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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

The Terminals

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 5/27/2024
Posted: 12/31/2008
Page Views: 1791
Topics: #Cailey #Travel #Virginia #Chicago #GreyhoundBusLines
In which I take the bus trip from hell after my flight is cancelled.

Here was my intention: To make a quick, overnight visit to Florida to visit my sisters, Joni and Louise, and their families at their post-Christmas get-togethers. Even my nephew, Tim, was flying in from California.

Now, the thing is, I had a feeling this wasn't going to work out. There was no rational reason for this feeling. I fly standby, because of my daughter, Karen, being a flight attendant and thus giving me access to free flights. But I checked and there were plenty of empty seats. In fact, despite the storms of a couple of weeks ago, it seemed as if the planes were running fine. Still, I had this feeling, and I tried to postpone my trip. But the moment I called Louise and identified myself, she said, "Don't tell me you're not coming!" I have an issue with disappointing people—I can't stand doing it. So I replied, "Of course I'm coming!"

That turned out to be a lie.

I got to the airport Friday morning, as planned; I had no problem boarding my flight, which required a layover at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. But then my problems began. Somehow, while I was flying to Dulles, my connecting flight to Jacksonville had become "oversold". That's when the airlines actually sell more tickets than they have seats, presuming that some of those passengers will not, in fact, show up. However, they all did, and there was no room for standby passengers such as myself.

So I had to list for standby on another flight. However, that one was also oversold, and now there were even more people on standby. What's worse, I was always at the bottom of the list, simply because that's United's policy: "parents" (of flight attendants) are always moved to the end of the standby priority list.

By evening it was clear I was not going to make it to Florida in the time I had allotted. Regretfully, I tried to get listed for a return to Phoenix, but that flight was also oversold. So I called Karen and announced I would be spending the night with her and Dorothy, her sister, and Dorothy's family.

It was a little crowded, since Karen's flight had also been cancelled. But it was nice to see her, and Dorothy and her husband Frank, and my precious granddaughter, Cailey, who had gotten a trampoline for Christmas.

Cailey above her new trampoline.

Dorothy took the above photo with a new camera she got for Christmas. And I took one of Dorothy and Cailey with my new camera:

My daughter, Dorothy Elizabeth, and granddaughter Cailey.

The next morning, I returned to the airport but was still unable to get a flight directly to Phoenix—and all the flights for that day, and the day after, were oversold. However, I was able to find room on a flight to Chicago's O'Hare airport; and since that's a common connection for flights to Phoenix, I decided to take it.

This turned out to be a mistake—possibly. I don't know I'd have had better luck remaining at Dulles, but at O'Hare I had no luck. United's customer service representatives had me running between the B and C midfield terminals trying to connect with a flight taking me, if not to Phoenix, anywhere west of Chicago. The tunnel between the B and C terminals is very pretty, with colored neon lights flickering to scraps of Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue (which used to be United's theme music). But with each dash I found the scene to be less diverting.

United's underground walkway at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

By 11:30 pm, the last flight had flown and I hadn't been on any of them. I found a bench, set my phone alarm to 5:30 AM, took a Xanax, wrapped my wrist through the handles of my gym bag, and fell asleep.

In the morning I discovered some twenty other people had followed my example, and that was in just one gate seating area. Other gates were similarly occupied.

I failed to get aboard the 6:00 am flight to Denver. I ate breakfast, then tried for another flight to Los Angeles. When that didn't work, I tried for Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Denver again. Each time, the number of standbys trying to board rose. That 6 AM flight had six standbys; by late afternoon the monitors listed 196 standbys for the next flight. Since the flights were oversold, the standbys were always just pushed to the next flight. And more standbys were added. And I was always at the bottom of the list.

My youngest daughter, Jenny, was concerned, as were all my kids. I had checked by phone, and every flight out of Chicago I could think of into the next several days, reported as oversold. I confessed to Jenny that I was considering taking Amtrak, or Greyhound. The problem was, I needed to get to work by Monday. As a consultant, I don't get vacation or sick days. If I don't work, I don't get paid. And since this week is a short week, it would be hard or impossible to make up lost hours.

Chicago is almost three days away from Phoenix by bus.

And, my phone was running out of charge. I had only planned to be away overnight, so I hadn't brought my charger. Now I had to buy one, and try to find an electrical outlet to plug it into. I had had limited success with this, and so Jenny offered to look into the Amtrak and Greyhound schedules while I went to the restroom.

