Bus-Odyssee [Story]

|Monday, 24.07.2017
After some San Francisco-adventures it was time for me to head south again towards LA – home. I spent some quality time with my californian family planning and brainstorming a project to reduce food waste in american schools and beyond, then another day with Sabrina’s ex Ryan exercising and parkouring around, which left me with quite a few spots of missing skin on both hands and feet. After I bought my ticket online from a cozy bar’s wifi, I was finally making my way from Berkeley to the Greyhound-Bus-Station in Oakland through the dirty and extremely loud underground-trains called “bart”. Once I arrived there at 2pm with three more hours to kill, I entered the station to see “what’s up”. As I carried my 55lbs backpack through the doors of the building, I saw people standing in line for something and thought “Hm. Probably for the tickets…”
As I took a closer look, there was a security-guard opening and going through all of the suitcases of two passengers while 3 more people were lining up to go through the same procedure; I was confused and startled on the spot; “They are searching your WHOLE baggage for the BUS?!” I thought. I proceeded by getting a bottle of water from a vending machine and then approached the security-guard after he was finished with everyone: »Hey there! My bus is leaving in ‘bout 3 hours and I guess when you search my stuff now, and I leave the building again, you gotta do the same again when I re-enter, right?«
»Yeah that sounds about right.« he answered.
»Alright then I’ll just hang around and come back in two hours. Laters dude!« – »See ya!«
So I then left the building again and tried to wrap my head around the fact that they are seriously looking at, touching, and searching through every item in your baggage. FOR A BUS-RIDE!! I mean, I am used to this from airports, but for the most famous long-distance-bus in the States this was definitely over-exaggerated in my opinion. “Maybe it’s only Oakland” I thought. Oakland left a pretty run-down and dirty impression on me, swarming with homeless people and crime. So I could kind of see where they were coming from.
I entered the public parking lot behind the building to chill down and smoke a cigarette, found a tree that I found worthy of sitting under, started to take off my backpack and suddenly saw some junkie’s injection-needle lying on the ground. I immediately NOPE’d and found another cozy tree across the street. WELCOME TO OAKLAND! I guess.

After I passed 2 hours by calling my little brother in Germany, I started into the station again, already prepared to get my overflowing backpack – my everything I own in this life – ripped apart and searched for knives, drugs and whatevernot. This time there was no queue at all, and when I approached the counter I saw that there was now a security-lady standing behind it. I smiled at her and asked »Do I need to check in with you?«, which she only answered with a brief »Nah.«, so I continued past her. The guy from earlier was standing behind the wall next to her, finishing up his shift and when he recognised me he just said »Ah! He’s okay; Come through buddy!«
So I went to pick up my ticket and sat down in the waiting area. After I came back from the toilet two minutes later, a young couple was just sitting down next to my backpack. They were conversing in German and after a few minutes of overhearing them obviously struggling with buying their tickets online, I just asked them (in German) if I could help somehow. We then exchanged the usual “Oh you’re from Germany, traveling aswell. What’s your story…”-kinda thing and had a cool chat. After they became pretty annoyed by the Greyhound-website not properly functioning on their phones, I solved the problem by offering them to use my laptop. Worked. Booked the tickets. All good. Saved the day.
And just 10 minutes later my bus to LA arrived and I hopped on without any further problems. I caught a cozy seat in the middle and was surprised about how fancy these Greyhound-buses appeared to be. “This’ gonna be a comfortable 9-hour ride.” I thought.
So after the bus was loaded, we started. …
After 2 hours in which I was thinking “Dude; should’ve gotten something anything to drink ey!” we finally stopped for the first time and the asian driver-lady announced over the speakers »Yu hav faiv minits to run to de stor if yu want.« so I and two mexican guys did just that.
In the store I grabbed a box of guava-juice and headed to checkout. There were the two 40-year-old Mexicans already, talking spanish to the checkout-guy, cramming for their money and not really finding it. Impulsively I stepped in and said »Todo junto, lo tengo.« (“All together, I got it”) and gave them a smiling wink, then paid their beers and my juice. They enthusiastically said Gracias about 20 times while we were running back to the bus just in time.
Entering the bus, I discovered that someone had taken my seat despite my purse-sized bag being on it. I sighed and walked all the way to the back of the bus to one of my new Amigos who was just opening his beer and loudly greeting me with a cheerful »Amiigoo! -spanishspanishspanishspanish-« and lots and lots of handshakes. I sat next to him, explained that I’d only understand half of what he’s saying and shared my headphones with him. Paul Kalkbrenner (German Techno) and watching the beautiful north-californian landscapes let the time fly by and made it endurable that I went from having a very cozy seat in the middle of the bus to having the bastard-seat two feet away from both the disgustingly smelly bus-toilet AND the bus’ engine’s release of unbearably warm air right INTO my seat. Not to mention the beer-chugging Mexican who from time to time suddenly started bombarding me with lightning-fast spanish, that I could only answer by either smiling or telling him »No entiendo, amigo.« for the 50th time.
But German Techno makes everything better… Always.

