First, if you think this about a celebrity sighting, well, no. It isn’t. If through some Google search you stumbled onto this thinking there’s some crazy story about me and an encounter with a great character actor, well, thank you for bumping up my hits.
Last summer when I took the bus to my residency it was around the time that a Canadian gentleman went a little crazy and stabbed a passenger in the middle of their trip with a steak knife. I know this could be a little unnerving to some, but these things happen in the world and you can’t go around thinking you could be next. Seriously, I knew people who moved to California and were in constant fear that every truck rumbling on the street was the Big One that would level the state. “I’d rather have hurricanes/tornadoes/blizzards because at least you see them coming!” they would say.
Really? You mean that you’d feel better knowing every time a crazy person was going to threaten someone with a knife somewhere? You’d feel better having every little pety crime blown up to national safety alert status? Hey, no biggie, that’s what Fox News is all about. Listen, the world is full of the unexpected. You can’t live in fear.
Total digression, but a few years back I had some use-it-or-lose-it holiday time so I planned a trip to DC. I’d never been, wanted to go, flights were cheap, done. After planning the trip, there was that guy going around killing people, the sniper in the car, Malvo I think was his name. Anyway, people were coming up to me saying”You cancelled your trip, right? That guy’s still at large!” And you know what? He was, but I was still going. Because I could have gone to ANY CITY ON THE PLANET and had something happen to me. One known guy shooting people isn’t any different than any number of unrelated random events happening anywhere else on this planet and, to be honest, the numbers didn’t indicate I was any more at risk that anyone else. Two days before I left, they caught him. I enjoyed my trip without incident.
So before I left today Suze kept saying “Don’t sit next to any crazy Canadians!” because, well, because she loves me and wants me to live and come home. Okay, I can dig that. But short of interviewing my fellow passengers the best I could hope for was to trust any sort of hinky vibes someone might be putting out there. No vibes, near empty bus, smooth trip.
Until White River Junction.
WRJ is right on the border with Vermont and New Hampshire, and the bus depot (a dingy bunker if ever there was one) is where drivers trade off, gas up, and people make connections elsewhere. It’s also where everyone has to get off the bus and take a break. This time when we get back on we’ve got a new driver. He’s a stocky dude, red hair combed five different directions and in layers, a week’s worth of beard on his face, and a croaking voice. If you were blind in one eye or squinted just a little you’d swear you were looking at American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Just before we get under way Bus Driver Hoffman goes up and down the aisles checking tickets and passports for those going on beyond Montpelier into Canada. As he nears I hear him give some sort of comment to every rider, in a flat monotone suggesting an aging comedian forced to work the lines at Disneyland. “Two more stops for you.” “No, I don’t need to see your picture, we let customs handle that.” “Next one’s you, buddy” (said to me). Only after he passes do I realize: I’m surrounded by Canadians.
I did not panic. The Chinese woman behind me was asleep the entire ride, and the woman across from me was too busy reading Ken Follett and secretly eating a five-dollar-foot-long sub to even notice I was alive. As we pulled out of WRJ (aka Nowheresville, USA) I was satisfied that the ride would proceed as it had, calm and normal and–
“Welcome aboard Greyhound 9143 with service to Montreal. My name is Tony and I’ll be your bus driver for this leg of the trip…”
What I thought was going to be a simple announcement was anything but. Tony (if that is his real name) went on to run down the various destinations along the way, approximate times of arrival, and then into some rules and regulations as riders. And some more rules and regulations. And some more.
“If you do use the lavatory please remember to lock the door. This is to ensure your privacy and comfort and to prevent the door from suddenly opening, either from another passenger or on its own. I’ve seen both situations in the past, this model bus in particular is known for it’s faulty door locks…”
What the hell? The crazy Canadian on the bus is the DRIVER?!
“Also keep in mind that you are not to annoy or offend you fellow passengers or in any way cause injury or harm while on the vehicle. This includes offending sounds and well as odors from nail polish remover, permanent markers, aerosol sprays of any kind, and that includes feet. People, if your feet are a little funky — and you know who you are — you need to keep them in your shoes at all times.”
I’m laughing. I’m holding it in but I’m laughing. The way Tony Seymour Hoffman is running through his spiel it’s like he’s given it a thousand times, yet it also sounds like he knows who’s on the bus. I also can’t help but wonder, since I’ve never heard anything like this in the past, if this isn’t somehow connected to the incident last summer. Was someone driven over the edge by stinky feet? Would that be enough to turn someone homicidal? Could a faulty door lock have caused an embarrassing situation that lead to cold-blooded murder? Did the legal department at Greyhound just sit around and try and nail down every single customer complaint into a single policy once and for all?
Fifty minutes later we arrived in Montpelier, without incident. As I retrieved my bag from the storage bin I thanked Tony Seymour Hoffman and he flinched, as if a rider being kind to him was as shocking as a slap in the face. A crooked twist of a smile crossed his face and for a split second I almost asked him if he was related to a famous actor. But if I’d done that I would have been the crazy rider of the day. So I turned and hoofed my way toward school and watched the bus lurch toward Montreal.