Aug 14 2008

Bus Stop Bedlam

Published by Brian at 7:39 pm under travel, contributors, memoir

Un-spun by DJ Skrotekkki

photo of a signifying tree outside the bus station in Spokane, photo by Brian Charles Clark

[Note: In “The Harrowing Highway,” part one of the DJ’s odyssey, he tries to ride the bus from Pullman to Spokane without being molested.]

I stumbled around the city of screams, determined to spend the two-hour layover somewhere other than the bus station. Riverfront Park looked inviting enough, so I explored it for a while and was solicited yet again - alas, only for spare change this time. Thank goodness. I called a friend who lived nearby, and worked even nearer. He agreed to meet up before going to work.

“Excellent,” I said, “I have a crazy story to tell you.”

That all went according to plan. He agreed that the tale I related was indeed unusual. We caught up until it was time to go our separate ways.

By this time, I figured, someone with a four-and-a-half-hour layover would have gotten the hell out of the bus station. And with only about twenty minutes left before my bus was supposed to arrive, I was sure I could return for the short wait without much chance of running into my new “friend.” I was partially right.

But what luck! We just so happened to cross paths again. Fortunately, she was just leaving the station. “I got hungry” she explained. Then she expressed her surprise at seeing me again. “I thought this was your stop and you’d be long gone.” I could only wish.After tactfully extricating myself from the situation - which wasn’t difficult, since after all, she was hungry - I felt considerable relief, thinking I’d never see her again. Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not making any judgments about the quality of this woman’s character. In fact, I found some of the things she said rather surprising, and in many ways she wasn’t so different from me. I would just rather not run into her again.

The interior of the bus station in Spokane is quite boring and very forgettable. I was also incredibly anxious to leave. The minutes ticked slowly away. 11:20, when the bus to Portland was supposed to arrive, came and went. I went to the ticket counter and (politely) inquired if it was running late. The attendant said “Well, it’s past 11:20 and there’s been no boarding call: What do you think?” I didn’t tell her what I thought. Instead, I wondered what exactly I’d done to warrant such a hostile and rude reply, said “Thank you” with the smallest hint of sarcasm, and walked away. “It’s a little delayed,” said the attendant, presumably to the back of my head.

Shortly thereafter, a voice over the intercom informed us that the bus had been delayed and that another one was being rerouted and would be at the station in two hours. Two hours. That’s far from being “a little delayed.” The ticket counter wasted no time closing up. The agitation of the patrons was palpable. I’m a relatively easy-going person, and even I was mildly upset. Not without good reason, mind you. I had invested a significant sum of money (for me, anyway) into the weekend, with no way to get it back at that point, and I didn’t want to miss what I’d paid for.

Not having any desire to become acquainted with any more strangers that day, I wandered over by the arcade games. A young boy was sitting inside some spaceship shooting game, playing with the controls and making “Pshoo! Pshoo!” noises.

“Have you played this game before?” I turned to face him, momentarily confused. Was he talking to me? He wasn’t looking at me, but there was no one else close by. “I haven’t,” I admitted. He regarded me with a suspicious look, as if wondering why I was talking. Then he said, “It’s awesome.” “Have you played it before?” I asked. It was his turn to admit that he hadn’t. “But I can tell just by looking at it that it’s fun.” “Cool,” I said.

Hunger was starting to get the best of me. I walked to a less populated area of the station where there was a food counter and candy rack. My stomach was a little queasy, so I didn’t feel like eating much. I must have been subconsciously hoping for a break, because I purchased a Kit-Kat bar. Perhaps not the best thing for a sour stomach, but it was pretty good.

I’d been sitting on one of the many benches, resting my tired feet for maybe ten minutes, when an unfortunately familiar face walked into the station. A face that lit up when its eyes found me. She sat down beside me and probably said something. I really can’t remember. I asked if she’d managed to get a hold of her aunt. “No,” she answered, holding out her hand expectantly. I reluctantly put my cell phone in it. She dialed and got through, finally. To an answering machine. She left a message, saying that she could be called back at this number. Who the hell does that?

A wrinkly old dude who worked (and I assume still does) at the bus station came over and started chatting the woman up. They were obviously familiar with each other. It was a disgusting display of humanity; at least I found it to be at the time. It also provided me with the break I was waiting for. I slipped away while they were too engaged with one another to notice and went down the stairs to the lower level.

There, it was much more peaceful. No riders infuriated by a two-hour delay. No one at all, actually, except for the little boy I’d seen earlier in the spaceship arcade machine. This time, his attention was held by a first-person shooter. He had the gun in his hand, and was “Pow! Pow!” shooting at his virtual antagonists. I had some change from my Kit-Kat purchase, so I offered him the quarters I had. He gratefully took them, asking, “Do you want to play too?” I dug into my pocket for the rest of the change, revealing only pennies and nickels. “Naw, that’s okay. I can just watch.” And so I did, until my phone rang. I recognized the number as “Auntie’s,” swore under my breath, and walked quickly upstairs.

“It’s your aunt,” I interrupted, handing her the phone.

“Oh!” she said. The wrinkly old guy, who’d been kneeling in front of her, got up. He must have decided this would be a long conversation and, I’m assuming, went back to work. I sat down a respectful distance away, and of course eavesdropped on the entire conversation. Well, the one side of it that I could hear, I mean.

She hung up. “I suppose you heard my story.” Since it wasn’t really a question, I didn’t really answer. She started to retell the story as I took my phone back. In summary: “We (her boyfriend and she) were going to have a child, but I miscarried. That’s why he beat me up.”

We sat in silence for quite a while.

“Many people come through here, and they all have stories. Some probably worse than mine.”

I was going to see a concert in Portland, when suddenly–

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