City of Lights

Sleepless on a Greyhound bus from LA to Vegas, Kara Rennie lets us into her mind

by Kara Rennie

“We will now dim the lights for any passengers that want to sleep.”

So, what the driver is strategically saying is that anyone who is currently reading or planning on doing so has to decide whether to be considerate and respect his decision or inconsiderate and switch the beaming reading light on.

Be an arsehole or not be an arsehole.

Thanks, driver.

Greyhound buses do have a high crime rate, perhaps keeping the peace, at least for now, is wise. Temporarily-not-be-an-arsehole, it is.

My book was my distraction and I don’t have a back up. What to do now? How does one entertain oneself on a night bus with minimal artificial light?

Oh, this is lonely.

*

People watching is fun. I’ll give that a whirl. Really, given the close proximity people-lurking is perhaps a more appropriate term. If only they knew.

Good evening humans, let’s play a game of “Who are you and why are you on a night bus from LA –> Vegas?”

First up, lady a few seats down from me wearing the cosy looking jumper, what’s your name and where’d you come from? Tina from downtown LA! That’s who! Because I said so! My guess is that she’s come straight from work – figured it’d be cheaper and sensible to hop on a night bus, sleep it out and be sort of refreshed at 1.15am or whenever we arrive, to go and meet her friends at the hotel bar. Perhaps a hen do. Perhaps just a weekend away … I know! She’s doing a solo-trip because she likes it that way okay? Who needs companionship in a casino? It’s not the most sociable of hobbies is it, gambling? Is it even classed as a hobby? Probably not.

The group of boys to my left – are they Aussie? Essex? I couldn’t work it out earlier. I’ve been in America a couple of months now and everyone thinks I’m from Australia. For some reason. I guess that’s a thing here. As a native Essex person I’m pretty positive that they are Aussie. Look at them, all sleeping on each other’s shoulders – that’s nice. They seem nice. I can guarantee that they are straight to the bars when this bus pulls in. I don’t blame them.

This game is stupid.

Who’s next on my list of entertain me or I’m turning all the reading lights on?

The guy at the front near the driver. He’s well dressed, very smart. He took the first seat he got to though – what does that say about him? Lazy, that’s what! He’s packed light – maybe a business trip? Probably called Ted. I bet he’s a business-trip-but-grab-an-In’n’Out-burger-on-the-way-home kind of guy. I can only see the back of his head – who am I even kidding? I know nothing about him.

Adjacent to me, is L. I know her, she’s with me.

Man, I wish I could sleep.

lightsquote

*

I turn my gaze to the driver, the only other non-sleeper at the moment. He has kind eyes. His name is Bill. I know this because he has a name tag. I wonder whether that’s his real name or a fake name. You know, because of security and all that. He doesn’t look tired at all. I know how you feel, Bill.

Shit, did he just see me looking at him? Can he read my thoughts?

I wonder whether he enjoys his job or whether he gets really lonely on the road. How does he find driving a vehicle this size with the added responsibility of passenger safety? Sounds stressful if you ask me.

I feel like I could ask Bill questions all day. In my head.

*

Wow, everyone is fast asleep, including L. How can they do it? What are they dreaming about? From right to left I’m guessing: an ex-boyfriend, home, not dreaming, not dreaming, buffets, airports, teeth falling out.

I don’t know.

I could be dreaming right now, too.

Okay, I’m out of people …

*

Sometimes I wonder whether if the people you cross paths with, you’ve crossed paths with before or will cross paths with again in the future, anywhere in the world. It’s weird to think about.

*

iPod is out of the bag and headphones are in. Soothe me, sweet music. Shuffle, do your magic!

Oh.

Not this song.

Ugh.

Only a couple of hours to go.

Everyone at home will be getting up for work right now.

I miss home. I wonder what the weather is like over there today.

Don’t think about home.

