I'd like to be able to tell some wild and interesting story about riding the bus, but it was pretty much like I had expected. I had a seat to myself and was able to nap and read and gaze out the window. No one offered me a baloney sandwich wrapped in wax paper and the world didn't take on a yellow film tint. The bus was smelly. The man sitting behind me had a cell phone that kept telling everyone on the bus he had a message or a text. There were two ladies in their late fifties or early sixties dressed in tight jeans and cleavage revealing tops. It was obvious as they stood in line to board the bus that they had been drinking. One of them was struggling to keep her belongings stuffed into a small purse like backpack. She'd get one item crammed in only to have something else pop out onto the floor. She talked to her seat mate for most of the ride. I could hear her raspy voice as she gave advice about love and life to the young man sitting next to her. There was a very young couple sitting slightly behind me who whispered to each other loud enough for the man directly behind me to hear them.
When we stopped an hour later for a break, I heard the older man tell the young couple that he could hear every thing they said. He'd been on the bus for three straight days and he said they "could keep their comments to themselves." He sounded cranky, which you'd expect for someone who had been riding the bus for three days and still riding, but I wanted to know why he'd been on the bus for so long. I wanted to ask him about his travels. I wanted to know where he had been and where he was going. The tone of his voice suggested that I would not be able to ask him those questions. My appearance suggested that I was not a person he could open up to. I had dressed for a funeral service in my new slacks and intricately embroidered blouse from Anthropologie, not the usual bus riding attire. It seemed to me that the typical Greyhound bus passenger wore sweatpants and many of them sported neck tattoos. They also mostly kept to themselves and slept. I've never been a good travel sleeper. I spent my time reading or taking pictures out the bus window.
We traveled down small country highways that I had traveled before like Hwy 169 that takes you down through Chanute and Cherryvale and into Coffeyville. At Coffeyville, we turned and headed west until we connected with Hwy 75 in Caney, Kansas. Then we headed south, down through Dewey and Bartlesville. I had not traveled on that section of Hwy 75 in ages, yet the small towns we passed through were virtually unchanged. We passed a gas station that sported a sign promoting that they sell "real gas". Dozens of old beat up farm trucks passed us, one contained a young woman who couldn't have been older than eighteen. There was a small baby strapped into a carseat at her right elbow. I saw all these things, such familiar images. These were my stomping grounds of my youth and they seemed so small, so country. I couldn't help but think of how much my life has changed, how so much more metropolitan it seems to be, even though I'm just in Kansas City. I ride in taxi cabs. Actually, I had just taken a taxi to the bus station that very morning. I fly and travel often for work. I am comfortable in airports and on subways. Well, sort of.
I can hop into the backseat of cab and rattle off an address and make it look like it's something I've been doing for years. But I can tell you, on the inside, the voice that rattles off the address is meek and uncertain. When I'm sitting on the subway, my eyes are constantly darting to the map and my ears perked up like a puppy, listening for the next stop. I can do all of these things with the confident air of a seasoned big city girl, but on the inside I am uncertain. I sit there looking calm and collected while mentally I question every action and constantly check the sun to make sure I'm headed in the right direction. In my head, I am still gaping at the tall skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of a city. On the inside, I'm still that little country girl who has piled into the back of an old beat up farm truck and contributed change so the driver could buy some of that "real" gas. I am still that little country girl who thought it was something to drive all the way into Tulsa all by herself. I am still thrilled and surprised that someone will deliver pizza right to my very door.
I have become a blend of country mouse and city mouse, equally comfortable and awkward in both worlds.