Go To Bus to “Raarry”
So where was 59 Canal Street anyway? It wasn’t on the main drag of Canal Street, but down that creepy part farther east that was all dimly lit and a bit seedy. I was looking for a quasi waiting room/space with some dumpy chairs as part of a throw together waiting room, I was shocked to find 59 Canal an electronics store, entirely covered with Chinese characters. This was my first inclining the “Go to Bus” might not be all that its website let on it would be. Heck $30 ($60 roundtrip) from Chinatown to Raleigh North Carolina, I was down.
I said to myself this must be the place, the address was correct and there seemed to be an offal lot of people milling round outside. It was very dark and 27 degrees outside when I approached the small beat-up storefront. As I tried to push open the door I was struck by a scene of complete chaos. I pulled back a bit and thought --this can’t be. I’ve just spent more than an hour to get here on the subway from Washington Heights and as Margo was waiting for me the next morning, there was no turning back. As I forced open the door, which was stuck due to people and jammed bags up against it, I climbed over a huge plastic zip-up style Chinese bag and made my way into number 59.
As I made it in I was greeted with shouting people waving dollar bills at a counter with 3 Chinese guys behind it. “Ohio” shouted one, “Where do I go” shouted another. “This is fucked up…I bring my people down here ---give you business—and you treat me like this—this is fucked up” yelled a huge African guy, towards the counter. Between this guys heavy African accent and the Chinese guys lack of English, I realize that in all my worldly travels, and believe me I’ve been in some funky places in Latin America, I had never seen anything like this. I did the only thing I could do, laugh.
I couldn’t drag my bag too far into the store and getting in that line/sea of waving dollar bills was not going to happen. So I got stuck and tosseled around about a bit until I landed a few feet from the famous 3-manned counter. I start to shout, “Where do I pick up my ticket for the Raleigh bus” but no one responds or even looked at me. Again I start to laugh but this time even louder and the crowd start looking at me. Some with faces of rolled eye expression, but in a good way, and some started to look at me like I was the new “New Years Eve” terrorist. I also got the attention of the 3 guys behind the counter who didn’t know what to make of this crazy white lady. So I took out my Internet receipt for a round trip to Raleigh and started waving it around. One of the guys behind the counter motioned me over to give him the paperwork. I had to leave my bag behind, crawling over several feet of stacked bags and plenty of yelling people. The guys starts yelling at me in Chinese, so of course I was lost, so I said “Raleigh, North Carolina” he then held out one finger and I say “yes one” it didn’t seem to be what he wanted to hear, but after a few more times of that back and forth he handed me a ticket that was 90% Chinese characters and the word “Raleigh” along with a few roman numbers, so I figured I was good.
Now there was the issue of finding the bus. At this point a nice Hindu looking guy offered to help me as I was falling trying to gather my bag and simultaneously exit the mad house. There was a moment when I thought… what was better to wait outside in 27-degree winter weather or wait in the mad house. I chose to freeze. As I stumbled out, literally, I saw no bus and just hundreds of people milling about in the cold. Again I had to laugh, what else could I do, Margo would be waiting. There was no getting on Amtrak now.
The wind was blowing and I tried to huddle close to an older Chinese lady who just dragged her huge plastic zip bags away from me. Then I tried to befriend a younger woman and talked to her about her work in NC, but her English was pretty bad, but at least I was close enough to her for it to help us both from becoming icicles. She also seemed to know the ropes better than I and explained that the bus would be coming fairly soon.
45 minutes later a very modern looking tour bus comes charging up the block towards us and just about crushes a few eager people waiting too close to the curb. By now you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not a writer but I had to write this down because this seemingly fictional piece is nothing but the absolute truth. I’m even leaving out the details about the funky smells that were coming from all around me, but I will get there in a minute. Anyway I’m serious the horn was blowing and three foot tall wheels practically crushed this guy as the driver didn’t stop just slowly inched his way to where he had to stop and the guy had to climb back over the now famous hugely stuffed plastic Chinese zip bags.
I’m frozen now and wondering how this will all work. Of course the huge swell of people have now surged towards the bus, and being a New Yorker I took the queue, this was the way this “go to Bus” works. I started to yell “Is this the bus to Raleigh?” No one said anything; well at least in a language that I spoke, so I trusted in the gods this was the Raleigh bus. I crawled over bags towards the bus, slinging my wheeled duffle bag towards the now opened luggage compartments. No one helped me with my bag, so I literally climbed into the compartment and found a safe place for my bag; Little knowing the zip bags were now flowing in behind me and I had to kick my way out. I stumbled out and there was my friendly Hindu guys offering me a hand and yelling to me to “let’s go” we stumbled (well mostly me) towards the front door of the bus. I’m still laughing because this is the most absurd thing that has happened to me in a long time.
