I decided to take (the?) Greyhound from Portland down to Stockton. Why? Because I don’t want to waste gas driving and I don’t find flying comfortable. Amtrak was my first choice since it’s perhaps the most environmentally friendly but it doesn’t get me to my exact destination.
Amtrak would have gotten me from Portland to Sacramento but then I would still need a ride from Sac to Stockton. So, I decided on Greyhound. I did my research, reviewed the horror stories, talked to some friends and booked it.
Booking A Greyhound Bus
It’s actually quite easy. They have an app or you can book online, much more straightforward than booking Amtrak but a touch less intuitive compared to booking an airline. You have to pay attention to whether there is a transfer or if you can continue the whole trip on one bus. Some Express buses will skip some stations, but this is fairly transparent when you go to book. You can book a few weeks in advance and get a hefty discount or book last-minute, which suits my personality a lot more.
I decided at 2pm that I wanted to head to Stockton, got a ticket for 6:30pm and was ready to go. I had a backup plan to head all the way down to San Diego but after my 15-hour trip, I was cooked.
The Greyhound Bus Station
Just like the library, the Greyhound station is splattered with homeless people and other savory characters. My local GH station is in the heart of downtown, past the dude who was screaming at me to walk across the street, past the woman who was coming off of her high on the street corner and past the urine and stool specimens left behind by the transients.
Walking into my GH station is reminiscent of 1930’s depression era. It’s not just depressing and borderline scary, but also unkempt and vaguely schizophrenic. Thankfully, there is an area that only ticketed individuals can enter.
The Greyhound Bus Experience
My ass will be firmly planted on this particular bus for the next 15+ hours (I have intermittent WiFi). I will have about 7 stops and will have the view of freeways. Since I am leaving for my trip at 6:30pm, I will mostly be staring out into a dark abyss, which might actually be more pleasant.
The driver seems super nice. He is a minority on this bus, namely a white male, which normally would be the most ubiquitous of creatures in Portland, but for some reason, this bus is the dieseled ACLU.
The seats are shredded, likely from way too many asses having adorned the fake leather. There are little pieces of trash shoved in every nook and cranny and I am catching a faint diesel aroma and/or coolant leak.
I decided to try the bathroom due to my shockingly small bladder and it wasn’t too bad. It was dark walking to the back of the bus, so like a moron, it took me about 5 minutes of fumbling in the back, in the dark, feeling the wall up and down. I eventually correctly fondled the right hole, with some help, and got to experience the Greyhound toilet – delicious. Picture an airline toilet but smaller, without a sink, which hasn’t been cleaned for a few thousand miles.
My Fellow Travelers On The Bus
The 2 women next to me seem really nice, besides doing a Spanish conference call with what appeared to have been a toddler on the other line, they weren’t too disruptive.
The early 20’s woman with well-controlled bipolar disorder, who was talking about whether to cremate her ex-girlfriend’s father’s dead body to someone else on the other line, seems to be a really pleasant person.
Sure, she has decided to leave her phone on ring mode, I mean, why shouldn’t I know when she receives a text. Then, after a moment of silence, I looked over, wondering if she had died or fallen out of the window, but nay, she was softly sobbing in silence.
For a moment, though very brief, I actually kinda felt bad for her and wanted to ask her if she was okay. But, fortunately, her rapid cycling bipolar disorder perked her right up and she was laughing again, possibly to herself or maybe to someone on the other line.
The dude in front of me was actually incredibly nice, quiet and wasn’t squirming half as much as the dude behind me. I can only imagine that the rear passenger was being attacked by a swarm of bees and either eventually fell dead from anaphylaxis or fainted from sheer exhaustion of the battle.
The Path To The Toilet
On my way to the swamp/toilet in the back of the bus, I had to maneuver over those who had decided to lay across the aisle. There was one dude, I’m guessing 9’5″, who had his legs criss crossing the narrow aisle. Another dude, perhaps a professional sumo wrestler, had his head against the seat in front of him, snoring, with his size 24 shoes blocking me from getting to the spa in the back.
Since I couldn’t find the door to the toilet and was lurking around back there in the dark, alone, for far too uncomfortably long of a time, I decided to ask this skinny kid whether he knew where the bathroom door was. He stared at me in the dark with an absent look on his face, and I shit you not, while still staring at me, fucking kung-fu style, reached behind himself and somehow grabbed the exact location for the door latch – goose-bumps!
I still couldn’t make out the toilet because it was so dark. Thankfully I caught a whiff that just bitch-slapped me across my sinuses. I don’t recall, I may have thanked him or just slowly walked backward, making sure not to turn my back to him.
