I rested my head on the thick warm glass as the bus wielded through traffic intermittently. As we accelerated and switched lanes, there seemed to be a slight delay of movement from the bottom half to the top half of the bus, and the sensation made me somewhat woozy. It was such a heavy thing, with all of the people and bags and wheels, and I thought about how common it would be for us to just topple over into the medium, or drift into collision with some unassuming truck or tree. For as statistically dangerous driving is, becoming a bus driver should be a difficult process, and obtaining an operator's licence should really be regarded as a prestigious achievement.
I could hear Pancho Villa telling a man sitting behind him about the various public places in Chicago that used to permit inconspicuous drug use.
"It was before all the goddamn socialists took over. Remember that? I remember when the frats in Lincoln Park used to sell speed at the door instead of plastic cups. Me? No I never went. I ran around with a group that went to the frat houses though," he said. "All the goddamn democrats got up and took over though. Now we can't even smoke a goddamn cigarette fifty feet from a building. You don't think ther'll be another prohibition? There sure as hell will be, if Obama has anything to do with it. Goddamn socialist. They're taxing soda that isn't diet, you know that? Vice laws. I used to be able to smoke weed right out in the open. Right in the middle of the goddamn park. Now I can't even smoke a cigarette outside." He coughed from the depth of his lungs and glanced periodically in the rear view mirror at the babe sitting behind the man he spoke with. The man wore a khaki brimmed hat and leaned towards the driver with his right arm perched up against the back of his seat. "I hear ya," he said, "Tell me about it. No shit. I hear ya."
In my ideal Utopian society, becoming a bus driver or a cabbie would be one of the most prestigious endeavors. I'm sure if Sir Thomas More was alive and created a modern revision of his book, Utopia, he'd likely agree with this priority. The bus driver would be the economical equivalent of the doctor or the politician. Even private citizens would undergo grueling tests to obtain a driver's license, which would have to be renewed every five years or so. Car accidents would then be as socially shocking as plane crashes.
More's Utopia valued agriculture and simplicity, which mine would also uphold, but I would add that the public transporter is one of the most socially undermined positions. Also, More's world implemented slavery, which is pretty fucked up. My Utopia would not have slavery, or name tags, or romantic comedies starring Matthew McConaughey, or the "Twilight" series, or acrylic nails, or Twitter, or Miley Cyrus, or Nicholas Sparks, or Oprah. Most importantly, my Utopia would not allow small talk of any kind.
Art would be valued, college would be free, there would be no vice laws, and dogs would be strictly prohibited from wearing clothing. There would be tax incentives for those who didn't obstruct justice, who promoted goodness, who befriended their neighbors, and for those who displayed general perspective and humility. Of course the reality of the world is not close to my ideal, and if the babe's chicken leg was remotely visible to the boisterous driver, the MegaBus and all of the ugly people inside would probably crash into opposing traffic.
Wheeler was listening to the driver and laughed under his breath after certain comments. He turned towards me.
"You know," he said, "every time I've ridden on a coach bus in the last couple of years I think about that Canadian wack who decapitated the dude sitting next to him."
"I didn't hear about that."
"Oh yeah. It was on a Greyhound. This normal looking guy just started stabbing the passenger next to him in the middle of the trip. Like 50 or 60 times or something. Then he decapitated him, and ran up and down the aisle eating the dude's flesh. It was one of the most fucked up things I'd ever heard about."
"Isn't it? How can people be that fucked up? And people are supposedly made in God's image. What about that guy, huh?"
He looked up and down the aisle. "It makes you wonder, right? Like everybody looks so normal, but you never know what's really going on inside. Hot Cheetos over there might be a real psycho and we'd never know by looking at her. Or the Amish dude. Maybe he's leaving the city because he was just on some serial killing spree!"
"I doubt that," I said.
"There are so many mysteries in the world, in the universe. You know? Aliens, the Bermuda Triangle, God... I think we're the biggest mystery of all though. Fucking people. Who knows why people do what they do.We'll never know either."
"I don't think it's that mysterious. I think people are just selfish. That guy on the Greyhound just wanted to do that."
"Yeah you also said you pride yourself with not knowing things." He smiled and the western sun hit his face, making his teeth look bigger and more bucked than usual.
"I still have an opinion. It's probably wrong, but I still have one."
We stopped at a McDonald's about 40 minutes north of Janesville, Wisconsin.
The driver got on the intercom, "Okay folks, we'll be here for 20 minutes. 20 minutes. If you're not on here in 20 minutes, we're leavin' without you. And if anyone wants to buy me a big mac, no mustard please."
The guy in the back with the deep laugh lost control, and every body's heads turned towards him.
"With that laugh and a few more stops at McDonald's, he's gonna have a heart attack," said Wheeler.
I stayed on the bus while Wheeler went inside to get us food. I buried my head in my lap while the chicks walked past. After the bus refilled, Wheeler was the last to return. He didn't have a McDonald's bag, but instead he carried two cucumbers and a plastic knife.
"I went across the street to the dairy store," he said, "This is better than nasty burgers and greasy fries."
Everyone around us made loud noises with their red and white paper bags, and the smell of fried meat and pickles doused in mustard lingered between the royal blue rows. Wheeler struggled to peel the cucumbers with the bending knife. He took the peeled scraps and rubbed them all over his face.
"It's good for you," he said, handing me a piece of green skin. I rubbed it on my face then held the used scrap in my hand.
"That does feel nice," I said.
When he was finished he ate the pieces he'd used on his greasy face.
"Are you gonna eat that?" he pointed to the one I'd rubbed on mine.
"That's really gross." He took it out of my hand and ate it.
"You're so much like Cait, and you don't even know it."
"Cait Hackett? Or Cait Finn? We don't even know what she's like," he said.
It was getting dark outside and the babe was now sitting on the skinny tough guy's lap. The bus smelled like burger fart, and Wheeler revealed yet another pint of whiskey from his other sock. Pancho Villa watched the babe deviously in the rear view mirror, and I kept imagining the MegaBus veering off into a perilous catastrophe because of it.
A vision of scarce trees blended into a green line as we moved forward, and I couldn't help but notice how plain it all was. Every mile looked the same as the last. I tried to percieve the dusty gravel road and the patchy green fields beside it as beautiful or interesting, but I could not lie to my own instincts. It was all ugly, every single mile. The sunset was brilliant though, as it arguably always is. No matter the place or weather, the setting sun is always beautiful. As long as there is a sun, there will always be two distinctly beautiful moments in every single day; the sunrise and the sunset. The light began to hide beneath the ugly green fields, and I closed the window shade to block the intensity.
"Is it okay if I put my head on your lap?" said Wheeler.
"No, no, it's not at all okay actually."
Instead, he curled himself into a ball with his back toward me. I tried to sleep but couldn't distract my brain from the monotony of M*A*S*H, and the reoccurring vision in my head of toppling over into a ditch. My Utopian bus driver wouldn't resemble Pancho Villa at all, I thought, but would be someone cool and distinguished looking, like Anderson Cooper or Gregory Peck. Yes. Gregory Peck, in fact. Gregory Peck would be the absolute ideal representation of my Utopian bus driver, I thought...