Many readers of this blog have asked me if there might be a sequel to my adventures with Guda the Penguin, or at least with the Greyhound bus line. (That adventure has been the clear favorite among all the posts from this summer.)
On Monday of this week, I landed in Los Angeles from a long trip performing and teaching in Tuscany. Now my task was to get to New Mexico to begin my new assignment teaching at New Mexico State University. My budget did not allow for another flight, and the train to Deming would not get me there in time. This meant another 14-hour bus trip, and my choice was Greyhound or the El Paso-Los Angeles "Limousine." Around Deming, it is also known as "the chili picker bus" because the essential crop grown around here is the New Mexico chile, or chili. This bus line connects Los Angeles and Las Vegas to New Mexico, El Paso, and several cities in Mexico.
Since I had heard good things about this bus, and it was cheaper than Greyhound, I asked my friend to drop me off at their terminal. This is on the corner of 6th and Wall in Los Angeles, an area that looks a bit rough even in the light of day. "You sure about this?" he said.
Appearances can deceive. The terminal is a bit beat up, the walls could use some paint, some of the seats inside have been slashed. On the other hand, I was greeted by a friendly and bilingual staff and made to feel welcome. They checked my suitcase. The company doesn't have a uniform, but staff went about its business in a professional manner. Right on schedule, they announced that our bus was boarding.
The interior of the bus was clean and comfortable. In contrast to Guda the Penguin's threatening ramble, the driver of our bus said nothing. Everyone just sat down and he started driving. Nothing to talk about. We stopped for a food-and-stretch break near the Coachella Valley and this was his announcement: "25 minutes please."
As we drove across the California desert, he played a movie. Greyhound doesn't show movies. If you aren't in the mood for a movie, you're kind of stuck, because there are no headphones: the sound comes right over the P.A. It was a movie with lots of explosions and screaming, too, so tough luck if you want to read. I watched the lousy movie. The driver also liked music, and for the first half of the trip he played Spanish-language pop and mariachi. Later at night, he cut it off so passengers could sleep.
At 5:30 in the morning, the bus pulled into the parking lot of the McDonald's on Pine Street in Deming. (The driver's announcement was: "Deming.") Greyhound would have charged me twice as much money to stop in Deming. The "limo" didn't charge anything extra: I paid the same fare whether I hopped off in Deming or stayed on the bus all the way to El Paso.
It doesn't make for entertaining stories, but it was a far more pleasurable experience than Greyhound.
Brand names and uniforms aren't everything.