I am convinced the toilets in O'Hare were designed by a germ-phobic Marquis de Sade. They don't have normal seats to sit on. They feel like sitting on a raw toilet without a seat. However, you aren't—quite. There's a mechanism that covers the toilet edges with thin plastic. When you are about to sit down, you wave your hand in front of a sensor built into the wall and the mechanism rotates the used plastic out of sight, and a new length of it to replace the old.

When I was ready to get up, for some reason I realized how stiff and tired these days of waiting and waiting had made me, and I stretched. I guess my hand passed in front of the sensor, and the plastic cover began to rotate beneath my butt. I was wearing my red fleece hoodie, and when I twisted the plastic somehow pulled the zipper from my hoodie into the mechanism. When I instinctively rose to escape, theother sensor thought I had left and automatically flushed the toilet, so now I had water splashing on my ass while I tried to keep my hoodie from getting drenched. It took me several minutes to extricate myself and my clothing, and then I had to find a place to plug in my phone so I could find out what kind of progress Jenny was making.

Across from the men's room was a gate whose electronic sign read, "New Orleans." There were no passengers remaining, but a gate agent was at the podium. "Are you going to New Orleans?" he asked.

"No," I said, then added, "Could I? Is there room?" Mentally, I was calculating the geography. New Orleans is fewer miles from Phoenix than Chicago.

"Yes, sir," the agent replied. "There are six seats left." New Orleans is kind of off the beaten path these days; maybe I could get a flight from there to Phoenix. But just then, my phone rang. Jenny had already purchased a bus ticket, since Amtrak between Chicago and Flagstaff was also sold out.

The cab to the Greyhound station cost $35 (plus a $5 tip). Mercifully, the driver wasn't the chatty type.

As near as I could tell, Chicago's Greyhound station doubles as a shelter for the mentally ill. It was dirty, noisy, and the people behind the counter were rude, as far as I could tell, when they were speaking English, which they didn't often do. I found a counter with a sign that read, PICK UP PRE-PAID TICKETS HERE. The person at that counter snarled that I'm actually supposed to get them from "that office" with a vague point in the direction of nothing. Once I had my tickets I got in a vaguely defined line in front of Door #5, which made me think of Monty Hall and wonder if I mightn't have better luck with Door #3 or Box #2? The line snaked around one or two people who were either sleeping on the floor, or dead. The smell wouldn't have been much different either way.

I'd been reading a really terrific book, Time and Again by Jack Finney. Once I was aboard the bus, I was looking forward to reading more of it. However, the overhead reading lights not only didn't work; they'd been ripped out. Also, the first seat I tried, collapsed backwards. By the time I found one I could sit in, I was too tired to care about reading, anyway. I fell asleep making comparisons between this bus and the one in my own novel, The Lady From Heaven, that the character Terry Brandt rides from Ecuador to San Cristobal. The only two differences I could think of were that there was no poster of Michael Jackson obscuring the front window, and none of the passengers were transporting live chickens. Also, of course, there were no CIA agents chasing after me. But I'm not sure that wouldn't have been an improvement.

Shortly after sunrise, the driver announced our arrival in Omaha. I used to live in Omaha but I couldn't recognize any of the city I knew from the bus terminal. It was, mercifully, cleaner and more sanitary—slightly—than the one in Chicago. I had time to grab breakfast, then boarded a bus operated by Arrow Stage Lines.This bus was clean, comfortable, and you could actually see through the windows. Omaha was the origin point of its route so there were no passengers already on board. I got on and sat two seats behind the driver, where I had a good view through the huge front windows.

Travel-weary me, with the gentle and delightful Helen behind.

The next passenger to board was a delightful little lady named Helen. I don't know her backstory, but she was the kind of person who would be a retired elementary schoolteacher, whose students from thirty years ago still think kindly of her and send her Christmas cards. She began by touching my shoulder, indicating the seat behind me, and asking, "Pardon me, dear, but do you know if this seat is taken?" I assured her it wasn't, and she sat, saying "Well, my goodness if this isn't a lovely day for a bus ride!" I took a picture of myself and you can see her behind me. A blind guy boarded next, taking the front row on the starboard side, followed by an enormous young man carrying a clear plastic trash bag, the kind usually used for lawn clippings, filled with junk food. I mean filled! Through the clear sides I could make out potato chips, Cheetoes, Mr. Goodbars, Twix, even Pez! He put the bag on his lap; it blocked his view through the window.

