Wednesday, October 04, 2017
Today I am grateful for bus trips. Travel agencies, Senior Centers and my YMCA Active Older Adults group plan bus trips all of the time. They are very popular because many people dislike driving in traffic. Some might have increasing physical or vision issues. Many just like being with more friends than a car can hold, so bus trips are a wonderful way for them to travel. They can experience new places and see things they might not otherwise get to see if on their own. So when the AOA planned an excursion to West Point Military Academy in New York, Himself and I decided to go.
The last bus trip we were on was 20 years ago to visit a kangaroo refuge, walk through the rain forest with koalas hanging in trees and see the fairy penguins come back to land after feeding, in Melbourne, Australia. I loved each stop. My problem, and we all know I have numerous problems, is that there was never enough time.
I would just be getting on a first name basis with a kangaroo and we had to “get back on the bus.” The people in front of me, usually those smart enough to pick the first seats on the bus so they could get off first, ambled along the path towards the koalas, blocking my way, so that by the time I got to see them it was time to “get back on the bus.” I was having a wonderful chat with the kitchen staff at a lunch stop when the call to “get back on the bus” rang out. I find that kind of time-structure emotionally constipating. And I’m sure I pissed more than a few people off when I was the last one to board every time. Every time! I wasn’t a good and proper tour bus patron. Sorry. Great for all of you who love it, but it just wasn’t for me.
But that was twenty years ago. Now that I do all of the driving, I thought maybe it would be nice to be driven. So we decide to go on the trip to West Point, with both of us suffering from compressed vertebrate and sciatica. . .and me with a wide-load-bottom and two replaced knees, on a crowded bus. Wedged in, with the seat belt attachment creating a divot in my ass the size of a demitasse cup and Himself clutching for dear life on the handle of the seat in front of us so he isn’t pitched into the aisle at every turn. Good thing there was a bathroom, because at least in there he could move around a little. He said it was like trying to pee while atop a mechanical bull. Ride ‘em cowboy!
An accident on Highway 287 caused us to run almost an hour late. This is a disaster for a bus/tour schedule and bit us in the ass for the rest of the day. Ouch. West Point was wonderful. Our tour guide knew her stuff and the bus had a fantastic sound system making it easy to hear her. She certainly gave us a taste of life on a military academy, although I got confused by her use of the word “plane”. I kept looking for the wings, but she meant “plain” as in field. Geeze. I would have loved to see the cadets lined up to go into lunch, but you can’t have everything, even when you’re on your own, so it’s okay.
Lunch was delicious; however, when you are trying to feed a bus load of 40 plus people, not everyone gets their lunch at the same time. Just like in Australia, the seasoned bus-trippers knew to sit in the first seats of the room. Dumb rookies, like us, went to the back of the room, last table, on the end. Even so, Himself was the first person to get his food because out came the beef! I had given what the waiter thought was the last fish meal to a charming lady next to me who had a physical handicap and would need some extra time to eat. That meant I was the very last person to get my fish because they had miscounted how many they needed. Swell.
Those in the front of the room were done eating long before I was served. I was smart enough to use my time wisely and go to the one-stall bathroom. I dodged that line later. Yippy. But the minute our desert was put in front of us I heard, “Time to get back on the bus. We have to hurry. We’re running late. Hurry. Right now.” Oh boy. I got the waiter to box up the deserts of the couple next to me, then grabbed her walker to hustle her out of her seat. She laughed and later teased me that she still had two French fries left. I owe her. I won’t forget. Neither will she.
The weather was perfect, making the boat ride on the Hudson River wonderful. Then back on the bloody bus! No worries, I learned there was to be a stop for dinner on the way home. Twenty minutes! Am I back in Junior High? Choke it down and get to Geography Class? We worked together like a pit crew that didn’t have to change tires. I sent Himself to the McDonalds counter with my order and hit the bathroom on firm land because I had way too much trepidation to ride the mechanical bull. I was the first person back on the bus. Winner at last!
The tour and boat ride were great. The weather couldn’t have been better. The people were awesome. But I learned that being on a large bus is a little like being the last elephant. It doesn’t matter who’s in front of you because the view is always the same.
I reinforced that I like to drive. I like to stop when we want and go when we want. I like to open a window. Or close a window. Or put my handicapped placard in the side of my sunglasses to block out the sun. I like to drop a bad word every now and then. I know you’re shocked. I get a little claustrophobic. There is a rumor I might be a bit of a control freak. Oh knock it off, you probably are, too, so shut up!
I respect very much the joy so many people get out of bus trips, but as for Himself and me, even counting in how much fun we had, we will “probably” never do it again. The actual bus ride was just a deal breaker. But even now I won’t say “never”, never, because I said that after the Australian experience and guess what?
Am I’m smarter now? Don’t count on it. It’s just best for all involved to not test it by stuffing us onto a tour bus in the foreseeable future. I celebrate that many of you love them and regret very much that Himself and I do not. We will be following behind in my car. And you won’t have to listen to me kvetch. You’re welcome.