I also balked at the abundant but completely necessary use of several curse words and the slander of three separate religious figures. I am sorry, but there is just no other way to tell the story. Strap the hell in and let's go.
I arrived at the bus station early in the morning.
At the age of seventeen, I was making my first ever autonomous voyage into the unknown. I was being recruited by a collegiate track program, so I had to ride the bus to their campus to be wined and dined and lied to about funding and the general awesomeness of their competition schedule. I was really excited about the trip and feeling pretty special for being recruited. It was almost like being a celebrity.
I shouldered my way through the masses of fitfully smoking lower-tier individuals to the check-in counter.
The man at the check in was overly jovial - almost like his life depended on being as friendly and lighthearted as possible.
"First time bus rider??" He trilled.
"Uh, yeah. How can you tell?" I asked.
"I've never seen you before." He said with a face-splitting grin.
Apparently the check-in guy was familiar with all bus passengers.
If he had never seen you, you obviously hadn't ridden the bus before.
The bus finally pulled into the station. I said goodbye to my mother, who was weeping with sentimentality and walked to the back of the bus. I crammed my bags all around me, creating a physical barrier to any would-be seat partners. I put on my headphones so I could pretend not to hear the people asking if they could sit down. I pretended to sleep to make it even more complicated and awkward for any person who wanted to sit by me. My method worked and I got to sit all by myself. I thought I had just ensured my safety and peace of mind for the remainder of the bus ride and congratulated myself for being such a savvy bus passenger right out of the gates.
I probably shouldn't have actually fallen asleep because I woke up to find some guy's hand sneaking up my athletic shorts. I was understandably confused and startled. The guy winked at me (which must have been difficult with his eyelid piercing) and said "Watch out Sweetie - there are men on this bus..."
I wanted to tell him that there are men everywhere else too - and most of them aren't going around sticking their filthy hands up the athletic shorts of strange women, but I felt that being blatantly inflammatory would hurt my chances of surviving the rest of the trip. I looked around for someone to protect me from the molester across the aisle. It was at that point that I realized I was on a bus full of people who probably didn't give a shit if I was actively being molested. Even the bus driver looked like he was pro-molester.
I wanted to call my mom, but I didn't have a cell phone and I didn't want to talk to anyone else to ask them if they had a cell phone. I curled up into a ball and ate some crackers.
The pregnant teenage deviant who was sitting behind me must have heard me crinkling the cracker wrapper because she said "Are those crackers?"
I said "Yes?"
She said "Oh good, I have really bad morning sickness. Can I have a couple?"
I gave her some crackers.
A minute or so later, she asked me if her boyfriend could also have some crackers. I looked behind me to see her giant hulk of a black boyfriend. I was a cracker with crackers, sitting in front of a brother on a bus that just left Coeur d' Alene, Idaho - the home of the Arian Nations Headquarters. I had no choice but to give him the rest of my crackers to convince him that I wasn't like that. I later discovered that I had made a key alliance in doing so.
The bus made a stop at a casino/gas station and I got off to use the bathroom inside because the pregnant girl had vomited up my crackers all over the bus bathroom.
The women's restroom was located at the end of a long, winding hallway with a few branching nooks. The bus molester was waiting for me in one of the nooks. I don't know what he was planning on doing to me, but I was extremely relieved when my new black friend showed up behind me and boomed "N-word, what the fuck do you think you're doing?" The molester looked frightened. He scurried away, muttering something about being lost and not knowing where the men's room was. My big, friendly savior slapped me five and told me to watch out for bad people because I wouldn't always be lucky enough to have someone following me around and protecting me. I loved him so very much at that moment. I just wanted to cry and hug him and give him as many crackers as his heart could desire.
I settled for standing there like a retarded deer on a freeway. I'm sure he understood how thankful I was.
The rest of the bus ride was fairly uneventful. I slept like a baby with my self-appointed guardian angel watching my back.
Things only got really fucked up on the return trip.
I was a little less excited to be boarding the bus a second time. The anxiety of the previous bus ride had only been exacerbated by my recruiting visit. I spent two nights in a creepy dark room all by myself and two days being whisked from place to place by people who were trying so hard to impress me it hurt to watch them. I felt less like a celebrity and more like a gun-brandishing hijacker. It was as if my recruiters thought I would lose it and go on a killing spree if one tiny little thing went wrong. I was given anything that I even looked at with interest and also some things I didn't. I had always wanted that to happen, but once it was happening, I have admit that it made me feel quite uncomfortable and a lot guilty.
At the bus station, the recruiter bid me goodbye and gave me a sweatshirt with the University's logo on it - in case I forgot that they wanted me.
I chose a seat near the front so that the bus driver had the option of stepping in should I be molested again. I executed the whole bags-on-the-seat-wearing-headphones-and-pretending-to-be-asleep routine successfully.
Two hours into the bus ride, things were still going well. I could hear a loud young man telling stories at the back of the bus. He had captured the attention of about six people and he was not about to let it go. He was obviously going for shock value.