"Hello, everyone!" he announced. "I just got out of prison!" If there were any murmurs of encouragement or congratulations, they were lost over the rumble of the idling bus motor. He waved a check in the air. "Know what this is?" When no one replied, he said proudly, "It's one hundred dollars! They give it to you when you get out of prison!" Then almost as an afterthought, he remarked, "I have a mental illness."

Borderline Personality on the left, and Junk Food Guy on the right.

It was about this time that another young man, only slightly less obese than the first, came on board. He spotted the first guy's bag of snacks, and although there were plenty of empty seats, asked if Junk Food Guy would mind if he sat next to him.

"I have a mental illness," Junk Food Guy warned him.

"That's okay, so do I," the new guy said. "I have a borderline personality."

I turned around and exchanged astonished looks with Helen. "Doesn't he mean 'borderline personality disorder'?" I asked softly.

"Maybe he means like Al Gore had before An Inconvenient Truth. You know, dear, just part of a personality," Helen replied.

Ralph the driver.

We pulled out of the parking lot; and our bus driver, a guy who introduced himself as Ralph, switched on his microphone and gave his safety spiel. The Greyhound driver of the previous night hadn't bothered, but I learned on subsequent buses that this is considered normal. "You may not drink alcoholic beverages on board," Ralph announced. "You may not use illegal drugs." And then, perhaps anticipating problems from recent prisoner Junk Food Guy, he added, "On a Greyhound bus coming from Canada a few months ago, there was a passenger with an MP3 player. Even though the ear buds were in his ears, he played it so loud that it annoyed the passenger sitting next to him. That passenger didn't tell the driver about it. He just let himself get more and more annoyed, and more and more annoyed, until he couldn't stand it anymore, and pulled out his hunting knife and decapitated the passenger with the MP3 player. The moral of the story is, if someone is bothering you, don't keep it to yourself. Tell the driver! I have a cell phone, and I know how to use it."

Junk Food Guy and Borderline Personality had been the only people on board not enthralled by Ralph's story. Because they were sitting right across from me, I had to fight to hear him over their conversation. "So," Junk Food Guy asked his seatmate pointedly, "what religion are you?"

"Wiccan," Borderline Personality replied. "Hey, can I have that Mr. Goodbar?"

Junk Food Guy gave him the candy bar and found a way to fit the bag between him and the seat in front of him so he could see. "I'm a Christian," he announced. "That's better than being a Wiccan. But Wiccan isn't so bad. Being Muslim is worse, 'cause Muslims worship Allah, the Muslim god, and that's not the real god."

That's not true, of course; Muslims trace their origin to the Biblical Abraham, just as Jews and Christians do. "Allah" is simply Arabic for "Jehovah". But Junk Food Guy wasn't done. He proceeded to incorrectly dismiss Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, and Pagans. Everything he said was a blatant misinterpretation of either Biblical lore or historical fact. He didn't seem to know he was telling lies or even potentially offending the people in the bus who could hear him, which was everyone. I was possibly just about to jump into the conversation when Helen reached up and tapped my on the shoulder. "Pardon me, dear," she said, "but do you have a hunting knife I could borrow?" And somehow, her soft, gentle voice carried to every corner of the bus and the other passengers joined me in startled laughter. I don't think Junk Food Guy knew what anyone was laughing about, but Borderline Personality may have suspected and changed the subject by asking if there were any Fritos in that bag? (There were.)

Kum & Go: Not the kind of establishment you'd think.

One of the reasons to travel by bus is to see the country instead of flying over it. You never know what odd little regionalisms exist until you stumble upon them. For example, we pick up a passenger in a lot with a sign that bragged "Kum & Go". I was hoping we might be able to stop there for a few minutes, but it turned out to be just another chain of convenience stores.

Not much snow remaining in Nebraska.

It was a surprise to me that there was so little snow on the ground. I knew that the Northern reaches of the United States were getting dumped on, but here in Nebraska almost all the snow that had fallen a couple weeks earlier was now melted. There'd been no snow on the ground in Chicago, either.

It took seemingly forever to cross Nebraska, as I knew it would. I finally finished my book, and then fell asleep. When I awoke, it was to a glorious sunset with the tiniest sliver of a new moon just above the invisible sun.

The  sliver of a new moon hovers above the setting sun.

