Greyhound bus a great way to get around |

Greyhound bus a great way to get around

Squeezed in among the buildings of downtown San Francisco, is the Greyhound bus terminal. Orllyene and I are taking the 10:10 a.m. bus to Reno. “You will be boarding first,” a spirited young woman tells us. It seems being an “elder” sometimes has its advantages.

“Just put your carry-on bags over here, behind my seat,” the driver tells us, and we settle into the front-row seats across the aisle. Her name is Erica.

Erica navigates our bus onto the Bay Bridge with the finesse of a seasoned Blackjack Dealer in Vegas. After a pick-up in Oakland, it’s back onto Interstate-10.

I lean forward, and ask, “How in heaven’s name did you get started driving a bus?” “I drove a school bus for five years, but it was just too crazy. I’ve been driving for Greyhound for seven years,” she says cheerfully. “Where do you go?” I ask. “Oh, Vegas, Oregon, El Paso, everywhere, and of course Reno.” Calmed by the environment, I gaze out the window at the velvety green hills of California.

Erica is in complete control of the bus. “BEEP-BEEP.” Looking in the rear view mirror, she says, “That car behind us got a little too close.”

“How long do you intend to keep on driving?” I ask. “As soon as my little girl becomes a teenager, I plan to become a stay-at-home mom.” Suddenly Orllyene comes alive. We had a teenage daughter once, so they have plenty to talk about.

Erica is from El Salvador. She came here when she was 16. Her first job was at Sizzler, then with CNA training, she became a care-giver. Her husband is a manager for Auto-Zone, and they own a home in Lancaster, Calif. She calls her family several times a day.

At the stop in Roseville, a distraught passenger comes forward. As far as I can tell, he’s speaking gobbledygook. Erica graciously resolves the situation, and we’re back on the road in no time. “Is this a new bus? It’s gorgeous,” I say. “Yes it is. Last night, coming over from Reno, I had to put on chains. We were 2 and a half hours late. This morning, a Reno driver told me the roads are clear,” she smiles.

Her voice lowers. “One time, I was in a satellite depot outside of Los Angeles. I noticed a woman with a toddler, carrying a baby and a suitcase. It turns out she was from Guatemala. She’d been on the road for two weeks. She was on her way to Philadelphia, and only had $10 in her pocket. I got some meal vouchers, and after they ate, brought them home with me. My kids got along with them fine, and we got in touch with a family member in Philadelphia. He sent their fare, and now she and I talk on the phone every Friday.”

Riding with Erica was pure pleasure. You never know when a new friendship is coming your way, do you?

Ron Walker can be reached at