Student recounts social experience in Greyhound facilities

art by Alex Charnes


These past couple years I’ve spent a good majority of my Friday afternoons in the local Greyhound bus station — a desolate place, but not without a number of charms — with my younger brother boarding busses bound for Houston to visit my father (as I have not yet received my license. No shame.) We always board the 5:25 p.m. bus, but the 5:25 p.m. is most frequently a 6:35 p.m., and occasionally a 7:45 p.m. due to traffic and what have you. Thusly, our waiting on and off the bus becomes notably excessive, but bears an excellent opportunity for character-studying and people-watching.

Greyhound’s bus stations are host to a plethora of people from numerous backgrounds, people that — should they choose to disclose their lives to you — provide an intriguing insight into realms that some have only briefly witnessed.

A few months back, a man wearing a do-rag and boisterous persona didn’t need to be asked before revealing his life story. I was speaking to a man I’d just met in line named Justin before he walked through the door. When he did walk through the door, he gave us a brief history of his illegal drug trade in Houston’s Fifth Ward, before asking Justin for a dollar. Justin then said something along the lines of, “I’ve never seen someone go to that much trouble for a dollar before.”

After my party boarded the bus in the same row as the do-ragged man, he began heckling the bus driver, as the bus was already very late and yet to start. The bus driver responded with a trenchant, nearly cinematic (and maybe even scripted) monologue that left his heckler muted for the rest of the drive. Needless to say, I was impressed.

Late 2013, my brother and I could only get seats in the last row of the bus, as the more immediate rows were already taken. Sitting nearest the window, a 20-something-year-old man we sat near began talking to me as the bus left the station. He told me the plot of recent events in his life up until he started speaking to me. His mother passed. His father had passed years before. He was now taking the bus to Houston to claim sole guardianship of his younger brother . He told me he left the dean’s office of his electrician school in ruins in a fit of unbridled rage that morning. He also told me he’d never been able to cry, no matter how hard he tried.

Following the same routine every school day, I rarely converse with those outside my immediate friend group, and while I do wholeheartedly appreciate them, the encounters I’ve had in Greyhound facilities have impacted me to an admittedly greater extent. In an enclosed environment, it’s easy to forget that the world is full of this many personalities and opportunities for interaction. It’s also easy to forget that not everyone has a background similar to yours. But if everything was as perceived in isolation, the world would be a much duller place, something I’m humbled to acknowledge.