I left at 11pm on a Friday night. When I looked at the driver, a young Chinese man who seemed to have minimal English skills, I thought: Is this the same maniac I rode with last spring? The one who was so reckless--tailgating cars at high speed, as he simultaneously played around with his iPod, talked on his cell phone, and tried to adjust a loose window shade? So reckless that after he'd nearly gotten creamed a couple times by trucks he was passing on the right, a young woman passenger ran up to the front of the bus and sobbed, "Could you please go slower?!" (All she got was "OK" in return and no change in driving habits.)
Yes, it certainly looked like him. And his aggressive driving habits were just the same. I drifted off to sleep for a while....
Bright lights. Oh, good, we're making a rest stop.
No. What are those red and blue flashing lights?
A voice from outside: "Sir, may I see your license and registration?"
He handed them over. "Sir, we clocked you on the radar going 83 in a 60-mile-per-hour zone." A long pause, while the state trooper wrote up his ticket.
"Where you heading?"
Dead air in response.
"Uh, where you headed to?'
"Where are you going?"
"Go New York."
After the driver got a ticket for several hundred dollars and four points on his license, we moved on. And it was at that point I realized I would need a bathroom soon. Often there's a rest stop--but not always. I should've ducked off into the woods while we were stopped.
Oh well, I hate the smelly, rocking restrooms on buses, but in an emergency...I staggered to the back of the bus in darkness....
Locked! With no one in it! The bastards!
As we passed the various celebrity rest areas on the Jersey Turnpike, I kept hoping...but no. Finally a sign for the Lincoln Tunnel told me we were nearing the city. The bus was scheduled to stop first at Penn Station and then in Chinatown. The latter stop is walking distance from my house, but at 3:30am was I really going to walk? And could I wait that long? No, a pit stop in Penn Station and then the A, C, or E to the F was the obvious choice.
Slightly hunched over in pain, I staggered into Penn Station. Lots of people waiting for trains to Long Island, sprawled in weary clumps after a night on the town. I followed the erratic restroom signs...to a "ticketed passengers only" waiting area...that was closed. Was directed up the stairs and to the right...to another one that was closed. Or was it. The grate was almost all the way down, held up a foot or two from the floor by one of those ubiquitous yellow signs that warn of a wet floor. I could hear someone cleaning inside. I grabbed the bottom of the grate, pushed it up, and walked in. A gormless janitor was washing the sinks.
"I just got off a bus from DC with no bathroom, so I don't wanna hear any shit!" He gave me a clueless grin.
I was so relieved I wasn't even bothered by the man playing slow, deliberate, arrhythmic conga drum on the subway car home. Do your thing, bro.