The original plan was to drive from Atlanta to Austin Texas, until the Rent A Car Company told me they where going to give me a huge gas guzzling SUV, free was gonna cost me nearly $400 in gas.
So what’z a Sacramentian to do at 1045pm at the Atlanta airport? Heck take the Bus. My daughter raved about her experience on the MegaBus , so its the MegaBus for me… at least that was my plan.
The Bus was schedule to leave from the 400 block of Peachtree at midnight and in 8 hours I would be in New Orleans. The nice lady at the airport assured me MARTA would get me downtown in 20 minutes
With smartphone in hand I called Megabus, after several attempts I realized I had to buy tickets in advance yikes….. Okay Plan G, Greyhound, yikes, Greyhound….. Marta stops at the Greyhound station and there was a bus leaving for New Orleans at 12.30 if I purchase my ticket online, I could save 40 bucks… “that’s the ticket” however it was 11.20 and it was too late to buy a ticket for the 12:30. The next bus was 530am.
The Atlanta Greyhound Station (there is a story here)
From coast to coast, some Greyhound stations aren’t desirable neighbors. Some stations are a magnet for crime activity. It’s not unusual in the big cities for people to arrive with no cash. People are forced to leave home, others arrive with dream (Atlanta’s the Black Hollywood) Some small communities use Greyhound as a tool to rid itself of undesirables, take the bus or jail.
I met an 18 year old on route to Montgomery,Alabama. When he was 15, his step father kicked him out of the house and give him a one way ticket to Dallas and twenty dollars. Three days later he was arrested near the station after stealing a bag of chips. I was hungry and even though he had kinfolks in Dallas, he didn’t know them or was given a telephone number. It was get out! His grandmother and cousin drove to Dallas and brought him back to Georgia , he finished high school and now works for the city of Albany, Georgia and is engaged today. When you get to a place you don’t know nobody, you just come back to the place you know, you hang around the station until they throw you out. After the second day, you get to know when the security people get off and then you go in undercover. After a while they all know who you are. Some people outside the station watch you, ask you want a cigarette or want a sandwich or something to drink. The best thing to happen to me was getting picked up by the police. They let me call my grandmother, if they didn’t take me to jail, I could have been anywhere or dead.
In and around the Atlanta station is a flurry of activity on this Thursday night . There were signs that indicated Greyhound had entered the century with Wi fi on the buses and new buses promising luxurious leg room. There are electronic kiosks the allows those who have prepaid for their ticket to bypass the lines…. and at midnight there was an extremely long line.
Needing air, I stepped outside the station. There were people everywhere, in the street, on the sidewalks, a long line of cars dropping and picking up passengers. New and old cars expensive BMW SUV’s, Mercedes, people standing, looking for love ones. Higgs and kisses amid flashing blues lights from the Atlanta Police.
One man is walking around selling marijuana out of a box of Newport Cigarettes. One young girl was chatting up an old man for a discrete encounter nearby for 20 bucks. Various people asking for cigarettes.
One young man approached me with a well crafted speech( ‘ sir I have fallen on hard times…. I would like to sing you a song by Michael Jackson for a donation) his lower lip quivering. a song wasn’t required and I reached down and gave him all my coins Prehaps he was intimidated by my presence, because there was no quivering as he asked other people for money, at one point he was high fiving it with a few random men walking in the street.
Across the street from the station was a liquor store, selling Georgia lotto tickets, and there was steady flow of business. I thought to myself (The old Sacramento Station was a resort compared to this)
Its past 2am in the Atlanta Greyhound Station. Looking around and discreetly taking pictures with my smartphone, I noticed a wide range of passengers. Professionals on route to smaller cities in Georgia. People down on their luck, sitting next to people who are simply afraid to fly. International travelers from Europe wanting to be near other americans. Bus travel isn’t inexpensive, when you factor in food traveling by bus in some instances is more expensive than air travel.
The truth is there are thousands of small towns that aren’t close to affordable airport. One man who lives in Mississippi says there is a small airport near his home, he said a round trip ticket from Atlanta is over $3oo vs $36 dollar ticket. There are a surprising number of professionals who take Greyhound daily.
Late night Stories
The tale repeated itself many times in the night. Someone from somewhere was supposed to pay for their ticket and they have no way of getting home and have no where to go…..
A gentleman in his late 40’s or early 50’s with two large garbage bags told me his story.