*

I wonder what Vegas will be like, if I’ll like it. I read that there are nearly 1,000 people living beneath the hotels, in the tunnels. They’ve built there own little homes down there. What a contrast, all that wealth up top and all that poverty underneath. I hope that at least some people are kind to them. Some of the richer people, I mean.

I think we’re due to make a stop soon. A big gulp and some kind of snack could temporarily cure my boredom.

They are all still fast asleep. What’s their secret? Can we swap brains?

Switching off is impossible.

Well … unless you’re one of these selfish arseholes.

*

Hooray! We’re stopping! I see 7-Eleven and fresh air and potential snacks.

Wait. What if I get off the bus and the driver forgets me and I’m stranded here and L will wake up to no-me?

This journey only cost me $14 – is he really going to do a head count? Doubtful.

I look Bill-is-that-your-real-name? straight in the eye “I’m just going to go stretch my legs and grab a drink”.

Probably-Bill nods. He doesn’t care.

I look behind me and notice that one of the boys from the bus has followed me out, looking bleary-eyed and grumpy.

Well, at least you could sleep, fucker!

The cashier is putting my items through.

I look outside for the bus.

Still there.

Still there.

Still there.

I take my Big, Big Gulp (only $0.99 extra), 1 x Butterfinger, 2 x Peanut M&M’s and a bottle of water.

Safely back on the bus, I retreat to the back, ready to wait it out as if it’s some sort of zombie apocalypse.

I lay down at the back of the bus, using my rucksack as an unsurprisingly uncomfortable pillow. I feel myself finally getting tired and secure my drink and snacks in the holders.

The bus jolts and I’m awake, again.

Why?

Oh wait, I see lights! I must have slept longer than I thought.

I sit up and realise that the whole bus is now awake.

L smiles at me.

We’re all now peeking through the curtains as we slowly approach the City of Lights.

So much light.

Appropriate name, then.

We met someone in the hostel in Santa Monica who said it’s the brightest place on earth when looked at from space.

“Look, there’s the sign!” I say to nobody in particular.

A 25-foot sign welcoming you to sin. Sin to your heart’s content, we won’t judge you! You’re safe here.

We’re entering the Strip now. The streets are buzzing with civilisation and everything is so big.

A pyramid shaped hotel, roller-coasters on hotels, roller-coasters in hotels and probably what has to be the world’s largest McDonald’s.

Americans.

I can’t wait to get off this bus.

*

The driver takes the next left and we’re now away from the busyness and noise and down a side street on our way to the bus depot.

I move back over to the right of the bus and stare out at the city that never sleeps. Oh wait, isn’t that New York? Surely it’s more appropriate here. Maybe they share the name.

Imagine if they had a power cut here.

We arrive at the depot.

Bill gathers everyone’s luggage and places them on the pavement, which is nice.

Everyone quietly gathers theirs, some thanking the driver, some not and all going their separate ways.

I wonder what hotels everyone is staying at. I read on the internet that there are over 60,000 hotel rooms on the Strip. I wonder whether it’s ever at capacity.

L and I order a taxi from the information desk and discuss different types of taxis. Does Vegas have its own special taxis? Like how New York has the yellow cabs. Maybe.

Our regular-looking taxi arrives and we lean on each other, exhausted. The driver attempts conversation but quickly gives up. We’re tired.

We arrive at our motel. You know the type. The ones used in sleazy or creepy films. It’s exactly like that. Rooms overlooking the car park. It’s pink. Grotty-looking pool.

Great.

I throw my belongings down, lock the door, double-check it’s locked, triple-check it’s locked and move the chair that I can only describe as beige in front of the door for double security.

I lay my head on the musty-smelling pillow (also beige), and think about who slept here last and whether they felt as lost as I do right now. I don’t know what to do, or who to be or why I‘m incapable of just enjoying the now.

I’m exhausted.

See you in the morning, vibrant city.


 Kara Rennie | @karajrennie  

Kara works in the book industry and coincidentally always has her head in a book. She’s a fan of film and television, travel and sampling the very best cakes. She’s forever searching for something. She writes things sometimes.