Our bus was running about an hour late when we pulled into Denver. Our driver called to ask the station to hold the connecting bus to Albuquerque, which was scheduled to leave at 7 PM. We actually arrived at 6:45 pm (we should have been there at 6 PM). However, as the three of us going on to Albuquerque raced to find out which door our bus was behind, that bus left early. I asked Ralph what that was about. He sighed and said, "Sorry about that. Greyhound doesn't really like us. They probably left early just so you'd miss your bus."

So I boarded a bus that left at 8:45 pm, and slept as we rolled south on I-25, through Colorado Springs and Santa Fe—I only know this because when I was driving my big rig in 2002 and 2003, I drove this road many, many times.

In a more comfortable seat.

The Albquerque Greyhound Station.

The driver woke us up about 3:30 am as he pulled into the Albuquerque station. This station was clean and rather pretty.

With a four-hour layover, I got to talking with a fellow named Jeff. Jeff "worked oil fields" and traveled around doing that. He carried two big, heavy boxes: One contained equipment for his destination in Kingman; the other, all his clothes. "I should get a motor home," he groused. "This fuckin' bus shit sucks." But he was being paid by the hour to transport the equipment, and paid well; so he didn't want to complain too much.

The station included a restaurant and I had an early breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and wheat toast, which was actually very tasty. I washed it down with a bottle of orange-pineapple juice and bought a banana for later on.

Jeff had placed his stuff in front of Door #3 and I put my bag right behind his. We took turns watching our stuff while the other went to the bathroom, or the restaurant or just stretched our legs. By the time the sky had lightened with dawn, there was a line of bags belonging to some thirty people stretching toward the hall.

One guy, who might have been good-looking if he had been able to trim his stubble sometime in the past week, calmly went to the head of the line and put his bag in front of Jeff's stuff. Jeff and I simply looked at each other and I wondered if there would be a fight. Jeff was shorter but my money would have been on him; I'd seen him lugging his box of iron pipeline parts as if they were Christmas decorations. But he just shrugged and shook his head at the guy's nerve.

Then the bus arrived. But there was a glitch, announced to us by the station manager himself, first in English and then in Spanish: "The good news is that the bus to Gallop, Winslow, and Flagstaff has arrived. The bad news is, it is oversold. There will only be room for six of you to board." He explained they would have to start with the transfers, which included me. But there was additional bad news for Jeff: The baggage compartments of the bus were already full, and they could only take on passengers who only had carry-ons. That meant me, but not Jeff, who shook his head, probably really glad he hadn't bothered to fight for the head of the line.

"I am so fuckin' over taking the bus," he announced as he moved his boxes out of our way. "You see, next month I'm gonna have me a motor home, one of those nice coaches built on a bus body where I'm the only passenger. Hell, I can fuckin' afford it. I shoulda done it years ago."

And so I wound up sitting next to the guy who broke the rule of the line, whose name was Kaz.

Another new passenger was a little old lady, probably in her eighties, with a shrill voice and apparently the mistaken idea that I worked for the bus company; she kept coming up to me and asking questions about the schedules and so on. When I told her I had no idea, she would glare at me and huff. Later, whenever we made a stop, she would seek me out and ask me to make sure the bus didn't leave her behind. "Don't let them leave now, you hear?" she'd demand. "All I gotta do is take a piss, I won't be but a minute." I didn't learn her name but I thought of her as Beatrice, since that's what she looked like to me.

Speaking of eighty-year-olds, there was also a grizzled old man of about that age who came on board in Colorado Springs, smiling and waking up the sleeping passengers by loudly wishing us all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! —And then adding that he was a Christian, and so had a special right to be making that wish. "God has just made my life so blessed!" he enthused, and Kaz next to me shouted, "That's great, now keep it to yourself!"

This was by far the rowdiest crowd I'd traveled with. It was, after all, daytime; a number of people were traveling in pairs and naturally talking to each other. One of these pairs was a couple of pretty, blonde young ladies, in their very early twenties, who were busily discussing a book one of them was reading, entitled Skinny Bitch which was apparently sold as a diet manual but was actually a promotion for becoming vegan. The girl reading the book would share with her friend after almost every paragraph, loudly enough that people nearby could hear. Both these girls were quite slim, and the idea that they might be interested in losing weight apparently offended a large black woman sitting directly behind them. "You want to lose weight?" she finally asked, incredulously. "Honey, you too skinny as it is. Only a dog want a bone, and he buries it and forgets where he put that shit. You want a man, girl, you gots to eat!"