And so this continued for another hour or two, until we passed another Greyhound-bus that had broken down steaming on the freeway. So our bus stopped and we filled every single free seat with the passengers from the other bus. After they finished reloading all the baggage, we continued our journey after another 20-30 minutes. Suddenly the bus was overflowing with people and our driver announced »Sori fo de inconvinence, but we ha to make a trip fo de Fresno to bring oll de oder passagers der…« to tell us that we would be making a detour of about 3 hours to bring all the new passengers to ‘Fresno’. This definitely added to not just mine, but the overall rising level of uncomfortableness of the whole bus.
And suddenly a baby started crying.
I was once again surprised of how little fucks I was giving about all of this. So not even the screaming baby was really vexing me (as they usually do) when I just answered its call by plugging out my headphones and starting to blast Techno on max through my phone. I alternated between dancing sitting down and actually standing up, dancing barefoot in the little space I had in the back of the bus, because fuck it.
If traveling through so many countries and fucked-up situations taught me ONE THING, it definitely is how to deal with shit like this. How to not let life get in the way of you being comfortable and having fun even when everything around you is hot as hell, screaming, reeking of toilet, and bombarding you with Spanish. Because Life Happens – Deal With It!
Oh and not really caring about living anymore definitely helps too. I’ve been feeling pretty depressed ever since I came to Cali again and that for sure makes it easier to not be concerned with “small stuff” like this. Life will be over pretty soon anyway, right? So why even bother.

In one moment when I was standing up dancing, a pretty poor-looking woman in her 40’s came to my seat, greeted me and my Amigo and sat down. They obviously knew each other and started talking slangy English, which I was surprised about. I didn’t know the Mexican could talk more than 3 words of English. She was very friendly toward us and right away introduced herself to me as Cathryn, asking me silently »What was your Amigo’s name again?«, but I had no idea and didn’t really care. What are names anyways…
While the Amigo was comfortably resting his head and whole body against Cath, getting pretty close, she said »Yea this 2-year-old has been crying forever now and her asian bitch-mother doesn’t give a shit, she don’t even try to comfort her. I gave the child my teddybear and she’s crying less since.« She then asked if she could use my phone.
I kinda liked her so I said »Sure thing« and handed her my phone. She googled how far Fresno was away and then called someone, opening with the words »Yea ey dude it’s me. Another fucking bus broke down so we stopped this bitch to pick up all these assholes and now I won’t get the next bus to Phoenix in time fuuuck…«, which I found a pretty funny substitute for the now missing music.
After she finished the call she went back to her seat again, so I sat down in mine. I didn’t even ask how or if they knew each other and continued passing time by staring out the window to my music, fading out the still crying baby.

