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The Pan-American Bus from Hell

I’m usually very calm when I travel.  A seasoned veteran of the airport wars, I no longer get excited at the prospect of getting on a plane, hopping a train, or even setting sail on some beastly behemoth of a boat. To me, travel has just become something of a routine that I fall into with ease.

In fact, it’s become rather boring so to spice things up in my travel portfolio of “Stupid Things I’ve Done,” this trip I decided to take the Pan-American bus….through the jungles of Panama and Costa Rica because taking a Greyhound through Kansas is just too normal for me. I’ve seen the purple plains. I’ve enjoyed thousands of miles of wheat fields. It was time for some different scenery.

Cruising down a jungle highway in a Pan-American bus sounds more Indiana Jones than it actually is. The jungle has been cut back and replaced with the Pan American Highway, a paved two-lane road that is so filled with bumps and potholes as to make for one really fun amusement park ride which is fun for maybe about 10 minutes.

After just a few miles of driving down it, you’ll understand why the U.S. Invaded in 1999. Noriega was supposed to use all that drug money he wasn’t getting to fix the roads so the U.S. could drive tanks into Columbia. Instead, oh look , there’s another pothole.  Speaking of Noriega, the bus just passed a sign announcing the town of Gamboa. It read “Gamboa: Permanent Home of General Manuel Noriega.”

That’s one reason I love traveling. It’s great to see other countries throw their corrupt politicians in prison. In the U.S., we just reelect them.

If you’ve ever traveled by bus, you know the greatest annoyance is boredom. To stave it off, I packed a book, my trusty iPad (shameless product placement,) some headphones, and since it is only my second long bus trip, a baseball bat just in case a brawl breaks out.

As luck would have it, my headphones have broken, the overhead light is out, and the iPad is down to 40% battery…and I still have14 hours to go. Fortunately, the seasoned traveler I am, I have prepared for such disastrous contingencies and have deployed emergency measures for the other passengers  safety…a bag of chocolate, a bottle of rum, and my eCig. If any of these run out before we get to a rest stop, there’s a real possibility some of these people might not survive the journey.

For example, the grossly obese woman sitting next to me. She’s first on my list if the Hunger Games start. She’s elbowed me five times in the past hour.  When we boarded she and her boyfriend treated me to a front row seat as they played tonsil hockey one last time before parting. I’m all for love, however, if I’m going to be forced to be that close to a public display of affection, I expect at least a peck on the cheek. Maybe even a reach around. But, tonight’s just not my night and I didn’t even get a “let’s just be friends.”

Then there are the kids across the aisle. There is a two yr old, a four year old, and an infant. Right now, the tots are happy and playing, I give them less than three hours before war breaks out over who is crossing the imaginary demarcation line between their seats.  When that war breaks out I’m putting money on the two-year old. She looks sweet and innocent with those pigtails and dimples, but behind that smile I see tiger blood starting to boil.

Then there is the baby. He’s busy nursing right now. He’s content and happy. I understand that. I’m usually rather quiet and content when I’m suckling a breast, too. And, like most infants, I drift off to dream a peaceful sleep right after.

It’s the waking up part that has me worried. That’s when there’s usually a lot of crying and someone has an uncontrollable urge to go to the bathroom. I already know it’s going to stink and be messy.

Speaking of stink, who the hell ate the burrito? I’m all in favor of a law that vendors shouldn’t be allowed to sell gas producing goods in bus stations. Better still, they should make people fill out a form before being allowed to board any mode of transportation carrying anything other than livestock. “Oh, you ate a burrito for dinner? You’ll need to wait 24 hours before being allowed to travel on this bus.”

Now, the back of the bus is where the real fun is happening. We can hear it up in the front of the bus. That’s where the globetrotting college kids are. I swear, college kids are either getting dumber or more brazen, and I’m afraid a little of both. Two Kiwis, a couple Aussie blokes, and three German frauleins have decided it’s orgy night on the Pan-American bus as it chugs along the bumpy ole’ highway. Kids, we can’t see you in this darkened bus, but that doesn’t mean we can’t hear you…and to the really cute gal in seat 23, you should break-up with your boyfriend. 20 seconds is just pathetic by even the most lax standards.

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