Buses, Trains and Automobiles

Life Lesson #648: When presented with the option of either the train or the bus, take the damn train.

One expects a certain amount of absurdity at 8am in the Bakersfield Greyhound station, and the Greyhound station does not disappoint. The usual cast of characters was there- the person who smells like piss, the borderline abusive boyfriend, the surly Greyhound employees. It was all business as usual until a group of young men in jeans and white t-shirts filed in- handcuffed to each other and accompanied by the Sheriff. Well at least I didn’t leave Bakersfield without seeing the Sheriff.  Also California transports inmates via public transit? I have no idea where these young men were going, on a field trip? Maybe they were being taken to LA to serve out their sentences, not in a prison but just like- dropped off in downtown LA with no car. I’m certain that’s enough of a punishment for everything up to child molestation. In any case they were not going to Modesto, and I was thankful for that.

On the bus to Modesto there were some more characters. The woman behind me chattered incessantly for hours, at least she alternated between Spanish and English. When I dared to look back at her with an expression that communicated ‘hey this bus sucks as it is and we’re all just trying to chill out but you’re talking so damn loud’ she called me a bitch. The woman next to me kept scooping coffee grinds into a cup of water. I’m not really sure what she was hoping for there. When her experiment failed she opened up a packet of hot cocoa mix and began eating it. With her finger, naturally. But hey, I saved twelve whole dollars by not taking the train.

We made a stop in Fresno where I searched for fresh fruit to no avail. When we got to Modesto there was someone hysterical crying in the women’s bathroom. What is it about Greyhound? Bus stations are everyday places in other countries. In Europe buses are an option for transportation, in the U.S. they’re essentially mobile sanatoriums. Cars are what “it” is. Anyone who can afford one has one and the leftovers take the bus. American individualism strikes again.

I picked up my rental car that afternoon. No come on, I needed it to get to Yosemite. A little silver Corolla and it was mine, all mine. Within seconds the backseat looked like a closet threw up, which made me feel right at home, and after a few minutes I was ready to cruise the streets of Modesto. Except that cruising without a destination is actually illegal in Modesto.

This is the sole photo I have from the town and I can’t decide whether it says more about me, or Modesto.

I spent the evening with my host, driving around to different spots as he had promised to give me “a flavor of Modesto.” Apparently the flavor of Modesto is rum, or at least that’s the only thing I remember tasting. A hangover is a great way to start a three hour drive to Yosemite, flying down the American highway system in my isolated bubble of Japanese engineering.

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