He was on his way from Naples Florida to Clifton Georgia via Atlanta. Traveling through Atlanta was cheaper than going directly to Clifton from Naples. So it was his plan to purchase a ticket in Atlanta then going on to Clifton. After getting off the bus in Atlanta, he stepped outside to get a smoke and was beaten and robbed outside the station. He told me he received a black eye ( I couldn’t tell) Feeling a bit hungry, I offered to buy him dinner.
I think people who live in big cities are more attuned to lurking danger. I lived in New York and San Francisco before settling in Sacramento and my antenna is always on.
Our bacon burgers were ready and I found an empty table in the food area. ( The burger was the best I’ve had in some time.) All of a sudden a man sits down at our table. No. may I join you or can I sit with you, he just plops himself at our table, no food just there . My unfortunate friend wanted catsup with his fries and was going to get up and leave his food there. I’m watching are unannounced table mate who I suspected was there for no good. I’m feeling a snatch and run, I can just feel it and I am trying to get my dinner partner to stay. He wouldn’t get my signals if they where 10 feet high. Out of desperation I said stay here. and then stared at our uninvited guest, until he left… and I went after Gomer, saying dude, you need to be very aware of where you are. That guy was waiting for an opportuntiy to steal your food and by way, where are you plastic bags?…scholding him!. There over there., well if you want to keep your stuff you better go get um I from a small town, I don’t think like this…. Well I can only afford one dinner… so pay attention!
A lady asked if she could sit with us. I think she overheard his story and possibly thought I was getting played. This women knows the ins and outs of the station. I know this place., you better believe it. It was clear to me, she was all business. She had two bags.. one filled with food an 8 piece container of chicken and assorted chips and cookies, waters, and napkins…
Where you going? LBC ( Long Beach,California) she said. you aint from here I can tell by your accent... Yes, I’m from California I said, Sacramento, I knew you weren’t from here. Why the bus to California? I asked, oh I don’t fly, my husband is watching my kids and I will be back in time before he goes crazy. I used to live in Southern California, but my husband is from here….
How do you like living here in Atlanta I asked? I don’t. The people here are wanna bees, they think they are tough, but everybody here is trying to be somebody. My kids thought they were bad ,but Long Beach turned them out. and they don’t wanna go back, so I go by myself. I had other questions but her focus seemed to be on Gomer.
She was a combination of Barbara Walters and police detective. She wanted him to re-tell his story. So what happened? I was gonna buy a ticket, I’m from Florida and tickets are cheaper here in Atlanta, so I stepped outside for a cigarette and somebody asked me for a cigarette and I reached into my pocket and they beat and robbed me. So I called my brother and he going to wire me a ticket. hmm, she sorted.,and looked at me. in rapid fire she said, why didn’t you buy your ticket before going outside. This place is rough. a few weeks ago a women was robbed in line trying to buy her ticket, somebody put a snub nose in the womans back and robbed her inline! I needed a cigarette! … huh she said. again looking at me. He went on with his story, and she found holes and he became defensive. At one point I said to him, yeah that doesn’t make sense. … She was on fire and he was perspiring… I was enjoying it and saying to myself , I’m glad I’m not him!
Unfortunately, her bus was loading. He was relieved. Yall don’t believe me , but its true!
Things went downhill after she left. He was telling me tales of an uncle who is a director in Los Angeles and of the cities he visited in California. After a long story about working for a millionaire in Martha’s Vineyard and his meetings with Princess Diana, the Clinton’s Bill Gates and other high profile people, my bull shit meter exploded and I told him he was full of shit. I’m now Punching holes into his stories, he is boring me. AT 3 am a security guard walked by as asked him why he was still there? Well, I’m still waiting for my ticket. he said. man you told me that last night, you’ve been in this station for almost two days, you’ve got to go. Okay he said sheepishly. Hmmm, the lady knew..
By 4am most of the patrons of the station was in some stages of sleep Others at the phone charger station. So I walked around discreetly taking pictures with my smartphone
Bus 6062 to New Orleans
The Atlanta Greyhound Station is a series of portable trailers. The station seems smaller than the old Sacramento Station and the location of the station is temporary and has been for some time.
At 430, the small restaurant reopened, travelers in a zombie like state walk over for that jolt of coffee. Passengers began to rise and make their way to gates. In the background was a repeat of Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on the big screen.
