“Don’t do it” they said, “You’ll lose your head” they cried; and so, feeling a lot like Henry VIII’s sixth wife, I strolled up to the sales desk of a Toronto coach terminal and resolved to travel Canada and the United States via Greyhound. Now I’m sure they had good reasons for their prophecies and I quickly learnt that if you’re going to leave this world - it will be the same way that you arrived - alone. Fortunately, I was travelling with a friend, whom I knew and trusted, thus avoiding the agony of having someone malodorous or unhinged (or a combination of the two) next to me for those exhausting journeys.
The big wheels keep on turning.
Keen to absorb as much of the New World as possible through the window, I establish that the majority of America is corn - miles and miles of corn. I feel the Greyhound is stationary, with someone winding a handle and turning this scenery; interrupted by corporate America, offering its neon bosom in the night. I’m just grateful for the colour.
When you reach your destination, you feel a curious obligation to scrutinize your fellow passengers: Where are they from? Where are they going? She’s been with us for the last 36 hours - a responsibility inherent to the process of recovery and undoubtedly reciprocated; perhaps it’s human nature?
Stepping off, you sympathise with Julius Caesar when he declared “I came, I saw, I conquered” feeling undeservedly triumphant for what amounts to having sat down for a long time; but this was endurance coupled with extreme anxiety, which reaches apoplexy as the ripening door of your Greyhound broadcasts its contents (and this bus incidentally, looks nothing like the Wi-Fi enabled fantasy you were sold).
As the grizzly staff discharges the baggage in the terminal - taking extra care to annihilate the contents of your luggage - your eyes grow wider as your bag manifests itself - alongside your new found spirituality.Each terminal quickly becomes the same, as you realise there’s no prospect of experiencing the New World’s trademark optimism; each and every interaction amounts to a patently functional courtesy, incorporating an express disregard for circumstance. Whilst unhelpful, I find the egalitarian nature of their chagrin quite encouraging.
Despite all this - and whilst acknowledging that I might still have Stockholm Syndrome - I learnt to love the idiosyncrasy of the Greyhound, becoming like it did, the third person on our journey; what it lacked in customer service, fidelity and empathy it made up for with character. Its notable contribution to my travels was that it took me there; sharing a clandestine and intimate discourse on American life that I will never forget, and much like Henry’s sixth wife, I survived.
So it is with enduring and avuncular tenderness that I remember that silver and blue advocate, who with earnest and candid efficiency took me on a journey - between journeys - that in our postmodern world amounted to a very honest, uncompromising and exhilarating ride.