Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Missed Bus

Well, it’s another one of those weird-ass Christmas seasons. Of course, the weirdest-ass of all was Dad passing away 12/23/04, and dealing with all that entails over the next few days. This one got off to a flying start when the bus that was supposed to pick me up at Port Authority this morning at 7:30 (I got there around 6:50) didn’t arrive.

Maybe it did. At some point around 7:45, a Port Authority employee came around and announced our bus was delayed “for an hour and a half” due to a traffic accident in a crucial in-bound lane leading to the bus station. I thought, you know what, I’ve been standing here close to an hour, I’m going to go take a long walk (in the 38-degree drizzle that has been our weather most of the day), come back around 8:30, and see what the story is.

I did. The bus line I take shares a gate with other Pennsylvania bus companies, and the ongoing issue with the 7:30 bus is another bus that leaves at 8:00 going to the Harrisburg area. Invariably, there will be maniacs lined up for that bus at 7:00 or earlier, since I’ve gathered that bus line is more crowded. Usually not an issue – we’re talking a line of 20 people, at tops, and when it’s announced to the line of people that the 7:30 bus is leaving, it usually shakes out nicely so that less than 10 people get on my bus. You can always tell the first-time riders, as they're shocked to find they're standing in a single bus line for two different buses, but such is the cheapness of Pennyslvania busing companies that they can't afford their own gates.

But on Christmas Eve. Shit. The line was about 100 people long, easily, I’m certain with about a 60-40 mix of their bus/my bus people. I was about eighth in line and had struck up a conversation with an older guy in line in front of me who was waiting for the 8:00 bus.

When I came back at 8:45, cold and wet but at least more clear-headed, the line was a little longer, he was still there. Man, what’s going on, I asked. He said that in the interim, they’d been told all buses would be on at least a two-hour delay due to this mysterious accident. Which did not make the news (I checked). I looked around, and that whole area of Port Authority, every gate had a huge line of people snaking from it, all in the same boat. Thousands of pissed-off people stuck in a small space on a very serious travel day. I just shook my head, muttered fuck it, got back on the subway train and came back to my apartment. When you’re repeatedly told “an hour and a half or two hours” for all buses, that’s vague bus terminal speak for, “We don’t know what in the hell is going on.”

Back here, I took a nice, long nap, did some laundry rather than taking it back in PA (which I’ll hopefully get to tomorrow morning), and did some key house cleaning, vacuuming and mopping, which always makes my place smell fantastic and puts me in a better mood, especially when I return from a trip a few days later and get that lemony fresh smell. I went to the gym and got some Chinese food afterwards – may as well make use of what’s basically a “free” day instead of grumbling and feeling like a piece of shit.

I could have made some more money and simply gone back to work. But the guy I work for turns into a horse’s ass when he’s in office before a long vacation (which he will go on tomorrow for two weeks). Got a minor dose of that yesterday, which was bad enough to have me thinking, you know what, I’m scheduled to be out today, I know he’s going to be carrying on like a five-year-old, I got plenty of stuff I can do for myself in lieu of making a few dollars more.

Even if my bus had been on time, man, I should have learned my lesson long ago, that traveling the day before any major holiday is a shit trip – and this one had all the warning signs leading up to it. The big one was dealing with the snitty gay guy who goes home once every five years. I state that like a stereotype because I only run into this kind of person during the crowded holiday seasons on the bus, and the snitty gay guy who goes home once every five years is a hallmark. The snitty gay guy who goes home once every five years is never on any bus but one that leaves either the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas.

I guess he’s going home to remind himself why he fled whichever rural area to stay in New York City the rest of his days, and you can tell he has a sort of grim determination about the trip he’s about to make, maybe to deal awkwardly with bad parents, or run the risk of seeing people he knows can’t stand him for being gay, or even worse, running into people who harassed him earlier in life for being gay. I don’t know their stories – all I know is these guys never go home unless they have to, and you never see them on a bus, say, in the third week of April, or at any other time.

He’s always well-dressed, mid-30s or older, wears glasses, and I’m guessing that he works in the fashion (or some other creative) industry. Chatty in a way that suggests if you’re not dropping the names of high-end Manhattan markets and shops, then you’re out of the loop, but he’ll cut you some slack, because he’s going back home to be among vaguely rednecky people like you, so may as well get used to dealing with people who hear the phrase “sun-dried tomato” and think “I wish I could punch you, hard, with impunity.”

