“L adies and gentlemen, be prepared to enjoy the best ride of your life”, she said cheerfully as she put the bus in gear, causing it to slowly lumber north on West Peachtree Street and starting its journey to Washington, D.C.
Those words would surely come back to haunt her — but please allow me to start from the beginning.
I arrived at the bus stop for Megabus approximately one hour before the scheduled departure time; and there were probably about a dozen people — thankfully, none of them panhandlers this time. One of them was a man — perhaps in his 60s, about five feet three inches tall, stout, with a stubbly whitish-gray beard contrasting the dark skin of his face — and a woman who I presumed to be his companion.
“Is this the line for Washington, D.C.?” I asked.
They replied in the affirmative, smiling and quite friendly. He commented on how cold it was at the outdoor bus stop even though he admitted that he was originally from the northern United States. I did not think it was cold as I eyed the sun setting off in the distance to the west — a pretty sight, but not worthy of a photograph. “I am originally from the northeastern United States myself”, I replied.
He then told me about how brutally cold it can get in Korea; and that he served two turns of service there — once when he was young; and once more recently when he was “not so young.”
A man emerged from his MegaSnacks panel truck and asked in a booming deep voice who was going to Washington, D.C.; and virtually everyone raised their hands. “I got bullet-proof vests, Taser guns and pepper spray for sale here”, he joked as he held headphones — with or without microphones — still sealed in their packages. He even later offered “free delivery” on the bus before departure of snacks, sandwiches, soft drinks and water during his “final call.”
By the time the bus arrived, a longer line had formed — but there was not nearly enough people to fill the bus. Yes!…
…and because I was towards the front of the queue, I knew that I would have my choice of seat: the front seat on the upper deck of the bus.
While that seat may not have ample leg room, it has what this window seat person enjoys: windows. Big window in the front. Windows on the sides. Even a window in the ceiling. I can stick my legs and feet into the aisle because I am in the front row. Moreover, there is no row behind my seat because of the front set of stairs — which no one is allowed to use except for at the end of the trip. Even better: the seat next to me was never occupied — which means room for my bags and a chance to stretch out — at least, as much as I possibly can, anyway. Sweet!
Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed looking out the window — especially the front window of a car when my parents drove. Having this big window in front of me evoked such memories as the bus driver announced the safety and operational instructions while the bus slowly moved forward. I was simply mesmerized — especially as I have always had an affinity for the highway and the open road. I have a playlist of music dedicated solely to being on a highway — a playlist which existed long before the existence of .mp3 songs.
The white lines passed by to the rhythm of the music to which I was listening as the bus rolled down the highway not long after we were informed that we will be on the ride of our lives. I figured that the five dollars I paid in full for the round-trip itinerary was already spent on the fuel just to get the bus up to highway speed.
I thought about it: this was nice. No airport security checkpoints. The passengers of the half-full bus were quiet. I got to enjoy looking out onto the highway as it meandered through downtown Atlanta with the last vestiges of rush hour traffic for the evening still evident. No having to concentrate while driving on the road. No need to purchase fuel.
Somewhere in Tennessee a couple of hours later, the rain started to fall. It was bizarre to look out of a front-facing window and not have “windshield wipers slapping out a tempo keeping perfect rhythm” — extra points for you if you can name the song of which that line is from, as well as the artist who sang it, the year it was released and the movie for which it was part of the soundtrack — and clearing out the droplets of rainwater which speckled the windshield, accompanied by the liquid trails left by droplets too heavy to remain.
The bus approached its first stop at the deserted bus station in Knoxville. After some passengers weathered the light rain to use the facilities, the bus was back on its way eastbound on Interstate 40 before heading north on what I personally believe is one of the most scenic Interstate highways in the United States: Interstate 81.
Once I was satisfied that I knew the route of which the bus was taking, I must have fallen asleep after going through a series of body contortions to find the right comfort level for me, as I do not recall crossing the border from Tennessee into Virginia.