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Traveling with Thomas
By Thomas Emmon Pisano
US Correspondent
A bus stop in the U.S.

Now this thing all started on April 1, 2007, (April Fools Day). I boarded a bus in North Hollywood, California in the afternoon. Now you might think that American transportation busses are spacious and roomy and full of luxury, but they are not they are crowded and the seats are very small.

I under took this adventure to see what is going on in the wonderful city of New Orleans, Louisiana, to get a fresh perspective and to put a little excitement in all our lives. So far this has been a hard trip, I discovered that I cannot sleep on a moving buss and that I hate sitting next to another passenger, but still it is progressing nicely. It is now April 3rd I have my laptop on my lap I am sitting here in the Greyhound bus terminal in Huston, Texas.

This place is crowded, Huston is a transportation hub for the United States and at five in the afternoon everyone is going everywhere, it is also time to have dinner but the only restaurant here in the terminal is a Kentucky Fried Chicken and it is standing room only, so I have chosen to wait until later, I have a layover until one in the morning for my final leg of my trip to New Orleans, I will arrive there at eight in the morning.

At the moment I have a man, he looks like a farmer, in a seat in front of me trying to conduct a conversation with me. Obviously, I cannot talk and write at the same time.

This terminal is a mad house, people are running back and forth with bags and children and the loudspeakers are blasting in several languages the information needed to connect people with their destinations. I am sitting in the waiting room out of the way.

By the way the security in these terminals all across the country has been downright paramilitary; the border patrol checkpoints are guarded by men and women in camouflage and carrying automatic weapons at their sides. The office of Homeland Security is definitely making its presence felt. If you are a bad guy you will not be able to move around this country, security is everywhere and they are armed and dangerous. Our nation is ready for trouble, and to tell you the truth, I am glad that they are watching.

I have been traveling at night on the bus, arriving in major cities in the mornings, it has taken me two and a half days to get through the state of Texas, this state is gigantic and when I was in El Paso, I discovered that a lot of Americans are living across the border in Juarez, Mexico, they work here in Texas and live across the border where their dollars go farther.

I have learned a lot on this trip, for instance, there are places where the beef cattle are standing in the millions, and cows stretch as far as the eye can see here in Texas. Another thing I have learned that if you are in the middle of an aggravating situation, just wait a few minutes and it will go away leaving room for a new aggravating situation.

Here is something else I discovered while planning this trip to New Orleans. That Amtrak Rail Service has a policy; they start selling seats on their coach service at reasonable fares, but as they sell seats they raise the price depending on availability. I was going to take the train but by the time I got around to buying a ticket the fare on line went from $129.00 to $253.00 just that fast I lost a chance to get a good seat on the Sunset Limited, that made me mad.

This lesson I learned about logistics was invaluable, I brought food with me, a lot of it, from the grocery store, special things, which would travel well. For instance, beef jerky and whole-wheat crackers are indispensable. Snack nuts and dried fruit will pass the long hours on the boring bus ride. Oh do not forget bottled water buying a couple of six packs of twenty ounce bottles will save the day. They charge a lot of money for every thing in these transportation hubs that is airports and bus stations as well. You are captive at these stations and they are not ashamed to charge you an arm and a leg for a bottle of water, or anything for that matter. By the way do not throw the bottles away, they will serve to refill from water fountains and that will save a lot of money in the long run.

The overall situation is adequate at best, but to tell you the truth there are a lot of stories on the buses and while you are waiting for the next connection. People, I guess out of boredom, are willing to tell their life stories and I have found that some of them are truly amazing. For instance, yesterday there was a cowboy in the seat across from me on the bus to El Paso, he had done everything and been everywhere, but now he was a truck driver on his way to pick up his next load. We talked for many hours and had a lot of laughs. But basically he was hungry to make a difference in the world and told me that he love to pontificate over the citizen band radio he had on his truck.

On the first night out of Los Angeles there where two flirty girls who were going to beauty school, one of them had very exotic eyes and I enjoyed many hours of conversation with them and learned much about their lives and interests.

Here is an example of just how weird things are here in these terminals; a well-dressed man was having dinner at the table next to me, we had been having a polite conversation. As he was rising to leave he leaned over to me and asked me for a dollar.

There are all walks of life here in these bus terminals and you have to be on guard for predators and con artist; virtually all personality types are to be found in this environment. The fat, tall and the ugly, pretty and special, all peoples use this unique form of public transportation. I will write one more article about this trip and then we will explore the food, fun, music, and state of mind of the proud city of New Orleans.

This is your columnist on a lay over in Huston, Texas, Thomas Emmon Pisano.

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Mr. Thomas Emmon Pisano, an electronics-engineer-turned professional writer, serves as US correspondent for The Seoul Times. A New Jersey native he has lived in California. He has started his writing career in 2003 and has authored four books including “No Murder Too Small” and Big Crimes Small Miracles.”






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