My Front Neighbor
After one of our stops, the kind gentleman in front of me returned from what must have been a smoke break, smelling like an ashtray. I don’t know if he just forgot to exhale before getting back on the bus or he still had a cigarette in his hand.
To my dismay, the next stop, in Salem, the Beverly Hills of Oregon, my front neighbor switched to a woman who must have gotten one hell of a good meth hit. You might think that I’m fucking with you describing this scene, and I would totally understand if it wasn’t for the fact that I wondered for a split second whether she was going to spring up from her seat and pull an exorcist move with her neck.
This woman, possibly in her early 30’s, aged gracefully to a solid 66 due to a few too many meth trips, came on the bus with a tank top in 40-degree weather, swinging her arms wildly, walking past me once, returning, quietly yelling at either the seat or the luggage rack behind her. Then she returned and walked past me again.
I am not sure how to describe her odor. It wasn’t foul. Definitely not the homeless tinea cruris, nor the intertrigo smell. She may have simply showered with few too many wet wipes or gone a little overboard with the toilet bowl deodorizer. However, somehow she wasn’t able to fully get rid of the sweet yet pungent meth smell.
Thankfully, after having what could only have been 7-10 back to back grand mal seizures in her seat and coughing out the rest of the multi-drug resistant TB out of her lungs, she settled into a gentle coma.
What gave her sleep away? The snoring for one. The random moans she uttered could have been from dreams of her daytime career or perhaps some other activities which I’d rather forget.
Finally, I couldn’t tell you where the methane gas attack came from. I don’t think it was the dude behind me. He had a massive ribbed gangster coat on and his face covered with a huge beanie. He was the skinny type, not the flatulent sort. It could have been the stripper meth-lady in front of me, perhaps lactose intolerance or end-stage celiac disease?
The Bus Amenities
I mentioned the restroom in the back. Now, you might think that there might be a dining wing on GH buses, but you’d be wrong. That cafeteria smell is from whatever people have decided to bring on the bus.
The good news is that you can pretty much eat anything you want on these buses, including spoiled Vietnamese food. Loud, crinkly wrappers and chips bags are really popular, best consumed between the hours of 2:30am-4am.
There is WiFi, though the signal is a little weak since porn is quite data intensive. Or perhaps the patrons of GH are day-trading by capitalizing on Asia time.
Thankfully, I was able to pull up 1-2 websites, and though the internet comes and goes as reliably as electrical grids in the Philippines, I overall felt productive.
There is an electrical outlet and a cup holder. I wasn’t able to have the cup holder hold my water bottle even though it appeared to be the right fit. It might have something to do with the fact that it is made of fabric, to spare weight I’m sure. It’s woven fabric in the shape of a goddamn string bikini. The gluteal cleft strip which was supposed to hold my water bottle failed, making my metallic water bottle crash to the floor, in the dark, when everyone except Mrs. Chemical Warfare, was sleeping.
Oh, the luggage rack – so there is a thin crevice into which you can jam your luggage, assuming it’s 3.5”x2”x1”. Anything larger, let’s say a medium size backpack, well, sorry, you’ll just have to store that on the floor.
Arriving At My Destination
Success! I have finally arrived at my destination and have only had to reconnect to the internet 60x.
I managed to get some sleep, drooling out of the right side of my mouth and with my ankle safely wedged under the seat in front of me.
Thankfully I didn’t have to nudge the dude next to me who had fallen asleep and whose knee was sensually and rhythmically rubbing up and down my left thigh, with every exaggerated bump we hit on the road.
He, instead, awoke on his own as the bus started making the final turns to get into the Stock terminal. I was ready to exit the bus but not before he decided to ask me what I do for a living, how much I work, how much student loan debt I had and to tell me that he thinks he should stop drinking alcohol because a few nights ago he went to a bar, drank, got drunk, blacked out and woke up the next morning with bruises from a fight which he didn’t recall.
I nodded, agreed that his plan to quit drinking was solid, and that as a doctor I wholeheartedly endorsed it. I stood up, exited the bus.
Would I Take The Bus Again?
All joking aside, I’m torn. On one hand, I like the idea and I appreciate that I can share a resource with others to save a little on gas.
On the other hand, it’s not easy to be on a bus overnight. The seats, though they recline, aren’t the most comfortable. A blanket and a small pillow would have been a good idea.
Having podcasts, a book to read, a notebook to write in and a laptop to watch some entertainment on and write on were great ideas.
I still need to get back home to Portland. Am I gonna fly, take the bus or take Amtrak? I’m not sure, maybe I’ll try the Amtrak this time just to compare.
I am happy to say that all the crazy stories of feeling “unsafe” isn’t true. Yes, the characters on the bus are incredibly different but everyone was friendly and nobody seemed threatening.