Justin Li

Greyhound Tales


Hello! I'm at Stanford, California! It's kind of amazing that I'm all the way on the other side of the country. I haven't writing anything for a while, because I was busy and also because I didn't get my internet connection set up until yesterday. I won't talk about Stanford/CTY stuff for now, because I have a few stories to tell about my cross-country journal.

I told a number of people that I would be taking the train over here. However, my Amtrak plans were derailed by the flooding in Iowa, which made it necessary for me to travel by Greyhound instead. It was what people call an experience; I wouldn't do it again, but for what it was worth it was eye opening.

For one, the passengers were mostly from middle-lower class, as compared to my usual travels in airports. Through out the trip I was a little afraid to bring out my laptop, because it might show that I'm not of the same background. There was only one person I saw with a laptop, at the layover in Kansas City. Only when I got into California, and was going between major cities there, did I see people with more advanced gadgetry, like an iPhone/iPod Touch. That said, the people on the buses are not bad people, they're just less intellectual and slightly more vulgar. They are people with less fortunate lives, although that doesn't mean they're not happy. I thought about the representation of homeless people in video games for a bit, but I realized that some of these people more closely resembled our white water rafting guide over spring break; probably enjoyed life at some point, but it wasn't glorious or clean in any way.

Having spent 54 hours on a bus with these people, I do have a few stories to tell though:

The person I talked to the most on this trip was Andrew. His journey started in Upper Peninsula, Michigan and ended in Reno, Nevada, which took him into Chicago and all the way along my route. He had longish hair, an inch above his shoulders, and he always has a University of Michigan cap on. He was young, high school or college freshman age. My first impression of him was not that good, but it wasn't his manner so much as his conversation material. In fact, my thinking was, "why are you telling me this?" Although he gave less detail, our first conversation contained essentially the same story as I eventually found out. Andrew (which I read from his luggage tag first, before we shook hands and introduced ourselves before we part ways) was moving to Reno, because his was-girlfriend-now-fiancee has a kid. He didn't know until 4 months ago, because she never told him. They met in September of 2006, in a Walmart of all places. One thing led to another, and they ended having sex... which also makes that date the conception date of their kid. They knew the condom broke, which is why they're in this situation now. The girl left, and they didn't communicate until they found each other's MySpace. The girl is from Reno, which is why he's going there, even though he has not been there before. Andrew has family, of course, but he doesn't think too highly of them; his mother (he never even mentioned his father) neglects him, and he has several siblings, including a brother who is violent. Before he got the news he had a \$40,000 football scholarship to University of Michigan, but while moving something he broke his thumb, which evaporated his chances of getting the scholarship. Not surprisingly, he had wanted to be a football player before that. What is surprising was that he now wants to be an author. It's possible: he's 18 years old, and his fiancee still lives with her parents, whom he has never met. After knowing all this, I'm not sure what to think of him. On one hand he is stupid for letting this happen. I don't like how casually he tells people this, as though he wasn't taking it seriously. Although, I feel like he really does care for the girl. Considering that he's marrying her, that he's giving up his (albeit abysmal) life to move to Reno. His choice of words when talking tell the latter story, of how he's lucky he found a significant other, and how he will "make love" to her when he gets to Reno.

Most of the people are like this on the bus: not good, but deserving of sympathy. The few other people on the bus I know less detailed stories of:

There was an old guy from Dayton, Ohio, who had lived there for most of 47 years. I heard the story in the dark, so I'm not sure who it was, but I think he got off in Reno as well. Where ever he was going, he had a business proposal waiting for him there: ghost hunting, at "the most haunted building" in the world. He has a meeting with "tuxedo execs" the day after he arrives, and if everything goes well, he and his partner will get exclusive rights to that haunted hotel.

There's another youngster, this one around my age, whose travels started in Gainesville, Georgia. He was taking the bus to Hays, Kansas, before flying to California to find his mother and siblings. From there he's driving them out to Georgia, before returning the truck in California and finally flying back to his Georgia home. He painted life in his California town to be violent, and to another guy who has been in his neighborhood he said, "you'd better shoot first and ask later, because they damn sure are gonna do the same to you."

There are a couple other people:

I think the stories are quite something to listen to, but I feel different knowing that I've met these people, and it's not just fiction from the imagination of an author.

Pun Count: 1