Heading back to Seattle for my dad's memorial meetup with family
Forgetting that I am living in semi-luddite mode, without a smart phone, I arrived at the Greyhound without a printed ticket or a QR code on a screen. This caused confusion for the dude working the counter, who wore a blank t-shirt and the only way you knew he was a worker was because he was behind the counter.
“Good morning! I have a reservation for the 7:35 to Spokane, but I don’t have a printed ticket or an iphone, but I do have my driver’s license and the credit card I bought the ticket with.”
“What else you got?” said Mustafus.
-What else besides my ID and the credit card can I show you? I have a Costco card.
-Yeah, I can’t search for you with that stuff. I need something I can search for you with.
-Uh, how about my name?
-I can’t search for you that way.
There was a moment of silence between us, and then he said, “When the driver comes, you can straighten this out.”
Right then the driver emerged from a room behind the counter genius. He had a well-worn Yankees cap on, was a slim, wiry guy, of indeterminate age, and looked like Cypher, the “ignorance is bliss” guy from the Matrix (Joe Pantoliano). He had a sandwich in one hand and his smart phone in the other. “What’s your name?” he asked me, without looking my way.
Five seconds later he said, “You’re good. Go ahead and get on the bus.”
We pulled out of Missoula right on time. You see your share of riffraff on the ol’ Greyhound, but on this trip, well… at least the Missoula-to-Spokane portion, it seemed about everyone was a no-nonsense blue-collar worker type, on their way home from work or on their way to a job.
Matrix Joe grabbed the microphone and went through the spiel, telling us where we were headed, where we’d take stops, when we’d cross the time zone and such. How do I describe his manner of addressing us? It was friendly but it wasn’t chummy, or obsequious, or sales-pitchy, but sort of rough and tumble in a Bronx way. He was at our service but he was in no way subservient. I wish I could remember the word he used to address us all but the way he said it and talked it all sounded like he was the loyal and beloved sergeant addressing his platoon, the idea being, “OK, gang, y’all listen up. I’m gonna tell you how this bus ride’s gonna go down. Remember, we’re all in this together and here’s how we’re gonna get through it!”
This black dude up front liked Joe’s spiel so much he couldn’t stop nodding in agreement.
On the I-90 toward Idaho, we passed a semi that had overturned and crashed into the ditch. Joe looked over in disgust- drivers who can’t control their rigs! I had this thought, “Joe, you could slow down a little yourself!”
Five minutes before our first stop, Joe grabbed the mic again. “OK, y’all listen up. We’re about to stop briefly in Kellogg, Idaho. It’s a ski town. You can get out, stretch your legs and have a puff. But here’s the thing. This is not a food stop. You want food you can wait until Couer d’ Alene, and that’s just down the road, okay? This is just a quick stop to see if I’m picking anyone up, and you can have a quick smoke. And you can have a look at the gondola. It’s the longest gondola in America and one of the longest in the world, right here in Idaho. There might be some people riding that thing to the top today. Just remember, we gotta be outta here in ten minutes.”
Then Joe shook his head as if to say, “they do it every time!” and said to the people riding up front, “I don’t know what it is about this place but someone’s always gettin’ left behind here. Just a couple weeks ago I was working this route and some girl got left behind here. I told her she only had ten minutes, but she got out and I guess got mezmerized by that gondola or something and didn’t come back and I had to leave without her. She got all uppity ‘cause I took her bags to Spokane, but what was I gonna do, leave her stuff on the ground? Good thing she had friends in Spokane to come out and get her otherwise she woulda been hanging around here for a whole day and night. Anyway, y’all make sure you’re back in ten minutes!”
Between Kellogg and Couer d’ Alene, I listened in to a conversation between two amateur evangelists, Gary and Paul, in front of me. Before Kellogg, Gary, the evangelist was behind me and had been busy converting the Hispanic guy across the aisle from his seat. He wasn’t talking classic you need Jesus, my friend evangelism, like Sloan Youngblood does, but more of an old Testament, dig this story! type proselytizing, with lots of heroes with names that begin with J like Jeremiah, Joshua and Jehoshephat. “Now when Jereboam opposed the will of his tribesmen…” Those sorts of stories.
