Leave the Driving to Us

I had lived in San Francisco without the need for a car for quite a few years. The East Bay, San Jose, and even Marin County were easily accessible via public transit. However, to get to Sacramento, or to my parent’s home in Nevada City, I had to rely on Greyhound. I had ridden Greyhound for quite a few years and had met quite a few colorful characters. But few would compare to this ride.

I was to meet some friends in Sacramento and then we would head off for a camping event. I had left work and run to catch the early bus so that we would have more daylight available to us. I should have taken my time. But at the time, getting the first express bus seemed like the best idea. And normally it would have been.

We had only one stop between San Francisco and Sacramento and that was Oakland. Quite a number of interesting folks got on there, but there was one in particular that stood out. He was well built and muscular and was pulsating with nervous energy. He seemed quite agitated, the type of agitation that results from certain recreational drugs. I immediately thought this guy was trouble. But he settled down soon after we got onto the freeway and it seemed like we would have a quiet ride after all. And we did, until we got to Davis.

As we were passing by Davis an older black lady who was sitting in the front row with her husband traversed the narrow aisle way towards the lavatory in the back. She had passed me and was a few rows back when I heard her say, “Oh, I’m sorry”. And then Mr. Agitation became very vocal. Bitch this and bitch that.

The woman, quite wisely, retreated to the front of the bus. But that didn’t soothe Mr Agitation’s rage. I kept on. Now making threats. I should kill you.... If I had my gun... When we get off the bus... and on and on. The woman’s husband got up and tried to talk sense to him. But he was beyond reason. And he got up and advanced. The two of them came together right next to where I was sitting.

I was sitting against the window and a young lady was sitting in the aisle seat. I stood up, she slid into my seat. I put one foot on her seat, launched myself into the aisle between the combatants and pushed them apart. Stop this now!

As I pulled my left hand away from Mr. Agitation, it was covered in blood. In fact there was a spray pattern of blood all over the seats, my pants and my brand new white tennis shoes. The older gentleman was sporting a nasty little cut over his eye. He had used a pocket knife to poke some holes in Mr. Agitation, while Mr. Agitation in return had used a sharpened crucifix to cut the gentleman’s face.

We were now on the side of the road. The drive had pulled over when the fight began and jumped off the bus and run to a call box. He came back from the call box and told everyone to get off the bus. The old black couple had already gotten off and were heading for the frontage road. Most of the passengers got off and I kept an eye on Mr. Agitation who was now pacing around in the aisle bleeding profusely as his girlfriend tried to talk to him. Eventually, I too would get off the bus.

We were very close to the Yolo Causeway and I could see Sacramento in the distance. And this being before the ubiquitousness of cell phones, I had no way of calling my friends to let them know what had happened. The police and ambulances arrived in short order. Mr. Agitation had gotten off the bus and was still pacing like a wounded animal. He had to be restrained by the authorities and tied down to the gurney. And then he was taken away. The couple who had been beating tracks the whole time were picked up by a police car and taken away.

As for the rest of us passengers, our statements were taken by the police. Actually the police hadn’t seemed too interested in talking with me, even after the other people on the bus had mentioned my part in ending the conflict. But I eventually gave my tale and they left.

And we, the passengers, remained stranded on the side of the freeway. We got to watch the next four greyhound buses pass us by on their way to Sacramento. Four hours later an Amtrak bus came to pick us up. It seems there had been no other Greyhound buses to pick us up. So Amtrak came out to rescue use. And boy, was their bus nicer than the Greyhound bus. The seats were very comfortable.

As we headed back to Sacramento everyone was talking with one another. We had all been brought momentarily together by our shared trial. I was talking with one fellow about Mr. Anxiety and how crazy it was that this entire episode had begun because she had tripped over his foot.

The guy shook his head and grinned a bit. “I was sitting right behind him. She didn’t trip over his foot. She tripped over mine.”