“Hold on a second, wait, wait, wait, did I just hear you say that you’re choosing to travel by bus?” I asked a fella named Rudy who was speaking to another group of people behind me. I interrupted Rudy. It was rude, but I couldn’t hide my amazement. When I asked him if his decision was based on finances, the fact that he didn’t have a fully functional automobile, or a fear of flying, he said no to all of the above. “Then, I don’t get it. Why would you choose to travel by bus?” I asked.
“I want to see the country,” he said, “and I feel like I’ve never truly seen the country before.” When I mentioned that he could see the country by driving in an automobile, he said, “That pesky chore of having to pay attention to the road gets in the way.” When I said he could take turns driving with his girlfriend, he said, “Long story short, I’ll be traveling alone.”
“Have you ever travelled on a bus before?” I asked him.
“I haven’t,” he said, “and that’s part of the allure for me.”
“Before you purchase a ticket go smell a bus,” I said. “Ask the company if you can have a smellment inside a bus to inhale the interior. Walk around the depot and smell some of its passengers. Have you ever smelled pungent B.O. before? Now imagine that smell crawling all over you for nine hours.
“I jabbed a stick into a bloated, roadside opossum one time, and I could smell the noxious gases that came out of it a week later on my skin, in my hair, and in the clothes I decided to pitch,” I continued. “Even that putrid, eye-watering scent couldn’t prepare me for the smells of the guy who sat in J-4. If we could bottle J-4’s unique combination of gangrene, attic, and a slight touch of what can be huffed on an emu’s undercarriage, after an extensive workout, I think we might make a dent in any overpopulation fears we might have.”
Rudy was listening with an “Okay, but,” look on his face that told me he wasn’t convinced.
“Trains will make stops, but not at every Podunk town junction. An extended bus ride can make what might be a seven-hour trip into nine hours, which might not seem like much of an addition, unless you’re seated next to the smells of a J-4, and you can’t sleep because you stayed up all night, the night before to sleep the bus trip away.
“We all go a little nutty when we’re sleep deprived, but the nonstop bus stops can mess with your mind, as it might take fifteen to twenty delirious minutes to find sleep, until the next bus stop arrives thirty minutes later, at which point the cycle repeats. Repeat this cycle often enough, and you’ll become intimately familiar with the term hypnagogia.
“I see it on your face,” I said. “You’ve never heard the term. I didn’t know it either, until I traveled by bus. Put simply, the mind messes with you in the hypnagogic state. I’ve read scientific descriptions that suggest a hypnagogic state can occur anytime in the brief moments we transition to and from sleep. We commonly refer to this brief mental state of moving towards sleep or wakefulness without completing the transition as being half-awake or half-asleep. In my experience, the incredibly surreal hypnagogic hallucinations are most vivid when someone or something abruptly forces us out of sleep.
“I don’t know about you, but I wake whenever I come to a complete stop, be it after a car ride, bus travel, or anything that puts me in motion,” I added, “I saw most of my fellow passengers sleep through a stop, and I envied/loathed them for that ability. How do you guys escape the laws of nature, I wanted to ask. When I would wake with each stop, my sleep-deprived brain told me that J-4 was getting ready to do something awful to me. This cyclical drama continued for me throughout all the stops the bus made, until I reached a level of delirium where I wasn’t sure if the dead and undead passengers around me were products of my nightmares or participants in it.
“As I slipped in and out of sleep, I ate, just to do something with my hands. Halfway through, I realized I must be pretty good at eating, because the guy in H-2 leaned up over his seat to watch me do it to a bag of Gardetto’s. I don’t know if this guy was graced with a unique ability to stare his way into dreams, or if he discovered those super powers during our little trip together, but a couple hours into this trip, I was convinced he attained a supernatural form.
“I love the smell of those things,” H-2 informed me. I wasn’t sure what world he said that in, so I gave him the rest of my bag, because I suspected his need for Gardetto’s might lead him to display his ability to alter his ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the way an octopus will to formulate an attack strategy it needs to capture the unique prey it finds.
“I thought conceding might also end the cold war I was having with H-2, until I realized that when I could only smell the Gardetto’s, it only served to increase his powers,” I said. “With the advanced state of delirium I was in, I wasn’t able to tell if I was dreaming or not, but at some point in our travel together he altered into some some form of hybrid that reminded me of a Cyclops in Greek mythology. He had the same face, and the same hands were tossing Gardetto’s back to me in J-3. He fed me in such regular intervals that I came to expect them. When it took him too long to feed me, I cheeped like a baby bird, but he did not regurgitate a Gardetto into my mouth, as I feared he might. He’d just turn around and tossed one back to me.
“Those cheeps must’ve been aloud, because when I awoke from this half-sleep, half wake state of delirium, the passengers around me were uncomfortably quiet, and a four-to-five-year-old was laughing at me over the headrest. The kid then mimicked those cheeping sounds, while laughing at me, until his mother pulled him back.
“My grievances against bus travel date back to my teen years when my dad forced me to take the city bus to school, but it didn’t dawn on me how deep seeded my bias against bus travel was, until a man named Alex informed me that he wouldn’t walk to a Walgreens with me.
“But it’s right there,” I said, pointing to the establishment.
“I had to walk everywhere I went back when I was poor,” Alex said. “Now that I have money and a car, I don’t want to walk anymore.” I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I ever heard, and it didn’t dawn on me until later that I have a similar, deep-seeded bias against travel by bus.
“You name the method of traveling a great distance, other than walking or running, and I’ve probably tried it. Check that, I’ve yet to go anywhere by stagecoach or pack mule, but I doubt that they compare to the horrible experience you’ll have on the bus. If I were you, I would seriously reconsider another mode of transportation.”