If you are the one person who said they would stop reading my blog if I used the F-word, please stop reading here. Seriously. You will not be happy with me...
He said things like "Fuck, so then I fucking fucked her in the fucking anus and busted my fucking load all over her fucking cunt" and "women are just fucking cunts that need to be fucked, ya know?" It was all very de rigueur on a bus, I suppose.
Apparently this discourse offended the scruffy, overweight man in the seat in front of me who had previously been peacefully drinking milk out of a half-gallon carton and catching the dribbles with his impressively biblical beard.
He stood up, making it obvious that milk was not the only thing he had been drinking and managed to slur "you shut the fuck up back there you little fucker!"
I appreciated his attempt to defend the honor of nameless women everywhere, but the scrappy storyteller at the back of the bus did not.
"What if I don't? What are you going to do about it Jesus?" he said.
"I'll pound your face in!" said Jesus-beard.
"Come back here, old man. and show me what you got!" The weaver of lewd tales provoked the bearded savior of female dignity.
It was on.
The bus came screeching to a halt.
The bus driver told the two men that he would not tolerate fighting on his bus. He requested that they kill one another directly outside the bus instead.
Now would be a good time for me to explain something about myself at this stage in my life. I was going through an awkward phase that can only be described as a misguided attempt to feel righteous and good. I had decided that I was against violence of any kind and that I should proselytize my message to the rest of the world. I am also very optimistic about things - like my chances of surviving intervening in a battle to the death between someone who fucking fucks assholes and a milk-guzzling Jesus impersonator.
The Asshole Fucker exited the bus first and began gesticulating wildly in a display I imagine was meant to intimidate his opponent. But our corpulent hero was not about to concede his noble argument. He strode as quickly and as straightly as he could (which was not very quickly or very straight) toward his enemy.
Thinking quickly (or failing to think quickly, if you want to look at it that way) I stepped between the circling duelers, planting my dainty little hands directly on their chests. I yelled "you don't need to fight!"
They begged to differ.
The Asshole Fucker said "Babe, you're cute and everything but this is something that needs to be settled between two men."
That seemed to upset the obviously pro-feminist bearded crusader.
He took a swing at the Asshole Fucker but missed and looked sad when I flinched and squealed. He obviously didn't mean to scare me with his brutishness.
Did I mention I was really into the whole pacifism thing? I persisted in my protest. I think I yelled something about "why can't we all just get along?!" It was beautiful. My ex-hippie mother would have been proud if she had not been so angry at me for jeopardizing the survival of "her sweet baby girl" (me.)
To my utter shock and glee, the men stopped fighting. Probably because the bus driver got into the bus and started to drive off, but I still felt at least partially responsible for ending the conflict.
I felt like I had changed the world. I was like the fucking Buddha, man. Or Ghandi. I felt that I should be featured on Oprah or something. I was so stoked on myself.
At the next stop, I got out to peruse the gift store. I was still feeling all high and mighty, and felt that I needed some sweet sunglasses to complement my newfound attitude. The line to the cash register was really long, but I really needed to look like a badass, so I waited.
Just as I was exiting the gift shop with my purchase, I spotted the bus pulling out of the parking lot.
I sprinted to catch it and managed to get close enough to bang on the doors.
The bus driver slowed down the bus. He didn't open the doors.
Instead, he pointed at his watch and shook his head disapprovingly.
The bus started to move again.
I ran alongside it and frantically pounded my pathetic little fists against the doors.
The bus stopped again.
After what seemed like an eternity, the bus driver opened the doors and chided me for making him late. He made certain that I understood we were on a strict schedule where every second counts.
As he pulled onto the freeway on-ramp, I noticed that the other bus passengers were upset.
One woman said that her husband was still using the restroom.
There was also a child left behind.
And somebody's grandmother.
The bus driver was unsympathetic. He told the people that their loved ones should have paid more respect to the pressure he was under to get them to their destination on time. He failed to understand the irony of his argument.
Emboldened by my new shades and still feeling like I was a major agent of positive change for the world, I approached the bus driver. I explained to him that his job was to make sure people got from point A to point B and that at least three people were stranded at point A-and-a-half because of him. I told him that I understood the need to be punctual, but that all the punctuality in the world wouldn't make up for abandoning someone's grandmother at a seedy rest-stop.
Just as I was about ready to give up my crusade to save the castaways, the bus driver had a change of heart. In an even more dramatic display of irony, he turned the bus around after he had been driving for thirty minutes to go pick up the people he left behind out of being in a hurry. He wasted an hour trying to save a few minutes. And he made everyone super pissed off. The grandma was shaking with rage when she was rescued. The child was crying and probably traumatized for life.
We arrived in Coeur d' Alene much later than scheduled. My anxiously waiting mother was worried sick.
And that was before she found out that her daughter had been molested, saved from almost certain raping by a good-hearted, cracker-loving civilian, almost destroyed in an epic battle and very nearly stranded at a seedy rest area with nothing but a pair of sunglasses and a rapidly fading sense of self-righteousness.
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