I'm sitting in the lobby of Watermark Community Church, awaiting the beginning of the Echo Conference. Eighteen hours ago I was in De Soto, Kansas. My method of travel: Greyhound.
This was my first time traveling by bus. And it was eventful. Here are a few fragments from my journey:
- I waited for the bus at a small gas station in Lawrence, Kansas. The temperature exceeded 100°. An African American man came in to the station to get out of the sun, send a text message, and wait for a ride. He was asked to leave by the shopkeeper, who said if he wanted to stay, he needed to buy something.
- An inebriated man, likely in his twenties, approached the counter and asked, "When does the six o'clock bus arrive?" "When do you think?", I thought to myself. The shop keeper told him that he had no idea, and that the bus always ran late. After the man inquired several times, he purchased a ticket. After stepping outside, the shop keeper announced, "I hope you have fun with his drunk @%# onboard."
- Ten to fifteen minutes after our scheduled boarding time, the bus arrived. Several passengers quickly climbed off for a cigarette. One of the men spoke of job opportunities in North Dakota. "$18 or more an hour," he said.
- The inebriated man, mentioned above, was confronted directly by the bus driver. "Have you been drinking?", he said. "Not for a while," came the reply, spoken unconvincingly. The driver then sternly told the man that if he was drunk in Kansas City, he would not be allowed to board his connection. "Sober up," was the message.
- Once onboard, I found a seat next to a woman traveling from San Antonio to Northern Iowa. Across the aisle were two Mennonite women, fully attired. Another passenger asked a Mennonite man about his hat; told him he liked it. The Mennonite was unsure as to whether or not he was being insulted. He did not reply.
- Three passengers onboard engaged in a loud conversation. They covered a lot of ground. One man contended that the air quality aboard airplanes was poor, and harmful for infants, thus his preference for the bus. Another spoke of his past job as a technical service representative for GoDaddy.com, and his love of the company's commercials. Another man held his phone aloft as we approached Kansas City, recording our approach, narrating as though he had discovered a magnificent country.
- The Kansas City, Missouri terminal was a convergence of humanity unlike I had ever seen. There were people of all races, distinct languages, uncommon dress. There was a man moving about the terminal with the assistance of a walking stick--overweight and blind. There was a young woman, attired in nothing more than a grey sports bra, flip flops, and "Taz" boxer shorts, her hair died bleach blond. A travelling companion who accompanied this woman flipped a Zippo lighter open and shut several times. There was a homeless man, moving on to a new city, remarking that the trip he was presently on "saved his life." There was another man, from Sherman, who was passionate about Texas Rangers baseball, and who at the moment was unemployed.
- The tipsy man who had boarded in Lawrence called his father on a pay phone. I had not seen a pay phone that was operable in years. This terminal had several. "Dad, please come pick me up," he repeated several times over the phone. He did not want to wait. His father had put him on the bus in Lawrence, but his bus (and mine) did not leave until 11:00 p.m., a four hour layover. This was truly sad for me to hear.
- I overheard two women talking of their love lives, their tattoos, and their children. One of the women told the story of how she almost lost her 11 year old son to a stroke, malnourished and hospitalized while in the care of the boy's father. The other described herself as a "cougar", engaged at the moment to a much younger man, who happened to be a minister.
- In ancient cultures, a water source, or a well, drew people to a common center. In the Greyhound terminal, it is the cell phone charging station. Passengers offered to watch one another's phones while in pursuit of something to eat. Passengers offered one another their cell phone chargers, or pointed out open plugs. Conversations were struck up, stories told, sports teams debated, hope offered, losses chronicled. Fascinating place to stand.
- I witnessed this.
- This happened immediately after boarding. A speech from our driver ensued, detailing federal law regarding weapons and transportation. He told us that if you were caught, you could serve time. I didn't expect anyone to offer up their pistol.
- KCMO to Tulsa, I was seated next to a young woman who was traveling to New Mexico as part of a requirement as a beneficiary to a will. She hoped to inherit a little coin. She worked in an Iowa town, in the cafeteria of a slaughterhouse, and was one of a small number of minorities in her community. We talked a little bit about church. She grew up Catholic, and missed the sense of belonging and acceptance she had experienced while part of the Catholic church. In Iowa, she began attending a Reformed congregation, and though she did not feel as accepted, she did feel as though the teaching and preaching was more understandable. She also had a love for Joyce Meyer.
- Driving from Tulsa to Dallas, I did overhear a man saying he was one of 89 grandchildren, yet the only one who could be traced to a certain ancestor, who was apparently of note. He made a cryptic remark about his life being part of a prophecy, which motivated his search for a wife. This man hopped off in Muskogee.
- A young lady who boarded in Tulsa was bound to visit a close friend who just began basic training, stationed in Georgia. She was twenty years old, a student at Oklahoma State University, and traveling alone.
- In McKinney, Texas, a man hopped on board who had been held up a gun point the night before. He was an oilman, having worked for twelve years on off shore rigs. He came to the Dallas area to see family, went to the wrong bar, spent too much money, and was followed out of the establishment by two opportunists packing a small pistol. ID, credit cards, everything gone. His mom wired money via Western Union for his ticket from Dallas to Houston.
- I was picked up by a friend, Stacey, at the terminal in Richardson, and taken to breakfast. It was delightful. Omelet and toast and hash browns, with a cup of coffee to wash it down.
So now I'm here. And I've already met five or six new people, reconnected with old friends, and almost have a full charge on my cell phone.
Extremely glad to be at Echo. If you are here, too, let's connect on Twitter, shake hands, share stories, and become friends.