If only I had a segway, things could have been so much easier.
Hey kids, did I ever tell you about a little adventure I had that ended with me taking a Greyhound bus and haggling for a banana? No? Well, today is your lucky day!
One time, circa 2009-ish, I was driving the Jetta back to Great Falls after a weekend trip to Missoula, and the little temperature gauge thingy lit up, just a few miles outside the Garden City. Now, I’m the kind of driver who likes to pretend that when the little temperature gauge thingy lights up, any problems it indicates will just magically go away on their own. So I kept driving.
About 40 miles later, steam started seeping through the hood, and I immediately went from “La-la-la, there can’t possibly be anything wrong with the Jetta!” mode to “OH MY GOD THE JETTA IS GOING TO EXPLODE AND THE ONLY REASONABLE THING TO DO IS PANIC!!” mode.
Luckily, I was only a mile or so from the Clearwater Junction gas station with the giant cow outside, so I was able to pull over in the vicinity of civilization (giant cows don’t indicate civilization, you say? They do in Montana!) and call for roadside assistance without completely losing it.
Unfortunately, the nearest towing company my insurance company contracted with was in a town about 50 miles from Missoula, on the other side, so about 90 miles from my current location. So I waited. With the giant cow.
It was just me. And the giant cow.
The tow truck arrived, and the driver informed me that my insurance company would pay for the first 30 miles, but I would have to pay per mile after that. Since I was about 40 miles from Missoula and 130 from Great Falls, I opted to get towed back to the former.
After riding 40 miles with the somewhat-creepy tow truck driver and dropping my car off at the auto shop, I called one of my friends, who graciously let me stay for what I thought would be one night while the auto shop replaced the gaskets, which had a problem I’d seemingly neglected for several years.
Not so much. See, Volkwagen thinks they’re so super-duper freaking special that they can’t possibly have the same kind of parts as cars from other countries. You have to order parts straight from Germany or something, so it was going to take at least a few days. So I called into work, letting them know that I was stuck in Missoula, at least for another day and possibly more, effectively screwing over everyone on the copy desk who would have to pick up my slack.
I anxiously called the auto shop the next morning, hoping they’d made some progress. But no — they were still waiting for Germany to ship the parts over on a U-boat, because it was going to take at least two weeks. I called Zach to see if he could possibly drive the three hours to Missoula, pick me up, and drive back, but he was working through the evening covering some super-serious breaking news story, like hooligans stealing a rock painted like Mr. Peanut from some old people’s yard:
Investigative journalism at its finest. (And headline writing at its finest, if I do say so myself.)
He said he’d come pick me up when he could, but he might not be able to leave until 8 or 9 p.m. He suggested I take the Greyhound. I didn’t particularly like that idea, especially since it didn’t go straight from Missoula to Great Falls — it first went southeast, to Butte, where I’d have to switch buses, then headed north through Helena, then finally to Great Falls. This turned a normally three-hour drive into five hours. On a bus. With some, uh, interesting characters. But I’d already missed a several days of work, and I was running out of options. I decided to bite the bullet.
My friend dropped me off at the Greyhound station, and I bought my ticket. It was around this time that I realized I hadn’t eaten much that day, so my blood sugar had started to dip. (I had a doctor tell me once that I had low blood sugar, and I’ve been using that as an excuse to eat all the time and/or freak out ever since.) Looking around, I saw a snack shop, but it was closed. I asked the ticket attendant if we’d be stopping somewhere along the way. He said we would, so I figured I could make it.
I reluctantly boarded the bus, as I recalled someone in college telling me he saw people shooting up in the back of a Greyhound once. I did my best to just stare at the floor or the seat in front of me.
We started off for Butte. About halfway there, we stopped off in a little podunk town called Drummond (“World famous bull-shippers,” according to the sign on the way into town), and I eagerly hopped off to get some food. I tried to get bite to eat at a little cafe, but it only accepted cash, which I rarely have on me. Seeing how Drummond has an ATM count of approximately negative 30 and a dining scene that leaves much to be desired, I was out of luck. (The fact that I don’t eat meat wasn’t making it any easier.) So I got back on the bus.
By the time we got to Butte about an hour later, things were not looking good. I raced off the bus into the depot, ravenous for anything I could shove in my mouth. The bus driver had told me that there was a snack bar and an ATM at the depot, so I thought everything was going to be muppetational. Little did I know how very wrong I was.