Standing in front of me was a well dressed tall older lady with a neat grey afro who was struggling with two large brown suitcases going in different directions. can you help me she asked? Sure, I said, Where ya headed, home, she said, I’ll be home in a couple hours… I went to my high school reunion in New Jersey. New Jersey? yes,!
As the line started moving, it occurred to me, this was the first time I’d been on a Greyhound Bus in nearly 20 years, the last ride was an Express Bus from Sacramento to Los Angeles and it was miserable and this ride was 13 hours, what have I done? The sign said the new Greyhound had more leg room and Wi Fi and for a moment I was excited…this might be fun Wi fi ! Then someone asked the bus driver did the bus have WiFi? No, they only have it on the new buses. Well that dream lasted all of 45 seconds…. Plan B
Nothing changes from high school. There were passengers with their feet and gear on the seats. Plan B, meant the last row.next to the rest room, I my legs could hang out in the aisle.
One man thought he would lie down, discouraging anyone from sitting. One look at my sizeable azz, he had two choices, move or die. He chose the former .
I told them the bus was full, they always do this said the driver. Dreams of sitting alone ended as the driver walked through the bus, one look from the driver made the toughest passengers sit erect and place his items below the seat.
One Empty Seat
I just wanna sleep, wanna sleep is all I could think of.. The bus was packed , the one empty seat separated me from the reclining man . The last seat was hard and unlike the other seats, the last row didnt recline, but sleep eventually came. I woke up, hot. I stood up and it was cool in the aisle ,ahh were sitting on the engine. Great! I looked about the bus and their where a few empty seats. I guess some people got off. My choice was cool vs leg room. I stayed in the rear. Sleep…..
We were in Columbus Georgia when I woke up. An older white man sitting in seats 49/50 gets off to smoke. When he returns he finds a Blackman sitting in seat 49. Whitman looks at the black man who is looking out the window and then sits in seat 17 with another white man.
Mobile, Alabama was the first rest stop. As in Atlanta, the choices was burgers and chicken fingers. I settled for another burger. In line, a bright smiling woman asked if I wanted chill and cheese on my fries and burger? “You devil woman” I flirted, don’t do this to a big old overweight man. She laughed. okay sir… Looking around, the food department seemed much like the Atlanta , so the I watched my burger being constructed.. BUTTER! of course, she slathered butter on the buns…. Oh, I said, butter on the buns?….. not missing a beat, the cook turned around and said, everything goes better with butter baby! Yes ma’am!
The Mobile station was clean and quiet none of Atlanta chaos, all the employees smiled and said good morning. One older man had trouble navigating his walker through the maze of aluminum chairs and tables, slam, crash, refusing help. The bus was completely full including the spot between myself and reclining man. The new passenger said, its hott back here, how can you stand it? I like it hot, reclining man grumbled.
On this and the remaining legs of the trip, I became the official bathroom attended. Yes, its occupied or No, you can go right in.
Reclining man said he couldn’t wait to get out for a cold drink.
The Biloxi Mississippi station was new. Thee old station was a victim of Katrina. Very modern and clean,. There wasn’t a restaurant, just vending machines. I bought a couple of sodas . The Bus was half full at this point. One large family get on.. A man and older lady and four children ranging in age from 2 to 12, the older woman quickly found a seat, but it was clear she may have been the grandmother or an aunt but he was on his own… I looked over at Reclining man and he looked tired, did you get something to drink I asked, no my money’s funny, I offered him one of mine, thank you. I really needed that.
Remnants of Katrina is still evident in Biloxi . Large Casinos sprout out of the grassy fields lining the shore line. On this day after the Labor Day weekend the beaches are empty.
Its difficult to miss “Sharkhead’s a tourist shop and restaurant that just reopened this year after the old location was destroyed by Katrina.
Making children sit is challenging, it doesn’t matter if its by bus or plane. The man with the children had a huge bag of snacks, from burgers to Little Debbie snacks. Two boys, two girls. Even with all the snacks in the world, snacks can’t cure boredom. Dad was tired and overwhelmed . The older children a boy and girl about 11 and 12 were okay and made due, the trouble child (my favorite) was the younger girl about 9. She hauled off and slapped the older brother and started crying to her dad, one look at her, and you could tell she was devil in the family. She pushed and tapped the boys. I found it curious why she didn’t terrorize her older sister. Until…………
The older sister was eating a burger and Doritos and quietly looking out of the window. After a while, she got up and went to the bathroom, the evil sister took two quick bites out of the burger. When the sister returned, she immediately knew who had taken a bite out the burger and dad or (who was getting hit too) could not protect her from choking and slapping her younger sister. Ah ha, I said to myself, big sis is the real deal, that why no one bothers her.
