Port Of No Authority

Every time my husband and I go somewhere in the car we have a ritual. As we pull out of the garage and plug in the itunes I turn to him and say, “I love driving!” and he says, “Yeah? What part of driving do you like?” Because Cranky Queen of the Subways does not drive. Cranky is strictly a passenger.

And yesterday I realized I have to do something about this. Yesterday, when I had to take the loser bus to visit an ailing relative in a hospital in an area where no trains go. A loser bus from Port Authority. The loser station.

I have some traumatic memories of buses and yesterday brought them all back to me.

Cranky, like every other actor, is the product of a broken home. “Mommy” lived in Westchester and “Daddy” lived in Boston. And one year someone had the brilliant idea to put me on a loser bus instead of having “Daddy” drive back and forth from Boston. I was maybe eleven. Who are these people? What kind of parents were they? Did they even care if I lived or died? Stick an eleven-year old on a bus to another state? This is why I always say you should love your parents, but don’t take them too seriously.

I remember it clearly. I was creeped out. On top of everything, it was night. It was winter. I was going to see “Daddy” for Christmas vacation. The first near disaster came when the bus driver pulled into a diner parking lot and told everyone they had a fifteen-minute break.

I went in and sat at the counter.  I felt weird because I had never been in a restaurant alone before.  I ordered tea. I never drank tea. But for some reason, I felt that ordering a cup of tea went along with this whole new grown up life my parents had obviously pushed me into. So the tea comes and it is hot. Very very hot. So I sit there blowing on the tea hoping it will cool off enough for me to take a sip. Blowing and blowing and blowing. And then this waitress walks over to me and says. “Honey, aren’t you on that bus to Boston?” I say, “Ah, yea.” “Well you better get out there, ‘cause it’s leaving.” I swiveled off my stool and ran as fast as I could and caught the bus as it was leaving the parking lot. I had to bang on the doors to get the driver to let me on.

I mean really Mommy and Daddy, what would have happened if I didn’t catch it? Being the highly impractical kid I was, I might have attempted to walk all the way home on the Boston Post Road and then never been seen again. Hello? I was eleven.

So back on the loser bus after we left the diner, some man gets up and comes and sits next to me. I didn’t want anyone sitting next to me. It would cut into my daydreaming staring out the window time. But I couldn’t say anything. He was a grown up. He had been drinking, and even though I was young, I could tell he was trying to impress me by being witty and charming. He stunk like sickening cigarette smoke and booze. He was acting all like above it all and intellectual. And I thought to myself. “Yeah, right. You have to be a poor schmuck at the bottom of the barrel otherwise you wouldn’t be on this loser bus.” Luckily he fell asleep from the booze and left me alone the rest of the trip.

No wonder I ended up dating eighteen year olds when I was twelve. It was my parent’s fault. They wanted an adult. They got one. I could get into bars at thirteen. It must have been my worldly experience with the loser bus that made me pass. Or my parent’s insouciance for my safety.

That was the only time I took the bus to Boston. As was my M.O., I told my parents the hilarious story of almost missing the bus and the drunk man. “Isn’t that funny?” I laughed. “What a riot! Ha ha!” Thus proving the fact that comedy is born of pain.

Then there was the time I was going to visit a friend in lovely Farmingdale, CT. But to get to lovely Farmingdale I had to pass through the horror that was Port Authority at the time. It was early in the morning and when one of the pimp population said something weird to me I said, “What did you say?” And I started crying. It was too early. I hadn’t put on my hard New York exterior yet.

So yesterday’s bus ride brought all this back to me.

During the ride, I kept thinking my cell phone was ringing and grabbing it out of my purse and looking at it for like the first hour of the loser bus trip. “What’s that noise?” I thought to myself. It kept happening. Then I realized that the snore of the man sitting behind me sounded exactly like my new cell phone ring, which is jungle birds. See, this is what you get on the loser bus. People who snore like jungle birds in the middle of the day.

On the ride back there was someone yelling into their cell phone in Spanish. And a crying baby. And a yelling mother, “STOP! STOP! STOP! DON’T TOUCH!” And the man across the aisle had on frayed khaki pants and a red hoodie with the hood pulled up over his preternaturally tanned skin. He looked seriously insane. If my husband would have driven me to visit my ailing relative, I could have avoided the loser bus. But that wasn’t going to happen.

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April 2009

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