My biggest complaint was that it is impossible to get any sleep on a cramped bus. I tossed and turned in my narrow seat next to a three hundred pound man who exuded the pungent aroma of rotten milk. All the while an infant is screaming bloody murder behind me. Never again!
The bus stops every two or three hours in a nondescript town that time forgot. You have no choice but to be stirred from your vague slumber. The driver like some tormentor rousts you at three in the morning with the announcement of a rest stop over the loudspeaker. Everyone is herded like sheep ready for a fleecing.
I'm half awake and bleary eyed, so I decide to grab a hamburger and french fries at this anonymous eatery. Your first questions is, "where am I?" Two and half hours later you stop again. It's five thirty. I don't know why, maybe due to sleep deprivation, I eat again. This time I order two pieces of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. At the next bus station I go for a short walk. I survive the sleepless nights by attempting to take short naps throughout the day.
Cleanliness is text to... impossible
At every stop I would pray for a clean restroom. I'd rush to the sink and try to refresh myself, brush my teeth and wash my face. I would try to clean my various parts to the best of my ability. I desperately needed a shower. As for entertainment, you eventually come to the realization that radio stations are few and far between in rural America. Before the trip I knew I didn't like country music, but in many parts of America the twang of country music is all you get.
At least once a day, like clockwork, the INS would interrogate me. At the station or on a lonely stretch of the interstate they would be looking for Mexicans. They would ask me if I was an American citizen and I would show them ID. Sometimes I would react obnoxiously and say, "I am as American as you are." I saw a dozen Greyhound passengers get arrested during my trip for not having the proper papers. To the INS having a dark brown face is an open invitation for questioning.
The ordeal was over when I made it to Florida on March 23, 1998. I had crossed the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic in three days and three nights. I promised myself that day I would never take the bus again. Then I remembered, in five short days I would have to get back on another cramped Greyhound bus to get back home. I winced at the thought, but first I desperately needed a shower. Yes, I took pictures of my whole ordeal.
Ann Marie Leimer, Ph.D.
Copyright 2013 Jesús Manuel Mena Garza. All rights reserved.