In all my commuting back to Michigan over the years, I always flew between New York or California and Detroit’s Metro Airport. But I wanted more flexibility in scheduling now that I’ve moved back to my home state and it’s hard to book airlines a few days ahead and still get a good deal. On the other hand, the Greyhound bus not only allows you more flexibility, but you can reschedule tickets without a huge fee.
So this summer I tried my first Greyhound trip and found an unexpected adventure. I booked the express bus that leaves in the evening and arrives the next morning, with a late night stop in Cleveland where everyone has to exit for an hour while the bus is cleaned and new passengers are boarded. Until we reached Cleveland, the bus was only partly full of passengers and I enjoyed reading, reviewing my client work, and watching the bucolic farmland pass by. The bus driver was vigilant and chided passengers, including me, who talked too loudly on cell phones or in other ways disrupted the quiet ride. I appreciated his stern commands.
At Cleveland, I re-boarded with new passengers. I was soon chiding my seatmate about his lengthy cell phone call. “Just want to warn you that the bus driver might cut you off,” I warned. When he ended his call, the young man apologized – “it was my only chance to talk to my mother in India,” he explained. That was the beginning of a long conversation that made the miles go quickly by. My new companion turned out to be a graduate student in engineering from CUNY Buffalo who was now working for a software company and was on his way to visit his Indian relatives in New York. He lamented the fact that there had been so few Americans in his engineering classes . He seemed to be verifying the crisis in science that has been in the news recently. While he missed his family in Southern India, my bus companion was excited to be working and dreamed of starting his own company here. I loved his enthusiasm. On my way back, my first seatmate was a young Palestinian immigrant who lived in Newark and worked for a family-owned retail business in the Bronx. He was pleased that I was familiar with Palestine and was proud that he was from a village that he said was at peace with Israel. He was on his way to visit his fiancé in Chicago, another Palestinian. I later met a retired African-American woman from Buffalo who enjoyed talking about her childhood in Michigan and why she wanted to return.
The short, rushed plane rides between Detroit Metro Airport and LaGuardia seldom resulted in more than short, rushed conversations in all the years I had been traveling back and forth. This month I’m looking forward to another long trip, a relaxing time to review client work or read, but especially the option for more long conversations with such diverse travelers.