One day not long ago I rode a bus from the city to the small town that is nearest to my cabin in the woods, and discovered how convenient, how comfortable, that archaic means of travel can be.
It wasn’t necessary to open my suitcase for its contents to be inspected at the departure station, or to remove my shoes before boarding. No scanning devices were passed over my clothing.
The vehicle on which we rode was spotless and seemed sparkling new. Its seating capacity was 50-some, but the number of riders that day was eight — which meant a passenger could take whichever seat he or she preferred.
I chose a window seat. Instead of rushing clouds and a plane’s wing, the ground-level view was of rolling green pastures, lush as golf fairways, trees just coming into leaf, and contented cattle grazing.
The driver was a congenial man named George Fike, in his mid-50s or possibly early 60s — experienced and careful.
Several small communities were served by buses along that route, which ran from middle Missouri south to its terminus in Arkansas.
My fellow passengers were a mixed lot.
At one stop a young soldier in combat camouflage — most likely home on leave from his deployment in some unsavory place — got off wearing his pack and carrying a heavy duffel.
In the seat just across the aisle was a young woman with a smartphone, engaged the whole ride in an animated conversation.
We departed one minute ahead of schedule. And arrived exactly nine minutes after the promised time at the place — a siding just off a major highway — where I was met by a friend to be driven to the cabin, our lodging for the spring turkey hunt.
I’ve gone that way by car many times, often driving alone. But on this day I got there fresh, instead of worn from sharing the road with livestock trailers, towed boats and enormous 18-wheel trucks. But pleasant as that small trip was, I’m aware the quality of any journey can be influenced by circumstances.
I once had a friend, a Frenchman, who traveled to the U.S. to visit a relative living in our city. Of course a plane delivered him from Paris to New York. But then, for economy’s sake, he bought a bus ticket to Kansas City.
Regrettably, with little command of English, he was unable to understand announcements the driver made at occasional rest stops. So for the entire duration of the trip — one full day, plus an additional five hours and 45 minutes — he was unable to leave his seat for nourishment or any other purpose, out of fear the bus might leave without him.
I recall the recent ride of mine as relaxed and pleasant, but his memories were only of hunger and profound discomfort.