Some time later my Amigo started telling me something about how he was brought to California from the east-coast, all chained together with his hands bound to his ankles. Looked pretty sketchy how he visualized it for me. And then he shoved his weird improvised plastic-ID in my face, telling me something about »They used my name for some shit and then I was fucked. I don’t know… SOME SHIT!« and I didn’t really know what to make of this at all. Then as randomly as everything else, Cath came back again, I let her sit down and she started talking. After 5 minutes or so, she said »If I could give you guys a well-meant word of advice; don’t snort coke before getting on a 9 hour bus-ride. It’s FUCKING BORING over there! (in front)«, opened her Eastpack-Backpack, containing every kind of nonsense from lots of notepads, over small plush-toys and even an XBOX-Gamepad, and proceeded to take out a small baggy with about 1-2 grams of some powdered crystals which she then dipped a part of with a finger and stuffed it in her mouth and told us about the “happy accident”, how some stranger gave her the baggy in a bathroom in the Oakland bus station. I was offered some but declined, although the still screaming baby made me consider it for the smallest fraction of a second. But naah.
»Well thank you guys for being a happy distraction! I was just on my way of going to the toilet and smoking a cigarette but then decided to sit with you guys before I do anything stupid and get kicked out.« she said and left again.
In this moment I was really amazed by how fucked up this bus-ride turned out for me, mostly only by paying the beers of some mexican strangers. And hell, I liked it! Even tho it was weird as balls, this is what I live for; Weird-af adventures in every country.

After my Amigo tried talking me into going to Tijuana to buy “muy bien Weed” from a friend of his, and lots more small stuff that happened, not worth mentioning, we stopped in Fresno (3.5 hrs away from LA) where Amigo and I went to 7/11 to go buy some beers I agreed to pay for, because I honestly stopped caring about anything at that point. Beer could only help make this whole thing even weirder and I’d gladly take that.
So after some back and forth inside the shop with Mr. Mexico, if we should now get 18 beers or 12, I got him down to 12 and paid for it. Leaving the shop I finally lit my cigarette I was so hardly anticipating for the past hours, only to get ushered into the bus again by our driver after having taken only ‘bout 3 puffs. That quite pissed me off right then.
Inside the bus, the driver of the other broken bus we took with went through the rows and felt everybody’s bags for beers. He then found ours with Cathryn and gave it to some homeless people this place was literally swarming with. At this point I was so done with life I switched to the seat in front of me next to a cute black girl and just put on my headphones, closed my eyes and dozed off (It was about 11pm and I’ve been awake for 15+hrs).
I woke up again about one hour later when Cathryn came to the back and told me »Ey your Amigo is really crazy he tried to put his lips on me and gets really close whatthefuck?!«. I just woke up so I didn’t care and wasn’t surprised either. I noticed how the bus had literally stopped on the side of the freeway to take a smoking-break which I was imediately very grateful for.
So I got out of the bus and shared one of Cathryn’s cigarettes with her and some dude who had just picked one up from the ground. »Dude; I’ve been there, just don’t. Here, take this instead.« I told him and passed the cig. He was pretty chill.
My Amigo came jumping out the bus and enthusiastically told me »You say you need to goto Newport, right? I have friend who can take you! I gotchu amigo!!« giving me a fist-bump, a handshake and another fist-bump. I expressed my appreciation, but wasn’t really feeling it.
We then continued our journey and I kept sitting next to the black girl, we put our heads together, resting our foreheads against each other’s to support one-another, dozing off. Must’ve looked pretty cute and I was happy for that bit of closeness.

