I arrived in Toledo on Wednesday afternoon. The guidebook mentioned that there was a viewpoint outside the city, on the other side of the river. I walked to the town square and found a bus stop. I asked several people which bus would take me to the viewpoint. I pointed to the guidebook.
There was a little discussion; people asked other people. A middle-aged man and woman with blond hair confirmed that the 62 or even 61 would work for me. When the 62 arrived, we all lined up. I asked the woman how much it cost. She told me 1.40.
The bus driver was a woman in her 50s. This was the beginning of the route; I had seen her driving past the other way just a little while before. I sat in the front seat, catty-corner behind her. I want to be able to see where we were heading so that I don’t miss my stop.
The bus wound around town, downhill, and then along the main road. We neared the train station and the blonde woman tapped me on the shoulder and told me that this was the station. I thanked her and said I was okay. I heard the man say “Is she sure? This is the station.” In retrospect, I realize that they thought I intended to walk to the viewpoint and I thought that the bus was going to take us there.
The bus continued going past the station out of the downtown area. I kept waiting for us to turn right so that we would begin angling toward the viewpoint, but we never did.
And then we merged onto the interstate. The Spanish may have a different word for their transportation network, but this was definitely a 4-lane highway, and I knew the 62 was no longer working for me. We stayed on it for a couple miles and then exited.
The area we began driving through may have been in the process of some widespread expansion. There were a lot of buildings on one side of the street and comparatively little on the other. It was definitely a local route; we seemed to stop every 500 feet. Every time the bus squealed to a stop, my heart hurt because I knew that we were getting farther away. We were no longer in Toledo. We were now at least two towns over.
People got on, people debarked. Finally, we stopped in a little bus terminus. It was not a station, more like a wide parking lot.
The driver turned off the engine. The bus was now completely empty except for me, and I was making no movement to exit the bus. I was looking forward, trying to ignore the fact that the bus was no longer in motion and I was the only passenger on it. It was a bright afternoon, partly cloudy. We were facing west.
She turned around and looked at me. Her head seemed to move in slow motion as it swiveled. There was a moment of silence as she stared at me, like the showdown in a cowboy movie. Then we started talking, by which I mean she started speaking in Spanish rapidly.
She spoke so quickly that I couldn’t follow what she was saying and simply replied in English, based on what I thought she was saying based on her tone, body language, and context clues:
“Okay, here we are, end of the line. You getting off the bus or what?”
“Yeah, sorry, no. I got on the wrong bus.”
“Did you not hear those people who got on with you who told you where the train station was?”
“They were so sweet. I thought the bus was going to turn for the viewpoint and it never did. Here, let me show you a picture of where I want to be in my guidebook.” I reach back in my backpack and show her the guidebook and point to the viewpoint.
She peers down briefly. “Yeah, you’re fucked. We’re nowhere near that. Did you not see that we got on the goddamn highway?”
“Yeah, I saw the highway, but it was too late to get off at that point.”
She looks out the windshield as she continues talking. Her eyes are screened by the visor but her mouth is in the sunlight and continuing to talk in rapidly-delivered Spanish.
At this point I glance down and see that she is holding a cigarette. I am almost certain that she says some things to herself about how she is not going to get a smoke break because she can’t get out of the bus because I’m still on it.
She continues talking. At some point, she moves her hand over the cash till. I immediately reach in my pocket for change for another ride. I am desperate. I cannot get off this bus.
“Do you want me to pay again for the ride home?”
She shakes her head. “No, you moron, just sit back down.”
Relief floods through me as we start back, through the apocalyptic suburb, over the interstate, and back into town. When we get to the train station, she turns her entire body around and gestures to me that this is the stop. I think she wants visual confirmation that I am actually getting off the bus. I thank her profusely as I walk to the back exit and step off into Toledo.
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