Jose was receptive but still on the fence. He thought the story of Jonah in the whale and other seemingly impossible stuff might be parables, meant for instruction, rather than actual fact. Jose kept saying, “Yeah, I’m not there yet. I’m still in my journey,” and Gary kept saying, “I totally understand,” and before Jose could elaborate on his journey, Gary would say something like, “but you know, Joab never intended that Jethro…” and Jose would nod, and wait, and again get his I’m-still-on-my-journey line into the conversation.
After the break, Gary met his match when he sat down with Paul, a greying guy in his 50s who could recite J-names and genealogies from Numbers with the best of them.
Five minutes before Couer d’ Alene Joe gave us the scoop on getting food.
“Now here’s the deal. You can get some hot food here, but here’s what you gotta do: We got a good deal with the people here at the quick mart. They have a grill in there and they’ll cook you something hot, but you gotta get your order in. So before you take your smoke break, get in there and give ‘em your order, and they’ll handle it. ‘n don’t freak out! I don’t know what it is but people get all crazy and frantic here. If you get your order in, they’ll have the food ready for you, okay?”
The black dude up front was nodding again. He knew exactly what to do and you weren’t gonna catch him sneakin’ a puff until his hot food order was in.
I passed on the greaseball hot fare and went next door to a little coffee place. They didn’t have any scones or rolls but I figured a large coffee would hold me for a while. The barista girl was so sweet; she could see immediately that I was having trouble with the combo lock on the bathroom and she rushed over to help. When my coffee was ready, she said, “Thanks for waiting, sir. Here’s your coffee. Hope you enjoy it.”
I told her she was the nicest coffee girl I’d ever met. I guess Joe had put me in a good mood and besides, she was quite sweet and deserved the compliment. She said I made her day with that. When I got back to the bus I asked Joe where he was from. The Yankees hat and the mannerisms said ‘New York’ but he sounded more like a black guy from the south.
“Ah, yeah. I can hear that.”
-But I spent the last twenty years bartending in Vegas, before coming to Montana.
-Is that why you’re such a fast talker?
-You got that right.
Joe got us to Spokane ahead of time and again gave us details on protocol at the station. He said, “I can’t say for sure which gate your connecting bus is going to be at. We used to be able to say but Greyhound here fired all their drivers and the new hires park wherever they want to. Anyway, you guys have been great travelers and thanks for riding. He pulled up in the parking bay, left the bus in neutral and got up to check something in the back of the bus.
“Joe, you’re rolling! You’re rolling back!”
He’d forgotten to put the bus in ‘park’. He ran back to put the break on, before the bus could smash into the rear wall, and thanked us again.
Tom, our driver from Spokane to Seattle, wasn’t nearly as colorful as Joe, but he was solid. He drove a little slower, so our stops were a bit shorter, but the freeway heading west was clear of traffic and we made good time. I sat in the front and jawed with Tom a bit.
Looking at the clogged freeway in the eastbound lanes for miles and miles, Tom said, “I’ve never seen it that bad.”
I said, “Man, Seattle’s gonna be empty!”
Tom said, “It’ll be a perfect time to pillage the place.”
D- I hope you don’t have to come back here on Monday, when everyone’s returning.
T- Nope, I’ll be coming in again on Sunday, and out on Monday, going against traffic.
He was pretty happy about that.
We arrived early at the Seattle terminal and as it was a beautiful day, I decided to walk to the retirement home, rather than take the light rail.
Just a block and a half from the Greyhound is the baseball stadium.
When I arrived at Sunset Retirement Home, I could have hugged the receptionist, who I think was a Xe but might have been a They. Why? because the masks were finally off here! I couldn’t believe it. I thought good-think Seattleites always doubled down, but maybe three years is just too much, even for them.
Next post I’ll take you around Seattle on a photo tour. Stay tuned.
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