Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Do things work in America?

I'm no stranger to bus travel and could relate grueling bus stories from trips in Mexico, Latvia, Colombia, Greece, etc. etc.  But America?

Buffalo- Toronto, Saturday morning.  First surprise.  I arrive around 6:15 (early as usual for any form of tranportation).  Already there was a line at the gate.  First clue- the man in front of me was ranting about Greyhound's terrible service.  I said, "Oh, no, you're a pessimist.  The bus will be here at 6:45."  The line grew longer and the crowd started to get impatient.
     Yes, there was a bus but the driver got out and announced, "Room for 3 passengers."
    I was shocked.  The image of American efficiency was something I always held dear in my years living abroad. 
    An hour later, another bus arrived.  This one was shoddier and older than the first one.  People started to push and I told one man he couldn't cut in line (as if this was my job). 
     Finally most of us got on- about fifteen people were left behind to who knows what fate.  Next, the driver went to get a coffee while we all sat waiting, too broken to complain.
   I'd chosen this particular time because it was supposed to be a direct bus.  Well, our first stop after the border (another ordeal) was the very first town, Fort Erie, where the driver picked up mail.  We stopped in every other town en route.  At one point there were passengers standing- something that I thought wasn't allowed.
    My return trip was quite different.  The bus left on time and though it stopped everywhere (my ticket was for a direct bus), I was mentally prepared.  By the time we got to Niagara Falls, it was just me and the driver.  I got a spectacular view of the Falls lit up at night.  He was from Montreal and we discussed gun control, elections, and Quebec referendums until we pulled into Buffalo.  When I got off in Buffalo, we shook hands. 
    My idea of American efficiency was shattered but I had a sense that humanity wasn't lost even in this impersonal world.

My bus poem which has appeared on this blog before:
The Lake

Something in me
loves a bus.
Starting at birth.
my father brought me home
in early November snow
on a bus.
There was Marilyn, circa 1956
all Bus Stop glamour,
and in Cleveland,
the sleek Greyhound sign,
recalls Edward Hopper
and the dusty 1930’s.
 “You have a blessed day”
the new goodbye as I board
wondering how to do just that.
Ashtabula, Erie, Buffalo
and all points east,
their vowels satisfy.

Something in America
so hates the city,
it bleeds out
 a slow death
 of the  light
and sound
and life
of this lake.


  1. Public transportation in the States unfortunately is not very good, people travel but private cars are the kings and everything is made for cars. Traveling by airplane is another thing in general more efficient because safety is very important. But if you take the train or bus then it can work very well or not. It is just a question of pure luck. Then for the shake of God fade is the only thing that counts like in the Greek tragedies.