The blonde's response was, "Whatever." And then she continued sharing with her friend, though in a slightly quieter tone.

In the seat ahead of the girls, were a young lady and a tall young man. She was from Michigan; he from Minnesota. She was heading for a family reunion; he, to Fort Pendleton to be deployed to Iraq. They had met on the bus and already everyone thought they were a couple. I shook hands with the guy, whose name was Collin, and thanked him for his service and wished him well. "It's pretty tough over there," I warned.

Collin just grinned. "No matter how bad it gets," he said, "I'll just remember this bus ride and it won't seem so bad."

The anorexic girls agreed.

By now, my stomach was acting up. I had eaten the banana but it sat in my stomach like a lead pipe. I skipped lunch.

The old guy had by now moved toward the back of the bus (and away from Kaz). But, like Beatrice, he had a piercing voice that he just couldn't keep to his general area. "It's the job of every Christian," he announced, "to elect politicians and pass laws to ensure that everyone follow God's law!"

I know Kaz was about to explode; I could feel him tensing up next to me. But to everyone's surprise, it was Beatrice who responded first. "Didn't God create us with free will?"

"That's right," the old guy responded.

"Then isn't passing laws to enforce what you think is God's will, contradicting what God wanted when he made free will? If God really wanted us all to obey the same rules, he wouldn't have invented free will to start with, would he?"

"Well—uh—" the old man spluttered.

"Now you just shut up and think about that, you old fucker!" And at that, applause erupted across the bus.

It was with relief that we left the Flagstaff station. But my stomach was killing me, and I thought I might need to use the bathroom. Each bus has one, but they aren't as pleasant as any outhouse I've ever used. And the bus was still crowded, and people were dozing and I had to climb over legs and feet and bags to get back there. Finally, I tried to open the door. The latch turned, meaning it wasn't locked; but it seemed stuck. I shoved and it suddenly turned inward, to reveal Beatrice and the grizzled old man in a passionate kiss. "Shut the damned door!" Beatrice shrilled and I did so.

When he saw that I had a cell phone (which I had fully charged during the long layover in Albuquerque), Kaz asked if he could borrow it to call the people who were going to pick him up. I agreed, and it took him a few calls to actually get through. First he tried to call his friend Rabbit, whose cell went directly to voicemail. So then he had to call Hud, to get Rabbit's home number. All Kaz's friends seemed to have odd names; he finally got his friend Axle to agree to meet him at the station.

When he was done, the guy in front of Kaz asked if I would mind if he took a turn. It only took him a moment; he handed me back my phone and said, "My brother will be picking me up. He didn't want me to go on this trip anyway, and I guess he was right."

"The bus sucks," I agreed.

"Oh, that's not the problem," the guy said. "This whole thing has been the worst trip ever. And I would never have left but my wife was crying herself to sleep every night."

The guy's name was Frank, and he went on to explain that his wife was from Missouri, and her grandfather was about to die and her mother and grandmother also each had "one foot in the grave." His wife, Missy, was afraid she would never see them alive again. So Frank sold his beloved motorcycle, and his car, and they gave up their apartment and packed all their stuff in a U-Haul truck and headed for Missouri.

As they crossed Texas, they were stopped by a pair of state troopers whose "probable cause" was simply a U-Haul in Texas. When I expressed astonishment, Kaz assured me that was normal there. "They use U-Hauls to carry illegal immigrants and drugs," he explained.

"They made us sit on the ground while they went through everything in the truck," Frank continued. "It took two and a half hours, and then they said we were clean—of course—and were free to go. But we had to re-load the truck ourselves. And then we needed to rest, so we stopped at a Pilot truck stop just up the road, and Missy took a shower while I watched a little tube in the TV lounge. After a bit, Missy comes up to me and says, 'Where's the truck?' I says, 'Right where I parked it.' But it wasn't. It was stolen."

"No!" I gasped.

"It was the cops," Kaz said. "That's what they do there. When you called 'em, they told you it was already in Mexico and would never be recovered, right?"

"That's right!" Frank replied, his eyes widening. "That's exactly what they said!" Frank and Missy reported the theft to U-Haul, of course; and U-Haul responded by giving them, gratis, a replacement truck. They had nothing to put in it, but they had transportation and were able to continue to Missouri. Unfortunately, Missy's grandfather had died just two and a half hours before they got there. But at least she was able to see her mother and grandmother again.

