I Learned on a Bus
I didn’t know it at the time, but I lived a sheltered life. Although we were not one of those perfect TV families, my parents held traditional roles and values. Dad left every morning for the office. He mowed the lawn and went golfing with his buddies on the weekend.
Mom took care of the house and did the usual stuff mom’s do in between hollering at her kids. She made casseroles and roasts. She baked. She sewed like a professional and created dresses using Simplicity patterns and imagination. What I wouldn’t give for some haute couture now!
Pardon me for veering off subject…
My best friend & cousin, Margaret Sue, also was living in a similar state of shelteredness*. This could have been because our dad’s were raised by the same parents, or because the suburbs in the 50’s & 60’s promoted this. Regardless – we were as naive and clueless as 10-year old girls could be. Unfortunately, we were 14.
Maggie and I begged her mom to let us take a trip to Oklahoma to visit Maggie’s sister (my cousin) Kathleen. She was married and living close to the military base where her husband was stationed. A road trip would be so cool! We could buy tickets with our babysitting money and hang out with adults who were not our parents.
After swearing and promising to all that is Holy, listening to many words of wisdom and caution, we were allowed to buy tickets. Yippee!! Altus Oklahoma, here we come. In addition to our own suitcases, we stuffed a small travel case with SweetTart’s, Smartee’s, M & M’s, licorice, PayDay’s, candy corn, Pixie Stix, and a box of Little Debbie’s. For emergencies.
The trip from St. Louis to Tulsa is estimated to take 11 hours. Our bus departed the depot at 11:00 PM. 15-minutes down the road we were pummeled by a thunderstorm. I sat in the first row behind the driver, so I could watch the storm from the large front windshield. I could not see the road 5 feet in front of the bus. I did notice the speedometer needle pointing to 80 mph. Things learned on a bus #1: Bus drivers must have radar or excellent night vision.
Rolla, MO. We stopped long enough to pick up a new passenger. This woman was all dressed up and wearing enough make-up for 5 women. She was possibly the skinniest person we had ever seen. Mag and I suspected she got a bit tipsy at whatever party she came from. Or maybe she wobbled because her shoes had the highest spiked heels we’d ever seen. Things got interesting 20 minutes later when Miss Party, who did not have a ticket or the money to buy one, tried to negotiate (loudly) with the bus driver. The driver, after informing her that he did not allow junkie whores on his bus, left her at the side of the road. Things learned on a bus #2: Do not attempt to hitchhike on a bus.
When things quieted down, Mag and I decided to separate so we could stretch out across a row of seats and get some sleep. It was a good plan.
Fort Leonard Wood. A new passenger boards. This time it’s a young guy in fatigues, straight from the Army’s Boot Camp. Mag and I gave each other a look that said “what a HUNK!” He had a bottle of something wrapped in a paper bag that he pulled from his duffel bag and drank from. He offered Mag and I some – we blushed and declined.
Just as I nodded off, something woke me. Soldier boy had moved over to my row of seats and sat next to me. I was flattered. And scared out of my mind. When his hand somehow made it over to my thigh, I lifted it and put it back in his lap, saying nothing. I tried to be lady-like about it, but I must have been too subtle. 3 minutes later my thigh once again had company. I excused myself and moved back to Maggie’s row. Obviously he failed to notice that I was jail-bait and as my Grandma put it, “a late bloomer”. Things Learned on a bus #3: Soldiers do not have night vision.
Springfield, MO. Breakfast stop. Mag and I stumbled off the bus like zombies, into what must have been a “greasy spoon”. There was a buffet set up for us Greyhound people who had to be back on the bus in 45 minutes. I think I took some of each item offered. My body cried out for sugarless nourishment. I also desperately needed coffee, but I did not drink it back then.
One of the buffet attendants was either a psychotic lecher, or just “not right”. As Mag and I went through the line he blatantly stared at us. Through his coke bottle bottom lenses, his eyes were grotesquely magnified, making his stare even more disturbing. We ate as fast as we could and were back on the bus with 25 minutes to spare. To this day I remember that guy and shudder. Things learned on a bus #4: Pack your own food and leave the bus as little as possible.
We arrived in Altus, OK without further incident late that afternoon. We were gritty with road dust and sleep deprived. And very happy to be there.
11 hours on a bus is more than enough. The strangest part about our return trip? I can’t remember a thing about it. Not one.
* taken from The Words That Should Exist Dictionary