“I feel like I was just in the sequel of Plains, Trains, and Automobiles– only the after-hours version and with a Hispanic cast.
We didn’t land in San Antonio until after 2am thanks to a wheel issue at JFK that delayed our departure. The Purser said he was going to make a PA seeing if anyone was driving the eighty-two miles up to Austin but must have forgotten. I didn’t care, I felt weird about asking strangers for a ride so far in distance.
When I got down to the Ground Transportation area I weighed my options again. I gave up with the rental car idea. It was going to cost too much. I had to decide between waiting until 6am and flying to DFW then to AUS and landing at 9:30am or catching the 3:40am Greyhound bus. When I did the math I realized that if I did the bus, I’d be home right when that first flight was taking off. I figured it’d cost about $60 to take a cab to the bus station, buy a ticket, and pay for another cab to the AUS airport to where my car was patiently waiting.
I went outside and caught the one and only cab at the airport. She was an older lady and slightly bizarre. I asked her if she knew where the bus station was and she said she was very familiar with it. I felt good about my decision. At least I was still moving, still making progress.
I get to the downtown bus station at around 2:45am and took in the reality of my surroundings. I was in a San Antonio bus station at 3am on Thanksgiving night. If I ever needed to be reminded of my blessings, I didn’t after seeing that scene. It was seedy as hell. I was the only white person in there, which I didn’t mind at all, though people were looking at me like they did mind. I didn’t like, however, that I was wearing my business casual attire from the plane. I looked too good for the bus station, which of course I felt too good for as well.
I bought my $24 ticket and went over to the all night cafe. I tried to special order a grilled cheese sandwich but the old Mexican lady wouldn’t let me order off the menu. I had crinkly fries and a Mr. Pibb instead. I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers by explaining all the elements for a grilled cheese sandwich were right there in front of her. I mean, I could see them! I accidentally spilled some of my soda on the ground, making a sticky floor even stickier.
While I was eating a Border Patrol agent strolled through and checked everyone out. He even went into the kitchen and closets to see if illegal aliens were hiding out. Even the Border Patrol guy was Mexican. I wonder if they see him as a sell out. I kinda did.
I texted a little but not much. I didn’t want to show off my fancy Android in front of some of these people who looked homeless and desperate. When buses came and went the announcements were in Spanish first and then English, as an after thought or maybe just to humor me. The bus going to Austin, Dallas, and then onwards came from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, straight up I-35.
As bizarre as the people in the bus station were (all men), the ones already on the bus coming from Mexico were even more so. Even the bus driver was shady. I thought he was just the kid helping with the baggage. He took my suitcase and put it under the bus. He smirked at me without a single tooth in his mouth. I was shocked and horrified when he got behind the wheel and took us out of the station. He honestly looked 15.
I then had the monumental task of picking a seat. I thought I’d want to stay near the driver for safety but after seeing him, maybe I should get as far away from him as possible. I headed to the back and it looked like some had been on that bus for weeks. Little tents had been made out of towels and blankets in the seats. It looked like a shanty town. Amazingly it smelled ok. The very back of the bus was taken up by a tweaked up looking couple, guarding the bathroom. I stayed in the middle of the bus, right behind an older Mexican lady who I thought might be a whore. I wondered if whores worked on buses and it wouldn’t shock me if they do.
After a few minutes I realized that she’s with the big fat Mexican with all the scars on his head sitting in the row in front of her. She turned around and smiled at me, but I just stared out the window. Most people had a row to themselves, two seats, so they were sprawled and asleep. I wished to God that I could take pictures of all of this. I wanted to do that as soon as I got to the bus station, and even more so when I got onto the bus. It reminded me slightly of the bus ride scene in Trainspotting, only much seedier.
The lady in front of me with the tight jeans and dyed red hair got phone calls all the way to Austin. I heard her at one time talking about how she was pissed that we didn’t have alcohol on the bus. I slept on and off but the ride was only an hour and a half. I woke up and opened the curtain to see downtown Austin passing by and then the Capitol. It would just be another couple of miles before we exited. I used to live near the bus station but have only been there once, in college, when I had to pick up a crazy Oklahoma girl from the station when she ran away from home to live with me, uninvited and unwanted. Of course I didn’t know that she’d run away when I picked her up, I just thought she was coming down for a long weekend and would be heading home Monday morning. Not a good weekend.
I didn’t really want to get off the bus. I wanted to just keep going. I was tired and I didn’t really mind being on the Twin Peaks bus. I felt like I was on an adventure and it was so surreal. I’d love to just sleep for hours and see where I woke up. I also didn’t want to think about trying to get a cab at 5am, going all the way back down to the airport and then driving to my northern suburb of Round Rock.
I heard the next stop was going to be Round Rock so I thought about just staying on and forgetting about my car for the time being. I didn’t though. I got off with the older Mexican hooker and got a look at the young guy in a pick-up who picked her up at the station. He acted like he didn’t know her.
It was still pitch black outside and very cold. I had no idea what to do next. I thought maybe cabs would be out hanging out. Ones were outside the San Antonio bus station. After five minutes of standing in the cold I thought about my options. I could walk across the highway and get to the Ramada hotel. From there I could call a cab. I got out my phone and did a google search for Austin cabs. I found a website and was just about to call the number when I looked up and saw a cab from the very same company passing by.
I waved frantically at him and within a minute I was warm and on my way to the airport. I had the same random conversation with this older man as I did with the older woman in San Antonio, mainly revolving around Thanksgiving dinner and how not many people are needing cabs tonight. Of course not, it’s the most family oriented night of the year. It was depressing that neither really got that. I tried not to dwell on that fact. It was depressing.
The streets were dead and empty, still pitch black. I was exhausted and tried not to chit-chat but the guy was bored and lonely so he kept asking me questions about how I got to Austin from New York at such a weird hour. I think I answered him but I’m really not sure. I was so fucking tired.
He drops me off at the terminal and I start walking. I walked through the covered parking garage where the rich people park, out through short-term parking lot, and into long-term parking. I look around and check for Parking Lot D. According to the text I sent myself two-week ago, I’m parked in D13. My car was there, safe and sound.
I drive the thirty-minute drive home, in darkness still. I don’t see another car going my direction the entire time. I listen to a mix of Joy Division, MGMT, The Normals, The Smiths, Radiohead, Pavement, and The Postal Service. This was not at all how I envisioned spending this Thanksgiving or any Thanksgiving, but it’ll make me appreciate every single one for the rest of my life. It was a good reality check.”
Random side note- look at the photo of the Austin skyline again. Notice anything weird? Where is the moon’s reflection? Photoshop=lame!