15. Human Observatory
It was quite the transition going from the sparsely populated open country to a crowded bus bound for the city. The anxiety of our sudden transition faded slightly, but not quite enough to be able to focus on reading a book. So I passed the time by looking around the bus and noticing my fellow passengers a bit.
The guy sitting next to me just sleeps with his dirty comforter—sometimes positing himself against the window and other times slumping onto me. When he does speak, all he talks about is getting home to smoke a bud and get food from his mom.
Luke is now in front of me and the guy sitting next to him peaks over the seats at everyone with an unusual frequency—his wide bug eyes surveying the bus as if he was looking for someone. He talks in a hoarse whisper as though he has been smoking for years or has some type of laryngitis.
Next to me, across the aisle, sit two hispanic men, both friendly and pleasantly plump, who never talk. They just look out the windows with curiosity and innocently watch people around them without judgement.
The guy at the window seat behind me doesn’t stop talking. He tells all sorts of stories about going to other countries, living on beaches, and other fascinating things.
The lady across the aisle from Luke is sweet. She is a rounder women who frequently turns and smiles innocently and giving us a toss of the eyes or raised eyebrows each time someone does something odd or questionable on the bus. It was like she could sense our anxiety and her body language was trying to alleviate some of it.
There is a guy in a black leather jacket who looks quite intense and always pissed off. He walks down the aisle each stop and says, “Oh crap too late” and returns to his seat to sit down. (Don’t worry, I didn’t understand either.)
The bus driver is one of those guys who has an ornery demeanor but releases a jovial sense of humor in small calculated doses. He frequently made jokes over the speakers and would occasionally “grade” us as passengers—giving us an A, B, or C based on our behavior. The whole bus was far from passive with these remarks and often responded with collective claps, murmurs, and shouted replies.
Just before her exit, the friendly woman (after overhearing enough of our conversations to realize that we were on a road trip) gave Luke $17 toward our adventures.
After a few stops, Jim was able to move closer to us and we were talking about how hungry we were. A different women turned around and passed us a big bag of tortilla chips. Thirty minutes later she passed us two breakfast danish snacks. She told us it was a mother’s instinct. It was amazing how such simple gestures encouraged us and lifted our spirits.
A woman and her young daughter (maybe 3 or 4) sat a few seats in front of us. The daughter would peak at us through the cracks of the seats and give us a brief wave before disappearing and reappearing again a few minutes later.
Another man, who didn’t say a word, appeared to down an entire beer at one of our rest stops before getting back on the bus and going back to sleep.
There was a heckler in the way back of the bus who would just shout random things at different people. She started yelling at another passenger, a younger guy, saying that she knew him from somewhere but the look on this guys face made it clear he had no idea what she was talking about. He eventually told her he doesn’t speak English and slumped down into his seat trying to ignore her.
Night finally came. Those who had been sleeping all day continued to sleep. Those of us who had been awake all day tried to settle in to get some rest. We were leaving Montana crossing into Idaho. Upon arriving in Seattle early the next morning, I recall our driver saying that we all slept through Idaho, but not to worry, we didn’t miss anything.
I stepped off of the human observatory out into the Seattle, WA air—glad to have some personal space again and anxious to see what they day would bring.