It all started with a simple thought running on repeat:
“Working in this office job makes me wanna’ die a little.”
Because I’m not much different from a large portion of the population, I let that problem dominate my brain with no real attempt at creating a solution for two years.
Eventually, though, another thought entered my brain:
“Fuck this job. Fuck this place. Fuck staying in one place, paying rent, doing the same shit day in and day out in a bureaucratic cesspool. I’m’a travel for a bit.”
The plan: travel across the country and stop at any place where family or friends will house us, staying in each place for one week.
Now let’s strap into our wonderful literary time machine and skip all of the frustrating shit involved in making the modern consumer more mobile. I sold/threw away/gave away most of my shit blah blah blah blah.
Welcome TO THE FUTURE! It’s August 31st, 2017.
My brother and I are on a Greyhound heading towards our first destination: Greensboro, North Carolina. The trip is estimated to be thirty-eight hours long, and both of us have already been awake for twenty-six. Sleep deprivation warps time and space; I’m not entirely sure how much of what I’m experiencing on the trip is real.
When we pull out of Dallas making our way towards Louisiana, the driver turns the bus around and says, “Folks, I don’t got brakes.”
Some people laugh.
“You think it’s funny, but I can’t brake,” he responds with wonderfully southern inflections.
As we pull back into the Dallas station, he tells us, “Y’all gonna’ need to go to the customer service station and…..uh….tell ’em that I ain’t got no brakes.”
I was about 93% convinced that I was dreaming during this time. Everyone else seemed to be confused as well. Regardless, we unloaded from the bus back into Dallas.
Everyone I know says Dallas is a wonderful city. All I can say about Dallas is that its Greyhound station is terrible and dirty and I hate everyone there. My lack of sleep and the two-hour delay while they attempted to fix the bus (so it could…you know…fucking stop) didn’t do anything to improve the quality of this first impression. Eventually, though, we did leave again.
Jesus, we’re still in Texas, I thought many hours later as we arrived for a pit stop at a gas station in Terrell, Texas. That state is far too big. Someone should definitely look into making it smaller somehow.
“We gonna’ take a fifteen-minute break here, folks,” the bus driver drawled, “so feel free to stop inside the gas station hyuh, pick ya’ up some drinks or fried chicken. We’ll be leavin’ in fifteen minutes.”
The bus driver vanished for forty-five minutes. Everyone had long since had their fill of drinks, fried chicken, and fucking Terrell, Texas when he appeared like a reverse corn field angel from the gas station and strolled towards the bus at a leisurely pace.
He sat for a few minutes, clearly not giving any kinds of fucks about the palpable concern and anger of the folks around me who just wanted to get where they were going already.
“There was a big…uh….crash on I-10,” he decided to start his first sentence. “A….uh…big sixteen-wheeler flipped on the highway. We waitin to see if there’s a way to get around it.”
I assumed around this point that our driver’s only source of pleasure was the fury and confusion of the passengers he drove; he might have been enjoying this. I even started to expect that the brakes had been fully functional earlier. For the next few hours, my main source of entertainment was pondering the many ways a bus driver could fuck with passengers.
From that point on, I could only keep my eyes open for about twenty-minutes at most. Sleep deprivation and general travel anxiety fucked with my brain, though, and kept me from napping any longer than five minutes. My general mental state was comparable to when you take a nap and wake up later unsure of what the day is. In this case I also kept waking up legitimately unsure of where the fuck I was.
We took brief breaks roughly every four or five hours to either transfer buses or let other passengers on. Because of how short the breaks were, we didn’t really get to experience much of the states leading up to North Carolina. However, I think I can adequately describe my first impressions of what we did see:
Buggy as fuck. Lots of ghost towns.
It was 2 AM, and the station was absolutely dead. I don’t believe in ghosts, but it probably wouldn’t take much to convince me that that place was haunted.
It was…certainly Alabama.
We experienced the Atlanta bustle through a two-minute walk in a Greyhound station.
Our bus driver, before we departed Atlanta, said, “Dear Lord, keep me calm, keep the people in my bus safe, in the name of Jesus. If you agree with me, can I get an ‘Amen?'”
“Yes! Please don’t kill us!” we replied internally. Externally, my brother said, “Alrighty! Woohoo!”
Something about someone who’s going to drive you hundreds of miles leaving the quality of their driving in the hands of someone who kinda just did Hurricane Harvey was not very comforting.
Of all the Carolinas I had ever been to, it was definitely the Southiest.
Still in delirious, fever-dream levels of clarity, we heard the bus driver saying he smelled illegal drugs on the bus. I heard him asking people why they weren’t sharing. My brother heard what he probably actually said, that drugs is bad.
One thing became apparent about the South Carolina folk along the way: they fucking love their fireworks. Giant firework stores like Shelton’s (the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Fireworks Store”) were sprawled along the highway. One of the gas stations even sold fireworks right next to the beer and some giant felt dolls. It would become apparent later that peaches were just about as popular as shit blowing up in the sky.
After hours and hours and hours and hours of driving through The SC (now on the CW, weeknights 7P/8C), we arrived in
In Charlotte, a clump of people gathered around the phone-charging stations like flies on a hippo. The one bathroom in the facility was closed for maintenance, but no one seemed to be maintenance-ing, and everything inside was perfectly functional. We picked up a local delicacy: fries with molten nacho cheese and barely-crumbled bacon, and proceeded to chow the fuck down and burn the shit out of our fingers. (Little-known fact: the original script for Men In Black had their fingerprints being removed via scalding nacho cheese.)
Our second-to-last stop was at a little gas station. Being generally unaware of the size of North Carolina’s cities, we assumed that the intersection at which the gas station was located was the city of Greensboro (our final destination).
We were wrong.
Forty goddamned hours after we had initially departed Austin, we arrived in Greensboro. I spun my Inception top on the ground to make sure I was awake, but then got bored and walked away from it. We may never know how many of the wondrous events of the previous forty hours had actually occurred. Chances are I’m still dreaming now. Or not. You decide.
On the next episode of The 2017 ETW, we’ll delve into the further experiences of our week in North Carolina and some backtracking into Georgia.
Until then, I’m gonna’ go take a fucking nap.