It took two more hours of dozing until we arrived in Los Angeles at 3 in the morning (instead of 1 as scheduled). When I got out of the bus, my Amigo already started running off, telling me to follow him to his friends who’d drive me. Even tho I told myself in the bus numerous times in my head »Don’t get into the car with some mexican strangers in a back-alley next to the Bus-Station in Downtown LA! Seriously, DON’T!«, I still wanted to see what’s up so I started following him. I crossed through the station and found him with two sketchy-looking Mexicans at the corner. I immediately told them »Nah, I really need some alone-time after all this nonsense of the night« and said our whole bunch of quick goodbyes. In more or less that moment of getting the Mexican out of my head and my focus back to where it needed to be, it hit me like a flying punch: WHERE’S MY BACKPACK?!
I apparently hurried out of the bus so fast I completely forgot my Everything-I-own in the bottom of the bus, so I sprinted back through the station and was instantly relieved when I saw it still sitting there by the side of the bus, all alone, but all there.
This has actually never happened to me before; My backpack’s always my number one priority.
So I took my pack and made my way through the station once again to sit down in the parking lot, roll a cigarette, come to peace, and dance some more while waiting for my Uber (which is basically a private taxi, called with an app). While waiting I talked some more to Cathryn who was still around, and we then called it a (crazy) night.

When my Uber finally arrived, I put my pack in the trunk and got into the front. My driver Mr. C seemed pretty cool right from the beginning and after I told him something like »I had the craziest night, dude…«, he immediately offered me in a very kind and funky television-voice »For the next 45 minutes (LA->Newport) YOU can determine the heat of your seat – do you want to make your butt warm n cozy? PRESS THIS BUTTON! You want a seatCOOLER?! Push THIS button! Now YOU tell me what kind of music you wanna listen to for the next 40 minutes!« »Umm. Something electronic and groovy…« »Alright! You got it! – “Hey Siri! Play Marshmallow!”« and then the groovy tunes started blending this crazy night into an awesome and relaxed finish.
We continued talking, and as always I answered the “So what brought you to California?”-question with a quick summary of my adventures of the past years that ended in love and death, which brought C to the brink of tears. After we exchanged some “Well that’s Life, huh. Happens for all of us differently, but we all somehow gotta deal with it.”-wisdom, he then told me a big portion of his life of how he had to endure physical abuse as a child, had to jump on a random plane to Nicaragua at 13 years old and lots more madness of Life. He seemed pretty grateful that he could “tell someone this story all together for the first time”, and I was grateful to feel that Life doesn’t just fuck me up, but everybody – just in different ways.
So once we got off the freeway and started driving more slowly, he asked me
»I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, but I guess I wouldn’t be far off if I’d assume that you enjoy smoking the weed, huh?« while fumbling around with some box in the middle-console. Of course I immediately agreed and was curious what to expect now.
He then took out the smallest most portable vaporizer-pen I’ve ever seen and handed it to me with the words »First class Sativa, my friend.«
I cheered on the inside and out because it’s at least been a week since I had a proper smoke. Before I could take a drag off the vape, he said
»Lemme ask you another question: Are you familiar with Psytrance?«
I immediately burst out laughing and said »Dude you’re asking Noah van Goa, if he knows Goa. I literally GREW UP in between Psytrance! Every 2nd weekend AT LEAST, my mum took me to Goa-Parties and -Festivals… So yes. Yes, I am -literally- ‘familiar’ with Psytrance ;)« – »Alright alright, then you’ll love THIS!« he said and put on some really deep and awesome Psytrance-Goa-Music while I was taking the first hit off the vape, that instantly hit me pretty hard and sent me flying through the bass-line. I passed him the pen and couldn’t thank him enough in this magical moment for ending this bullshitty night in such a truly awesome way!
So we drove ten more minutes while I was dancing in my seat with a constant smile on my face and he was focusing on driving, at one point skillfully evading some truck that carelessly took a turn towards us. He was in general the safest Uber-driver I had to this point.
»You know why I could avoid running into that truck? Cause this is really fine Sativa; keeps you alert and focused. If this was Indica we’d be asleep by now.«
And I definitely felt that he was right. And brought me home safely.

So all in all this was a really crazy bus-ride, and night in general, that I will definitely remember for the rest of my life. Especially the Grande Finale I was blessed with because I relentlessly pushed through the whole 12 hours of bullshit without complaining.
So once again: Thank you, Life, for this whatever-it-was-supposed-to-teach-me-once-again.

Hang in there guys! Life is beautifully fucked up if you only get out there and LIVE!