On to Mobile

19 10 2009

The Greyhound goes West before it goes North.

From the Panama City station, we pulled out shortly after 5 on a Sunday evening. The bus was nearly full and it would get fuller as we made several stops before my switch in Mobile, Alabama.

Alabama. The Heart of Dixie. This is where I received my college education.

Those were the days.

Flash forward some 20 years and here I am riding the bus with all of my worldly-belongings stuffed into a bag in the seat underneath me.

Looking around, there wasn’t many clean-cut professional types on this particular route. In fact, there were some pretty hardened criminals on board. This I noticed before boarding in Panama City. Seems the ol’ Hound is how some law enforcement agencies elect to transfer their folks…in bright orange jumpsuits, of course.

Riding along was a healthy dose of our country’s rising Hispanic population. The bus is their means of transportation as well.

Occasionally, a baby would cry and there was spurts of chitter-chatter among some of the passengers. One man spent a good 45 minutes running down the people of Bay County.

“Pay County!,” he declared. “That’s what they should rename that place.”

I got the impression, instantly, that this man was glad to be getting away. He wasn’t the only one.

As we passed through Panama City Beach — where the construction boon during the Bush years transformed this sleepy Southern outpost into a major player on the vacation circuit — the man became more irate.

“Overbuilt,” he decried. “Look at all those empty condos.”

Although he was sitting across the aisle, I did not wish to engage this man in his commentary. His head was a little too shaven for my taste. He looked like the kind of person who was steadfast in his convictions. And plus, he seemed really angry.

We picked up more passengers the closer we got to the Alabama line. Thankfully, the angry man got out in Pensacola. His seat taken by a young lady with a carefully constructed appearance.

She smiled and pulled out a tube of lipstick from her purse.

I went back to reading my book. The bus driver reminded everyone that we were bound for Mobile and if anyone wanted to stay in Florida they had better get off now.

“Where ya headed?” the young lady asked.

“New York,” I replied.

“Oh.” She seemed surprised. “Why?”

“To find work,” I said, trying not too sound too friendly as I very much wanted this conversation to end. Must keep my guard up, I thought, for it will definitely be needed in the City.

Her interest piqued and her confidence bolstered with a fresh tint of makeup, the girl didn’t want to stop talking.

“I’ve never been to New York,” she said in an admittedly cute backwoods drawl.

I continued to read my book.

She got the hint.

The layover in Mobile was five hours. Utter boredom. There would be no stops on the drive to Atlanta and I slept the entire way. I was the only passenger to get out at the airport.

I was leaving one demographic and joining another.

Onward, must press onward!

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