As I enter the bus I’m struck by a strong smell of armpits, I start to look around thinking “Oh shit this is going to be bad” The funny thing was the bus itself was in pretty good nick, baring a few seats that looked broken, you know the kind, permanently in the recline position” But the smell was pretty bad. I start to see all the Chinese people who have taken the front seats and start looking for a good seat. Some lady starts shaking her finger at me when I try to sit next to her and my friendly Hindu guys points out that I actually have a seat assignment on my ticket. Number 28, that’s way at the back. Shit I hope it’s not too close to the toilette. I notice that the back of the bus was specially reserved for non-Chinese. Thinking about pulling a Rosa Parks I decided against it as this was what I got for jumping at $30 to Raleigh, and that I was going to kill my friend for telling me it was the next best thing to sliced bread. You know the expression in Spanish “Lo barato sale Caro” well this was the best case I had ever experienced of this.
I plunked down in my seat and the lights were on so I pulled out my book, my seat was fine and thank god not next to the bathroom, thank god double time a nice Puerto Rican family was sitting next to me and we joked about our circumstances. They told me of their trip up from Raleigh on the Christmas holiday and that I have to say is another completely compelling story that I will have to skip. Just let me say that at one point on their journey, due to lack of seats, the chauffeur asked them to stand between Raleigh and Fredericksburg Virginia, which is about 3.5 hours and they refused, only be have to be driven in a passenger van to Fredericksburg.
By now I was feeling a bit more at ease, I was warming up and I had a seat. Next the bus was full and we were on our way, but wait, why were we going around the block? Did we forget something? No we were picking up 3 more people who were told to move down to the next block and there they would be picked up. Woops they over sold the bus and these three were lucky enough to be brought to another boarding spot a block away, so they could avoid the mass of yelling people who missed the bus.
As we approached the Holland tunnel, the lights in the cabin went out. There were no lights, so forget reading. Then popped down the video screen and on came the bad kung-fu movie. It was in one Asian language and subtitled in, yep you guessed it.. Chinese. This was a really bad movie, I do remember one moment when I caught out of the corner of my now trying to sleep eye a giant rutabaga with someone trapped inside, flying all around attacking kung-fu experts who where “crouching tiger” style flying away. I tried to fall asleep but the African American guy in the back was yelling that he would pay extra for them to turn it off. These guys were goofing around and testing their knowledge of world geography until about 1am. They were so bad at it that I was intreged. Also the ADHD kid’s mother behind me, gave him some candy (great, just what a 3 year old kid needs at 11pm—candy) and he was twisting and flapping the wrapper for an hour.
Somehow I managed to dose off, until I heard us run off the road a bit. You know those grooves they cut in the side of the highway to let drivers know when they have gone too far off the road. That is what woke me up! Shit I looked outside and I realized it was rain/ sleeting very badly. We were some place in Marylyn or Virginia and we were hydroplaning big time. This Chinese driver drove that bus like it was a 90-degree sunny day. He was passing everyone on the road and I could feel the back of the bus slipping and sliding. Right about now I was thinking, ok the “cheep may have been expensive”, but this is now dangerous. I could see the time was 4:40 and the tempature display said 32 degrees, wow it could have been ice. I was the only one awake in that bus, I even worried if that were true for the bus driver at times, he was swerving so much.
At about 5:30am we took a gas station brake, again no one said anything to us. At this point climbing my way from the back of the dark bus, I had the sick feeling like we were cattle and no one gave a shit whether we made it or not. They didn’t even care if we had all the people back on the bus when they took off again. You can bet I was yelling at the ladies in the restroom to hurry up, since I was at the end of a long line.
It had stopped raining, so I feel asleep. I woke up to find our bus stopped in front of a CountryInn someplace in Durham, NC. As I shook my tired self awake, I thought “OMG have I missed my stop” No one said anything to you, so how were you to know. I asked the nice family next to me where we were, thank god they knew. We had apparently stopped in Durham, no one knew why, and the bus driver just left and left the bus running. That was 45 minutes before I woke up. Finally another Chinese guy shows up with more passengers that were made to stand in the iles while we drove the final half hour to Raleigh. Of course by this time I’m a bit miffed as I was suppose to meet Shelly (Margo’s husband) at the Curry Asian Market in Raleigh at 7am and it was now 7:45. So not laughing this time, I told his sorry ass, that we better get going because I was now late 45 minutes and this was getting bad. There was a small cheer from the non-Chinese contingent in the back of the bus.
Finally we made it to Curry (an area of Raleigh) and thank god Shelly was watching the general area, because we didn’t exactly stop at the Asian market, but about a half a block away. As I was finally leaving and saw Shelly’s smiling face out the window, I said to myself “hey maybe it wasn’t all that bad after all” until the man 3 seats up started puking in a plastic bag.
Needless to say I never did use that round trip back, instead I purchased the most expensive last minute holiday season JetBlue seat ever, but as the Mexicans’ say “Lo Barato sale Caro”
Just in case you need some adventure in your lives please visit,
www.gotobus.com/bus/ (Of course just typing this makes me laugh my ass off)
By: Lyndell Brookhouse (ari's mom)
By: Lyndell Brookhouse (ari's mom)