At the counter, the snack bar attendant informed me they only accepted cash, and she pointed toward the ATM. I turned around and headed over toward the gleaming oasis that would provide me money for food. As I walked closer, a rectangular white slip began to take shape.
No. No. Please don’t say it’s out of order. Please. I’m so hungry. I just want a pretzel. So bad.
But my instinct was right. “Out of order,” confirmed the note taped to the machine. My eyes started welling up with tears. I just really, really needed something to eat.
I walked back over to the snack bar. I opened up my wallet, knowing the only “cash” I had was in coins, and not much. 35 cents, to be exact. I eyed a banana in a fruit basket on the counter. I could already tell it was pretty much the greatest, best-tasting banana that had ever existed. I asked the cashier how much it cost.
“75 cents,” she replied.
“I’ll give you 25.”
“Uh, I just told you it’s 75 cents.”
“OK, how about 35?”
“Please. I haven’t eaten since this morning. The ATM is broken, or I’d buy a pretzel. All I have is 35 cents. Pease. Me so hungy.” (I don’t remember if I actually said “pease” or “hungy,” but I really was blithering like a child at this point. I was just so, so hungy.)
“Um, yeah, OK, sure.”
She sold me the banana at a 40-cent loss, and I devoured it in four seconds. Then I hopped back on the Greyhound, still well undernourished but slightly more confident I could make it for the remaining two and a half hours of the journey.
About 12 minutes later, the temporary blood-sugar spike subsided, and I began to wonder if I would ever get off this god-forsaken bus. I closed my eyes, hoping I could fall asleep and not wake up until we pulled into Great Falls.
Another hour passed, and we stopped in my hometown of Helena for about 10 minutes for no good reason other than to piss me the eff off, as far as I could tell. Or maybe we picked some people up. I don’t really know. I was somewhat delusional at this point. All I knew was that the station was no where near a provider of delicious, delicious food, and I would not have time to walk somewhere to get some before the bus left. I momentarily considered calling my mom and having her take me the rest of the way, but decided against it. I’d come so far in this awful journey, and I wasn’t going to give up on the final leg.
We pulled out of the station, heading off from what I thought would be our last stop. We continued heading north, winding through the canyon, then straightened out onto the last stretch of interstate leading to Great Falls. On what had turned out to be one of the longest days of my life, I knew I was now less than half an hour away from home.
But then the bus started to slow as it veered gradually to the right. I looked over and realized we were getting onto the exit for Ulm, a small town about 15 miles south of Great Falls. I kind of started to freak out, wondering why the hell we had to stop here when we were so close to Great Falls. Then I figured maybe someone was getting off the bus here. OK, fine, whatever. That makes sense. I won’t punch anyone.
But then, when the only person who de-boarded the bus was the driver, I started to get suspicious. I looked out the window, thinking maybe he was checking a tire or something. But no. He was smoking a cigar. Not a cigarette. A g.d. cigar. Seriously, we were 20 minutes from Great Falls, tops. He couldn’t have waiting 20 effing minutes to smoke his nasty cigar? Luckily for the driver, I was so hungry, all I had the strength to do was crawl up into a ball and whimper in my seat. Because I probably would have karate chopped his head off otherwise.
Did I mention the driver had an uncanny resemblance to P. Diddy? Perhaps I’ve buried the lede …
I did seemingly have the strength to operate a cell phone though, so I called Zach to ask him to pick me up at the bus depot in about 15 minutes. When we finally, FINALLY, pulled into the station, I frantically looked for his car in the parking lot, but didn’t see it. He was late.
When he pulled into the lot — about a minute later — I let him have it. After all I’d been through that day, how DARE he think it was even remotely OK for him NOT to be at the station and the EXACT moment the bus pulled in?!?! He said he was sorry, but that he didn’t really deserve the full fury of my wrath, seeing how he was a mere 60 seconds past due. I found this reasoning unacceptable, so I got into his car, ignoring him.
We pulled up to our apartment, and I was still seething. We started heading up to our place, and I tripped and fell up the stairs, spilling the contents of my bag. That was the last straw. I burst into tears.
With a bewildered look on his face, Zach tried to help me up, not quite understanding how such a tiny spill could cause the floodgates to burst open. But after a five-hour bus ride fueled only by one measly banana, I’d had enough. So I rebuffed his attempt to help me and just sat on the stairs and had a good cry.
Because sometimes, even big-girl squirrels just need to have a good cry.
It’s gonna be OK, buddy! You can have all the bananas you want now!