I made it to a rest stop just outside Flagstaff, Arizona last night. I was outside, standing between two semi trucks and listening to the bits of traffic that are still going on the highway at that very late hour. I started thinking about yesterday's post and it took me on a thought train to another delightful tale. When I came in to post it, I read the comments from yesterday and there was a request for exactly that story. Clearly it is time to tell it. By the way, all of you readers out there in internet land, I LOVE comments, please feel free to leave them for me, like little surprise gifts.
After about three weeks in San Francisco I realized that I wanted to be in a place where I could turn left, freely, among many other small conveniences that I had, until arriving in SF taken for granted. So, I left. I wandered around for a few months and settled down in Silver City, NM to go to college. I lasted a while there, and had a good time for most of it.
That winter though, was the worst winter in history, there was record temperatures and record snowfall. It was beautiful but I didn't have any heat in my tiny, roach and mouse infested house. I decided enough was enough and started planning an exit strategy. I had recently become friends with a tiny man named Alex who really liked smoking weed and trying to put his best game on my hot blonde neighbor. I am pretty sure that he only befriended me in the beginning to get to her, but later we became actual friends.
I don't remember exactly how he got to be part of the exit strategy. I am fairly certain that one day I was talking about going back to San Francisco and he inserted himself into my plans by changing all the "I" and "me" statements into "we" statements. I'm pretty sure that I just went along with the "we" as to not be rude.
At any rate, "we" decided to take his car. Ironically his was a red Pontiac too. I started selling off my stuff and giving notice to things and generally working out a way to get enough money to leave.
One day Alex ran into my house, breathless, talking about this amazing new school bus he just acquired. I was a little taken aback and somewhat disappointed, it was hard enough to find a parking place for a tiny car in SF. After hearing his tale of how he got it, I was a little less sold. He told me that it was an old, 1950's school bus that had been sitting in someone's back yard for the last few years. He passed it everyday on his way out of his own driveway and he finally decided to knock on the door of the house and ask after it. The owner of the bus said that he wanted to get rid of it and would gladly trade Alex the bus for his car. Alex immediately jumped on it and signed the title of his perfectly good car over for the giant bus.
I tried to be excited, and for a while I managed to convince myself that it was a good idea. Some highlights of the bus
*No power steering
*Air brakes broken, it stopped, but slowly
*Had been previously occupied by at least three families of rats and one family of raccoons.
*Was missing a piece of the floor in the middle of the walkway, so that one could see the highway while sitting in the bus
*No air conditioning or heat
*The paint was peeling off and it looked much older than the 50 years it claimed.
-We attempted to fix that by spray painting things all over it, but we only had yellow. It looked awful
*There was no gas tank
-You read correctly, No Gas Tank. When I asked Alex how an extremely old, gas hog of a school bus runs all the way to California without a gas tank he (of course) had the "perfect" solution.
He wanted to bungee small, 5-10 gallon gas containers all around the bus, and use a garden hose to feed it into the gas pump that would feed it into the engine.
*It had a salvage title that neither of us could afford to work out, so we couldn't get it registered or insured
*It was the WORST IDEA EVER
I went with him everyday to the spot where the bus was parked and diligently cleaned and painted it, tried to get excited about arriving in SF with the ugliest, most obscene vehicle known to man. If we could even make it at all, without bursting into flames from all the gas we were surrounded by in the 4 ton bus without brakes.
I tried to picture my life involving the bus and I slipped into a thick bog of depression. I cried myself to sleep a few times. I felt like that was the only option to get out of Silver City, and I needed to get out of there.
One morning about three days before we were planning to depart I realized that the only reason that Alex and that fucking bus were even involved is because I was trying to be polite in a conversation. So I tried to back out.
I went to the parking place as usual and tried to tell Alex that I was out. I didn't want to go in the death bus to SF, and I would figure something else out. He was naturally devastated. He had very high hopes for death bus and thought that everything would work out. I am usually the first one to jump on the "everything will work out" train, but I hated that bus. I walked away from him, and tried not to look back as he held his head in his hands and cried. We had tried on numerous occasions to trade back, but the previous bus owner had finally succeeded in getting rid of it, so all of our pleas were to no avail. Alex even offered to trade back and throw in a couple hundred dollars...no dice.
The next day Alex again, ran breathlessly into my house. He said, "get your stuff we're leaving right now!" I wasn't ready and I told him that I wasn't going in the bus. He informed me that it was okay, he got his car back and we could take that. Relieved, I started gathering my things, throwing stuff into a suitcase and doing last second figuring of what I could leave behind. Alex kept looking out the window and checking his watch. His body language was incredibly sketchy. I asked him what was going on and he assured me that he was just eager to get going, and happy to be rid of the death bus.
I went outside so that I could say goodbye to my neighbor and Alex's car wasn't in front of my house where one usually parked when coming to visit me. I looked around the side of the house and finally went around back. I found the car, parked as far away from the street as possible, hastily covered with snow and branches. I marched right back in and demanded to know how he got his car back.
He stole it.
My options for going with Alex basically amounted to risking my life in death bus, or grand theft auto. I told him that I was just going to take the bus, and that he should return the car before he went to prison. I bummed a ride to Albuquerque the next day and arrived safely in San Francisco via Greyhound.
I never heard from Alex again.