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Woodstied meets ChessSafari #3

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  • Woodstied meets ChessSafari #3

    Leave the Driving to Us

    After several interesting days at a resort in upstate New York, ChessSafari departed on November 30 to look for a ride to visit his children and grandson. Yes, Frank is a grandpa.

    He gave me a choice of methods to return to Seattle with the idea of meeting up again in about a week. I told him that I would prefer to take Greyhound across the country from Albany to Washington State. I could have flown or taken another train but this was the least expensive choice and they have more frequent smoke breaks. So he went online and booked my bus tickets before leaving town.

    I left Easton Mountain on Monday December 4th with another ride from Kirk, the guy who had taken me to Turning Stone the previous week. He got me to the Albany Greyhound station in plenty of time.

    Because of my stroke, I was able to check my baggage through special handling, which meant that Greyhound would move the bags from bus to bus. This would, theoretically, be much simpler for me. But I had the feeling from my first meeting with the baggage people that I may never see my bags again. That would not be a good thing since just about everything I own was crammed into those two bags.

    My anxiety over my bags was heightened when they sent me on the first leg of my journey three hours earlier than the scheduled departure time. No problem, though. I would rather spend three hours waiting in Manhattan than in Albany. That was the last I would see of my bags on the trip.

    During my stopover in New York City I was able to visit a restaurant I used to hang out at as a runaway kid in the 1960s. However, I did not like the new Times Square of 2006 as much as I did the old 42nd Street. So much has changed, and not all for the better. I walked around until my next bus left for Ohio.

    At our first major stop, some police officers boarded the bus and took two passengers off in handcuffs. One was a man in his thirties and the other was a 15-year-old girl. “Kidnapping,” I heard them say. Next we stopped near the Ohio-Indiana border for a snack break. The driver said the bus would be serviced. I got off with my seatmate and several other passengers. When we looked around the bus had left the gate. We waited and waited for it to return. It didn’t. Good thing my bags weren’t on that bus!

    After a time a different bus came by. The driver acknowledged that the other bus had left a few fares behind and directed us to board his bus for St. Louis. He said we would still get there in time to make our Denver connections. When we arrived in St. Louis I checked for my bags so that I could take my medications. I was told they were “on the way” but not quite there as yet. In other words, they were missing in action.

    At this point I was pretty exhausted and ready for a restful journey from St. Louis to Denver. But the ride was total misery. A young mother with her 19-month-old screaming infant was in the rear of the bus. The mother had no money for a bottle for the baby. And even though several of the passengers, including me, would’ve chipped in for some milk for the baby, the gift shops at the terminals we visited were useless.

    I would like to suggest to the Greyhound management that the stations should sell baby items for its passengers if they are going to allow infants to ride. These items would be much more useful than bus shaped piggy banks or Greyhound logo baseball caps. I never saw a company so out of touch with the needs of its customers. At one point, I glanced toward the back of the bus and saw the baby take off his diaper and try to eat it. He was so hungry.

    By the time we arrived in Denver my scheduled layover time was less than one hour. I thought I was heading next to Salt Lake City, Boise ID, and Portland OR on the way to Tacoma. At least that’s what my printed itinerary said. When they called my connection bus I lined up at the gate with my ticket in hand. When I got to the door I was told that I couldn’t board the bus because it was full. I would have to wait for the next bus…in twelve hours. Huh?

    The new ticket that they issued at the counter re-routed me through Montana. I looked at a newspaper and saw that the temperature was near zero every place along the new route. I wanted to call ChessSafari to tell him that, rather than arriving Thursday evening at 6:30 PM, I would probably not get to Tacoma until at least 8 AM on Friday, December 8th. My cell phone was dead and my charger was in my lost luggage. I checked as each new bus arrived in Denver during my 12-hour wait; still no luggage.

    I finally found a wireless phone store where I picked up a new charger for $32. Thankfully, Chess had anticipated that I might need some extra cash and gave Kirk an extra $140 to hand to me as I boarded the bus in Albany. That was certainly coming in handy now. On the way to get the charger I passed a sign that declared, “The New Greyhound. On-Time Certified!” Like I said: Huh?

    It was so cold in the bus terminal that I decided to go to the nearest movie theatre to kill some time. The movie was “Stranger than Fiction” starring Dustin Hoffman. It was not one of his best efforts. Save your ticket money on this one unless you like boring movies.

    After the movie I made one last trip to the baggage area. I asked about my luggage and also about the items I had left on the seat that abandoned us in Ohio. I wanted to know if there was a lost and found area. It seemed like a reasonable question to me.

    I was told to ask security and that they would take me to it in the garage. I did so and the security officer suggested that I get out of the station immediately or I would be subject to arrest for disorderly conduct. I attempted to explain that the baggage handlers had sent me to him. His response was to take out his cuffs and threaten me. I had already seen that drill once on this trip, so I left the terminal. After four more hours in the freezing cold my connecting bus was finally ready for boarding at about 10 PM, minutes before frostbite was ready to set in.

    As the driver went through the list of stops ahead I was just happy to get some warm air to my toes. Then he said, almost in a mock tone of voice, “and thanks for choosing Greyhound.” I wasn’t the only one who spoke up and said, “never again”.

    Once we started moving, however, the bus got chilly. I asked for heat. He said, “OK”, but no heat came on. Passengers were wrapped in heavy coats and blankets; at least those that had them. One passenger handed out extra sweatshirts that he brought with him until he ran out. At a break in Montana, a passenger asked the driver for heat. His reply, and I quote: “Talk to me after my break. Until then I don’t want to be bothered.”

    Not to over emphasize the point, but there should be regulations governing the transport of babies on long bus trips, especially if there is going to be inadequate climate control. When we got to St. Regis, Montana, all passengers were told to depart the bus. The driver explained that we had to wait approximately thirty minutes while he went to pick up a relief driver. All passengers, including mothers with infants, were left standing in the cold on an ice-covered parking lot waiting for his return. An hour and a half later, so it seemed, the bus came back with a fresh driver.

    Twelve hours later we hit Seattle. Frank had arranged for my departure point to be Tacoma, an hour south of Seattle, because my original itinerary had me going through Portland. In other words, getting off in Tacoma was supposed to save an hour on the bus. But the way they ticketed me after Denver brought me through Seattle first. So it turned out to be an extra hour on the bus. On top of that, the Seattle to Tacoma connection was delayed adding a final dose of insult to the injury caused by those “On Time Certified” signs that now seemed to be everywhere.

    Actually, there was one more insult. When they unloaded the luggage from the Seattle bus to the Tacoma bus, I spotted my two bags. That meant that they arrived with me in Tacoma. It also meant that they had been in Denver with me when I was frantically searching for my medications and cell phone charger.

    I will be sending a copy of this trip report to the Greyhound corporate offices in Dallas TX. If anyone who reads this has any contacts at Greyhound, please let them know of my trip from hell, by way of Montana. Perhaps they will at least refund my fare. More importantly, perhaps they will make an effort to improve their customer service. Another copy is going to my lawyer.

    The one thing that went as planned was that ChessSafari was at the Tacoma Greyhound station waiting for me when I arrived 14 hours late. I gave him a big hug. Then I went to my motel to take a hot bath and a long nap.

    I’m ready for some poker.


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