Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Aboard the Greyhound Express: Accident and an Audi

The inauspiciousness of the journey that lay ahead; e.g. almost being killed is not a good start

“They tried to speed up and cut us off, like this was Fast and the Furious. Ain’t no Fast and Furious,” the black man next to me said, to whomever would listen. I nodded. The damage looked terrible – the underside of the Audi had come loose, the tire had popped, and the side mirror, obviously, lay in shards. We – the other passengers and I – were loosely milling around the Greyhound bus, surveying the five cop cars and two scared 20-year-olds and our big-bellied bus driver.

“We got Miley Cyrus here whining and complaining and acting all scared; they probably hit two other people on the way there,” the European across the way exclaimed. The accident, as it were, happened 5 minutes after we left the Greyhound bus depot, on the corner of Market and Fernando Street in San Jose. We were supposed to arrive in LA at 6 a.m.; now, none of us had any idea when we would arrive.

“We didn’t want to be there on time anyway,” the bald man next to me says. We all laugh a little.

The details of said accident; or why I slept on Santa Monica pier for 4 hours the next morning

The accident sounded as bad as the damage. I was just falling asleep when what I was woken by a large aluminum can being crushed from both sides, the air hissing out while the crackle of metal sparked in the air. At that moment, our bus was making a right turn in the second-to-the-right lane; a black Audi was in the rightmost lane making the same turn. The big, wide berth we made apparently wasn’t enough, and the two cars squeezed together against each other. The Greyhound bus won, so vigorously that the Audi was literally lifted onto the curb.

Immediately after the accident, the driver walked down the aisle, passing out slips of paper. “Fill out these papers for claims adjustment, please.” I look at the paper: “It is required by law that Motor Bus Companies shall make reports to the US Department of Transportation and the State Public Utility Commission concerning all accidents. Your assistance to Our Driver in the performance of his duty will be appreciated. WE THANK YOU.” There are 10 questions:
  1. 1.      Were you a passenger on the bus at the time of accident?
  2. a.       Mark Seat Occupied on Reverse Side
  3. 2.      Place of Departure?
  4. 3.      Final Destination?
  5. 4.      Where did the accident occur?
  6. 5.      Time of Day?
  7. 6.      Date accident occurred?
  8. 7.      Were you injured in the accident?
  9. 8.      Did you witness the accident?
  10. 9.      How did the accident occur?
  11. 10.  Was the bus stopped before the accident occurred?
I start to answer each when I look up at the man next to me, who has begun to shout. “I’m not doing anything until you tell me when we’re getting to LA.”

“I don’t know when we’re getting there,” the bus driver says, sighing.

“Well I’m not filling out crappy paperwork. I’m not going to help you with your problem, I have a plane to catch.”

There’s a rumble from the back of the bus. “Shut up. The sooner we get this done the sooner we can leave.”

“You might get something out of it,” the bus driver explains.

“I don’t need anything out of it. I’m not filling out anything.”

“We’ll probably be an hour late.”

“Let me out, I want to get some fresh air, just because we’re going to be here for a while.”

I wonder if anyone is going to sue Greyhound; or, if we would get a refund.

The humanity of the situation occurring through conversation with strangers

“Damn that’s a nice car,” my seat partner says as he steps off the bus. “They’re driving that? That’s 55, 60k right there.” The bus is damaged as well. There’s a dent where on the luggage compartment door; during the crash, there was a big bump that felt like the entire bus was falling down a step. We were literally a minute away from the highway ramp.

At this moment, the driver, who is 65 years old, with white glasses, a blue shirt with a starched collar, and a lick of white hair (he looks like a grouchy retired postal worker) is arguing with the 5 police officers (who came in 4 different cars) on the scene. He blames the twenty year olds: they tried to squeeze past the bus on the turn and failed to judge the gap accurately. The police officers aren’t buying the story. “You’re going to have to go to court to explain your case,” one of them tells the bus driver. “You should always be turning on right most lane.”

The rest of us are just watching. Most of the officers have their arms folded, and are looking around. There’s one bystander who is writing down her version of the events on a single sheet of paper. The bus driver is still gesticulating. “Last time got into an accident we were late for 4 hours,” someone mentions. Someone else visibly sighs. It’s going to be a long night.

The best thing to happen is the lowering of social barriers. Passengers who wouldn’t have exchanged one word during the ride are now joking with each other; there are two black guys riffing off each other, doing pull-ups on the traffic signal bar, asking the two girls driving the Audi what happened.

The accident occurred at 11:25 p.m. At 11:46 p.m., the hot dog vendors have smelt their pray and are out in full force, hawking their wares. My mouth watered. At 12:33 a.m., we file back onto the bus and continue our journey. “The midnight riders ride again!” someone yells. Everyone starts to clap.

I strike up a conversation with my seat neighbor until both of us, exhausted, fall asleep. We’re at LA by 6 a.m. 

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