It may not seem like it but maintaining one’s Urban Hermit status requires a great deal of effort and commitment. To be good at it… hell,to even qualify for Hermit Club membership consideration, one must hold the bulk of humanity in a general state of great disdain. It has been my experience that the easiest way to achieve true Hermit Zen is to stay as far away from humanoids as possible…. and, on the rare occasions that you find yourself having to interact with them, you do so with a healthy arm’s length distance between you wherever possible.
And so it was that I had been invited to my niece’s wedding a while back that I immediately found myself conflicted. On the one hand, it was my niece and she was getting married! On the other.. in order to attend, I was going to have to take a bus down to Boston so I could catch another bus up to mid-coast Maine, wait around outside the bus station in Portland for a little while, and then catch a carpool ride ) by way of the airport to pick up another carpooler) and continue up to the wedding destination.
When I finished reading the invitation they began to rise up in my throat… .. like “Jack’s raging bile duct”… my dear old friends Apprehension, Anxiety, and their sidekick Anguish had come home to roost. It was palpable and they could barely be restrained.
There was no saying no so I just submissively resigned myself to my fate and set about making the arrangements.
Acquiring the boarding passes at the local terminal in town was painless enough as was the trip down to Boston. I sat in the back row, right next to the bathroom entrance, with a lovely young lady on my right and a nice enough fellow (albeit overly chatty and who was quite sure I gave two fucks about every gory minute detail of his personal life) on my left.
Boston… on the other hand.. is an entirely different human shit show all together.
For those of you fortunate enough to have never graced the bus terminal at South Station let me assure you that it is an experience you should never intentionally endure. Unlike most airports, which usually have strictly enforced rules of human behavior and some modicum of a shutdown period overnight, South Station doesn’t really ever shut down. More accurately, it just sort of ebbs and flows. Every single person there is pissed off or put out or is just having some sort or another of a low-end traveler’s meltdown.
The people are rude, the ticket agents are less affable than your favorite zombie on the Walking Dead, and – whatever language that is that’s coming out of the public address system sounds more like something the local residents in Swahililand could comprehend than anything that remotely resembles the gibberish they want us to believe is supposed to be the King’s English.
Having barely avoided physical assault when I got off the bus and lined up to get my bag, I was reminded of those Thanksgiving dinners during my childhood when you had a better chance of getting stabbed in the hand than actually getting the last drumstick. Once I cleared the pig pile and headed for the door to go inside and find out what gate my bus to Maine was departing from, I foolishly side a breath of relief thinking the worst was over. But when I got inside I was already being bumped into, pushed aside, and stepped in front of in order for other Travelers to improve their position in the waiting line of the next gate.
In full – on survival mode now, I pushed forward and positioned myself and my bag in a way that no one could go around me and I held my ground. If the person in front of me even leaned a little forward I was scooting up 6 inches so that they had no choice but to keep moving forward. To make sure my imaginary bubble was intact, I looked behind me every so often to make sure there was no confusion as to whether I could be fucked with any more.
Nobody else tried.
Once boarding began on my northbound bus, I started thinking ahead to being seated and the bus rolling out of Boston with that nightmare behind me. I imagined, since we were heading to Maine, that I might even get a nice window seat with no one sitting next to me and a chance to look out the window and find my happy place.
Alas, my hopes were quickly dashed – the bus was packed full.
Karma being the bitch that she can be, I got the very same seat all the way in the back in the middle right next to the toilets. I even got the same chatty fellow in the same spot to my left. Unfortunately, however, the lovely young lady to my right had been replaced by a guy that had not showered in several days and reeked of garlic and onions. To make matters worse, he neither spoke nor understood English… ignored all of my attempts to politely ask him to move the fuck over… and was out cold and snoring – loudly – before we even made it onto the I-93 Northbound ramp.
He tossed and he turned and he moaned – for two and a half hours – and he groaned and he flopped himself over onto my shoulder as if I was some sort of fucking Michelin Man that he fancied as his own personal fucking neck pillow.
I wish I could say that this was my first experience with having my personal space so violently violated but I cannot; in close quarters – by any mode of public travel – I have had my personal bubble popped on trains and on planes and… yes… even on buses.
If there is an upside to the hell I went through to make sure I had a front-row seat at my niece’s wedding it is this: She made sure my drinks were covered throughout the reception… but even after all this time hence, I still don’t feel as though I have showered enough to wash off the memory of that bus ride.