I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a broken elevator with the snitty gay guy who goes home once every five years. Take my word for it, being stuck in Port Authority Bus Terminal on Christmas Eve, waiting on a bus that is destined to be hours late, is virtually no different. He’s right next to you, and neither of you can move, lest you lose your place in line. Luckily, this guy only wanted to talk travel, what I knew about traveling along the line, since he picked up that I traveled it a lot and knew it pretty well. All in all, this guy wasn’t so bad. Unlike previous snitty gay guys who pitched fits like spoiled divas over the most minor of inconveniences (shouldn’t there be ropes around here so people could form lines easier, oh god, look at all the luggage that hispanic woman and her two kids have, isn’t it a little hot in here, at least too hot for cashmere, etc.). Still, it felt good to bolt the place and go for a walk, although when I came back, he was still there, rolling his eyes, hand perched on hip, radiating bad vibes like a fluorescent light.

And he surely wasn’t alone. There was the old lady who pretends she doesn’t know there’s a line, and just wanders up to the front of the line in front of dozens people who clearly have been waiting much longer. (I nearly punched a deaf nun in the face who pulled this stunt a few years back. When she started signing me, I gave her the finger. Welcome to New York, sister!) The young hispanic guy in cocked baseball hat putting out the attitude like he’s about to take a prison bus to Rikers – like I tell fat white guys who shave their heads and grow goatees – you’re not intimidating anyone, you insecure little weasel. The clean-cut college girl, as denoted by her Ivy League sweatshirt, with nose piercing and dreads, reading her Andrea Dworkin book, going home to scoff at the capitalists paying for her liberation. The middle-aged white woman who thinks she’s going to direct traffic, but you get the vibe that when the bus rolls in, she’s going to jump line. The worst is the people you know are going to try to jump line – you can see it in their beady eyes, they’re looking for an “in” – that moment of confusion when everyone loads up, so they can hustle themselves in front of 30 people without being noticed. (And there’s always confusion when it’s announced that people are waiting in the same line for two different buses.) Save, you bet your sweet ass, I, like everyone else, notices when someone cuts in line in front of me. And I’ll give the snitty gay guy who only goes home once every five years credit – he’ll be the first one to pitch a fit when he sees cowardly shit like that going down.

This had all the markings of a very bad bus ride. There are two daily buses that travel through my part of rural Pennsylvania on that line – at 7:30 am and 3:30 pm. Could have easily come back later for the 3:30 bus. But you know what? The weather sucks, there’s a mass exodus of people leaving New York City today, traffic that would normally be bad will be at a crawl because of the rain and ice, and I can’t see myself packed like a sardine on a bus filled with these deeply aggravating people whom I never see when I take the bus home about every six weeks throughout the year. On top of which, Pennsylvania is bound to be a sheet of ice tonight, as it was this morning. My mother told me my brother had to do about 5 mph in his pick-up truck all the way home from work, and literally had to get on his ass and slide himself down the sidewalk to get to our front door. Fuckin’ A, it’s supposed to be 40 degrees and sunny tomorrow – I can wait!

Of course, I hate breaking tradition, one of which is opening presents on Christmas Eve. We tend to only get presents for Mom these days – she tends to give each of us a nice little check after Thanksgiving dinner and tells us to have fun. Not a lot of money, but surely enough to buy some cool stuff, or just to bank if necessary. I’m real sour on the concept of giving people presents they may not want, which is exactly what would happen if we tried to get presents for each other. Man, we can buy this shit any time we want as adults – the whole concept of gift giving is more for kids, who obviously should have a blast at Christmas. But as an adult, I get an empty feeling with the rampant materialism of the holidays. I wouldn’t call it depression – just the recognition that it’s only things, shit we buy, and can’t bring myself to attach any more or less value to it. If you care about people, they know it, no matter what time of year it is.

Ho, ho, ho! Where’s my Christmas variety special?

But enough. Time to kick back, watch some TV, go to bed early, and hopefully have better luck on Christmas morning with this shithead bus, which had better be close to empty and on time after all the shit I went through today. If that’s the case, I should be just in time for a full turkey dinner and afterwards one of those amazing 500-calories-per Selma’s Cookies that I bought Mom this year -- at a loss to get anything but food as people in their 70s don’t want anything, save good health and people in their lives, which is pretty much all I want in my 40s, too. And that’s pretty much all that matters for me these days in terms of Christmas. That, and a bus ride that doesn't leave me feeling homicidal.

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