Now, Frank continued, all this got him thinking about his own family. "I come from a wealthy family," he said. But when I was 15½ years old, my mother, father, and grandfather died within three months of each other. And after my mother's funeral, my Uncle Toby ran out to the car to get another cartridge of film for the camera, and had a heart attack right there. This was in Minnesota in the winter, and after a couple of hours, people starting saying, 'Where's Toby?' Well, he was frozen stiff right at the side of his car, door and glove compartment still open. And you know what Aunt Wanda's biggest complaint was?"

Kaz and I shook our heads, slack-jawed.

"She was pissed because he left the door open, and the car battery was dead."

Frank's family were "greedy bastards," he went on, and instead of grieving all their dead relatives, they sat around the kitchen table deciding who was going to get what. Doling out the estates, because the wills were all outdated because so many of them had died! "The only one who wasn't adding to her bank account was my grandmother, who had just lost her husband, daughter, and a son. And the rest of them was just ignoring her. And I got fed up, and I said, 'All I want is Mama's Bible and my emancipation papers, and the rest of you can burn in Hell!" Aunt Wanda put Mama's Bible in one of them cheap Christmas present bags and gave it to me, like it was special of her to do that. My brother felt the same, and we got our papers and headed for Arizona, and we hadn't seen any of them since.

"But I'm 39, and after Missy's visit home I began thinking that maybe I should see my family again, maybe they'd changed, maybe I'd changed. And we had no place to go, and no furniture, but a free U-Haul. So we headed for Minnesota."

Frank was telling us all this while twisted around in his seat; but we could see his shoulders droop. "We were at this cheap motel in Illinois. We were in room 101. There was a heck of a party going on all night in room 102, next door. Since we couldn't sleep, I went down to the vending machine to buy some microwave popcorn. I'm standing there in front of the machine, with the popcorn in my hand, when these floodlights come on and I hear, 'Drop what you're holding, put your hands behind your head with your fingers linked, and turn around slowly.' I did it, of course. The cop asked what room I was in, and I told him. Apparently the people in 102 had a meth lab going. But while I was talking to him, I see my wife coming down the stairs, in her nightgown, handcuffed. And I said, 'What the fuck?' And the cop says there was a ten-year-old warrant out for her arrest. Seems ten years ago, she skipped out on her probation two months early. So Sheriff Joe extradited her to Arizona!"

Not even Kaz had anything to say.

"So I kept going, and I went home. And you know, my brother was right, those people hadn't changed. They bought me a bus ticket home, like that was a big deal. They could have bought me a round-the-world cruise, but all they gave me was a bus ticket."

"Dude," I said, finally, "that's got to be, like, the worst story I ever heard. How do you get up in the morning to face another day?"

Frank smiled, deep dimples stretched. "I just figure," he said, "what else can possibly happen? And I face the day with a smile."

"Well," I said, "you are one hell of a man. I hope your luck turns. You deserve it."

"I think it has," Frank admitted softly. "When I was in Minnesota, my grandmother gave me two boxes that had belonged to my mother. Mama used to collect antiques. There's some nice pieces in them boxes, including a 17th century tiara. I'm hoping to be able to sell them, get a fresh start. Missy'll be out of jail in a week or so, and by then I hope we can have a house and furniture, nothing fancy, just enough to be able to live decent lives without hurting nobody."

Frank turned back around and we all looked out the window at the familiar sights of Phoenix and Glendale. The bus stopped briefly in Glendale and Frank and Kaz got out. Frankly, I was a little concerned that Kaz knew about Frank's loot in the boxes. So I got out, too, and made sure Frank's boxes got safely into the trunk of his brother's car. I waved goodbye to Kaz and reboarded for the final fifteen minutes of this endless ride.

Finally, finally, we pulled into the station, the driver having warned us that everyone would have to get off and take our stuff, because the cleaners would be getting on to wash the floor before the bus could continue to points west. He counted as we got off, and seemed to be short because he then counted his tickets. I was on my cell phone calling Michael to find out how close he was to getting me, and in looking around I noticed I couldn't see Beatrice or her elderly boyfriend anywhere. The driver got back on the bus, strode to the restroom, and pounded on the door. "We're in Phoenix!" he called. "Everybody off!"

And even outside the bus, I could hear Beatrice' piercing voice cry, "Mind your own business, fucker!"