Greyhound bus a great way to get around
September 10, 2016
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.
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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 email@example.com.