We were all releaved with the family got off the bus in Gulfport. However they had left their mark. The floors and aisles were littered with uneaten burgers and other sandwiches, chips. No one picked anything up, passengers simply walked through the garbage. I was ready to be off 6062 my back hurt and it was hot!
Along the roadway, most of the billboards were blowing freely in the wind, remnants of Issac. As we crossed into Louisiana from Mississippi,Reclining man started talking , we’re about 45 minutes from New Orleans.
That’s my home lived there all my life, whole life. Hold on a minute! he says, he reaches for his cell phone, and tells someone to make sure to pick him up from the station and not to forget , his battery is almost gone, and turn to me and says yep , Nu Orléans is my home.
Where you there during Katrina? yes, and I was there when Rita hit and I was a kid when Betsy hit. But Katrina was bad, it was quick and hard. You see those apartments over there? He points across the freeway. no body lives in them, and those are new. You know Brad Pitt did a lot here, a lot of these people politicians and other people talked, but Brad worked with the people and helped build a lot of homes , he cares about people and the city . What do you think about the city now? its bad, a lot of crime, its bad man. Would you move from here? naw, this is my home, people who live here have roots here. I know a lot of people who have left here but never came back, moved to Houston, Baton Rouge, but those who stayed, stayed because their heart was here. This place is in my heart, all my people are here.
As we entered the downtown area, passing the Superdome, we see people sitting, sleeping underneath the freeway, one woman with part of her leg amputated is lying on the ground inches away from her wheelchair. I hate that! he said, seeing people like that, there is a lot of people here homeless with no place to go, I hate that! He stares into the window as 6062 pulls into the station., hey man, thanks for the drink.
New Orleans has a reputation, so I expected the Greyhound station to be like Atlanta. It was anything but. The Greyhound station in Union Station and shares the building Amtrak. Union Station During Katrina, the station served as jail for the city. The station which was in its last phase of renovation is stunning and clean. My smartphone wouldn’t be able to capture the simple beauty of this art deco wonder, these images are from google.
The mural represents the history of New Orléans and the state of Louisiana
The Station was pristine, there were few people inside or out. One of the reasons, this station close’s early and their isn’t the traffic of
Atlanta he last bus departure was 945pm and the last train left at 7pm. In fact there less than 10 people in the station at 715pm.
One family was waiting for an Greyhound attendant to return, planned to buy tickets to Shreveport for their nephew. After reading a sign limiting travel to those 15 an above, the uncle said he was going to lie because his nephew was 14, his wife said she wasn’t going to lie and would drive her nephew if she had to. The conversation was overheard by a Greyhound supervisor, who told them that 15-year-old provision was for night travel and would not apply to the nephew because the bus was at 630am, he went on to say he appreciated their honesty.
I told the supervisor how beautiful the station was.. He said it is, he said can you believe they put a drop ceiling here? The dropped ceilings took way from this. They tore that ceiling out and most of what you see has been restored… Everything here is marble…. it took a long time but it is nice. That mural is new, it tell the history or New Orléans and the State and their adding one more section.
I asked him why the station closes early, he said a lot of people don’t travel much at night. New Orléans is bad. The uncle said yeah its bad! You remember a year or so ago a 4 year old was killed right outside the station. Yeah, I remember . I moved out of this city two years ago, I live bout 60 miles from here in Mississippi. Yeah New Orléans is bad, said the uncle, my son will killed two years ago. I told him to stay away from those gangs, I told him! He was 19, he and two of his friends were killed. I’m sorry, the supervisor said.. .. You know when they kill somebody, the just dont kill the son, they kill the whole family. (I suddenly found it difficult to breathe)
You know what gets me, half these people have kids, and the state would go after them for the child support they owe, they would be in jail ! The supervisor said in anger. Why I asked? I’m from California and they are aggressive collecting child support and they will put people in jail. . I don’t know, but this city and the state is bad…… The uncle started to get up from his seat -it was clear his family wanted to leave. ( his sons death and his statement about killing a family was on my chest-can’t imagine!) I want to hold him father to father. We shake hands…. The family leaves. I thank the supervisor and he leaves. I go into the bathroom and quietly cry.