May 14, 2006

Hop On The Bus, Gus

I had a friend in high school named Bob. He was from a large state in the Midwest, evidently one of many children. Bob had been sent to live with relatives in California when I met him. Bob was a liar. He lied about everything. Bob told people he was an heir to a fortune, he said that he had been sent to California because he had crossed the wrong people back home and a bunch of other stuff. All lies. I know because his aunt told me that he was full of crap. She said that he came from a dirt-poor family, that his dad had run off and his grandfather was raising Bob's siblings. Bob had been sent to California because he was always getting into trouble. I mostly liked Bob because he liked me. I also came from a poor family. When my dad got paid my mother would confiscate the grocery money before he drank up the balance. Our clothes were mostly hand-me-downs from neighbors and our home was not a place you bring friends. My selection of possible best friends was limited. Even with his shortcomings, Bob was okay most of the time. He knew that I knew so he only tried to BS me about half the time. When I was 17 and a senior in high school Bob decided that we needed to go to San Francisco. It was about 110 miles northwest of out town and Bob said that we would drive his car, an old beat up Chevy Impala. Interestingly, our family car was also an Impala, one year newer. The definintion of poor has to be having a family car roughly equal to that driven by your white-trash high scool friend. The plan was to spend the night at Bob's place and then we would drive to San Francisco for the day and then drive home the next evening. I had just been paid from my part time job so I had $60 bucks in my pocket. Bob swore he had some money too. I should have demanded to see it, but I desperately wanted to go to San Francisco, so I didn't. We drove to my house to ask my Dad if I could go. After quizzing us about the details he said okay. We drove back to Bob's. When we arrived he announced that we would be hitchhiking, rather than driving. He claimed that his car wouldn't make it. Oh, by the way, we would be leaving immediately, not in the morning. His plan was to drive to the truck stop on I-99 and ask truckers to give us a ride to San Francisco. I was wary, knowing there would be hell to pay if my dad found out, but finally agreed. We drove to a truck stop called Blueberry Hill on I-99 north of our town and began to look for a ride. We asked about 10 or so drivers for a lift before a guy in an Allied Van Lines truck said okay. Once we were on the road he said he was actually going to Reno via Sacramento, not to San Francisco. The driver said that he could drive us to Sacramento and that we could more easily get a ride to San Francisco there than we could from Blueberry Hill. The problem was that Sacramento was still 100 miles from San Francisco. After driving 2 hours we would be no closer than when we started. Bob assured me that this was a superior plan. To this day I am sure the driver was playing a dirty trick on us. The driver also turned out to have world-class bad flatulence, making for a tough two-hour ride, but we made it and he deposited us in Sacramento at a freeway interchange. We stuck out our thumbs and soon a car stopped. The fellow driving told us that we were on the wrong side of town to hitch to San Francisco. He gave us directions and we began to walk across town, periodically stopping to try and thumb a ride. Then it began to rain. It was about 7 pm. We walked and walked looking for the highway to San Francisco. At about 10 pm we found it. We were pretty much soaked by then. We again stuck out our thumbs and almost immediately a car stopped for us. It had four young guys on their way home to Davis, California, a big college town. They were very drunk and we soon were hurtling down the highway. I was sure I was about to die. One of the drunken guys suggested that we take the Greyhound bus to San Francisco. That sounded great to me. They dropped us at the bus station, which was closed. A sign on the door said to wait on the bench and to pay the driver when the bus arrived. So we waited. At about midnight a bus came by with "San Francisco" in the destination window. I asked the driver about the fare and he said $6. He said he would collect the fare when he was ready to leave. He unlocked the door to the terminal and went in. We quickly found seats on the bus. At last we were safe and off our feet. In a few minutes the driver came around, collected my money and gave me a ticket stub. He asked Bob for his money and Bob told him that he didn't have any money, not a cent. His plan was for me to pay for him. The driver told Bob to pay or get off. He got off. I sure wasn't going to San Francisco alone, so I got off too. The driver told me tickets were nonrefundable, so my 6 bucks was gone. I told Bob I was going home and started walking back toward the highway. I also spent the time calling him names. We managed to thumb a ride back to Sacramento and get to within about 5 miles of I-99. It had stopped raining but was now foggy and cold. We walked to a freeway entrance and stood right by a sign saying hitchhiking was prohibited. We thumbed and we thumbed to no avail. One problem was the thick fog. I'm sure that drivers didn't see us until the last instant. I think it was about 2 am by now, After a while Bob got the idea to stand on the ramp in the traffic lane, so than a car would have to stop or run him over. I told him he was an idiot and that he was going to get killed but he wouldn't listen. Soon, a car turned onto the ramp and Bob jumped out waving his arms. The car braked and stopped. It was a California Highway Patrol cruiser. Bob scurried to the side of the ramp and the trooper pulled over and got out. He was very angry. He asked us what we thought we were doing and I told him the story. He asked for our ID, I gave him mine, Bob had none, and the officer returned to his car. We were told to stay put. When he came back he opened the back door of the car and told us to get into the cruiser. He said that we had violated some law or another and that he was taking us in. Visions of my old man beating me danced in my head. The trooper got onto I-99 and began to drive south. I was more scared than I had ever been. I wondered what jail would be like. Would my old man have to drive up to get me out? Should I kill myself now or wait for him to do it for me? The Trooper kept driving south until he left the Sacramento city limits, and then, just kept going. After about 20 minutes I got up the nerve to ask him where he was taking us. He didn't answer. We passed through Modesto, Stockton and Turlock, getting closer to our town. It began to occur to me that he was taking us home. Did he have to put us in our local lockup? I asked again where we were going and this time he said that he was going to Fresno for a meeting and that he would drop us off at home. I couldn't believe it. As long as the old man didn't find out, I was home free. When we reached our exit Bob told him to drop us and that we could walk the mile home. No dice. He took us to my house and pulled right up into the driveway, just as my dad opened the front curtains. It was 5 am. The officer told us he didn't run us in because I had told him the truth. I'm pretty sure he just thought I was a danger to myself and that he needed to get me off the streets fast. My dad stood in the living room staring out the front window. We slinked in my front door. Dad asked us why the cops brought us home. Bob immediately launched into this long story about what went wrong with our plans to drive and my Dad cut him off saying, "Bob, I will take your story with a grain of salt, stop talking." I suspect the cop had his dispatcher call my dad when he was checking my ID. I expected to be in real trouble but I wasn't. My Dad did tell me that he thought there was something seriously wrong with Bob. Yep. Tag:

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