I am writing this on a comfortable and safe-feeling Kerrville Buss Company vehicle, in Texas just after US 84 crosses the state line with Louisiana. Greyhound bus travel in the South is as terrible as Eddie and Sonny predicted. For much of the journey I was jammed next to the toilet between a very fat woman and a very scary-looking man. Worse, Greyhound’s magical-mystery philosophy of bus scheduling — such as overbooking a bus by nearly 100% and sending on my checked luggage two buses late, meant much of the travel was mentally stressful, as well. Then there were the extra connections which contradicted earlier information, chronically late vehicles, the fact that Southerns can’t line up…
Oh, that brings me to another part of the rant. Part of my vacation reading is P.J. O’Rourke’s Peace Kills: America’s Fun New Imperialism, and in it he makes the point that one of the hallmarks of civilization is the ability to form a line. The context was the rowdy and riotous behavior of Iraqis during (unneeded) aid dispensation, but O’Rourke may well have been describing the behavior of Southerners in Tennessee. The most charitable position that I (as a supposed descendant of CSA General John “Swamp Fox” Mosby) could make of this is that the evolutionary biologist Steven Pinker was right to describe the south as possessing a noxious “culture of honor.” Physical aggressiveness almost matching the anarchic-but-non-violent behavior of Beijngers in the subway was the norm, and may be a way of indicating that one is not to be trifled with (even if one is old, fat, and theoretical female).
Part of my anger comes from seeing how those even less familiar with bus trave than I fared. Through much of the trip Mexican families, an Asian Indian couple, and a Chinese man were sharing the bus with me. Their stress rose visible through our hastles and indignities, and I shudder to think that many will see that slice of the South as “America.”
Yet perhaps my anger at the Land of the Lost Cause is misplaced. (Incidentally, I wonder if it is aggravated by constant displays of the Confederate National flags, the Confederate battle flag, the Confederate Naval Jack, etc. I don’t recall being upset by the iconography before, as part of my family was pro-Confederate West Virginian, and I generally favor the preservation of whatever images people love. But you lost, I kept wanting to say, get over it. I could continue, but back to bashing Greyhound…) Several of the riders I traveled with blamed Greyhound’s sorry state on lack of competition. Certainly my earlier positive Greyhound experiences were largely supported by the happy treatment I received before Indianapolis and after Texarkana.
(Hmm… this opens up whole new areas of exploration. A Barnettian economicist v. a Huntington culturalist view of bus services? Some cool Catholicgauze maps showing the overlap between Dixie, transportation competition, and shoddy services? An excellent reflection on bus quality and poetry from Phatic Communion.)
Well, theoretically we are approaching Nacogdoches by-and-by. I shall sign off, weary from my travels.