The 62-Hour Bus Trip and My Polka With a Fighter

The Greyhound bus.

62 hours on a bus. It was an interesting journey. Very scenic, something I’ve never seen or done before, or do again. There was an amorous old couple, a gross bus toilet, highway closures, a chick who met a Montrealer and, well, they made poutine, semi trailer accidents, a drug runner who had to pick up his car in Nipigon, and gorgeous scenery.

The scenery itself made me proud to be Canadian. There’s something about being able to conquer this harsh terrain and flourish in such a climate. I wish they would twin Highway #1, but that’s something we’ll work on. I originally wanted to take the train, since you can often find cheap, last-minute deals, but nothing went to Ottawa, only Toronto. If you want to know what the scenery was like, take a look at the video I made.

I understood what I was doing: taking a bus (a step up from a car… maybe) across 2400 kilometers in the dead of winter. It was cheap, $106 including taxes, and I already had experience with long-distance bus travel since I had done it from Hanoi to Vientiane (that one was only 24 hours).

The trip brought me back to my youth when my family did a road trip across much of Canada to visit some relatives. This was a little different: I slept on the bus, I didn’t know anyone, and there were some sketchy folks on the second bus that caught up to us in Thunder Bay.

In particular, I remember the city called Wawa because, as a kid, we bought a moose here that had a shirt with “Wawa” printed on it. The name of the city became a joke among the passengers, with just about everybody laughing and saying “wah-wah-wah.” But there we were, stuck until the roads were opened again. Wawa.

And Wawa is the city that would present me with the highlight of my trip: a polka with a guy I’ll identify as “Mr. Fighter.” There was another individual, but he dislikes cops so I’ll identify him only as “Mr. Montreal” (not to be confused with the Montrealer who was teaching the Winnipeg chick how to make poutine.)

Mr. Bus Driver did warn against having a few drinks, but that only stopped me from sipping the wine I’d brought onto the bus for the trip. I wanted a beer or two while I checked my email. So I walk down the road from where the buses are parked and enter one of the restaurants that is still open. And that’s where I meet Mr. Fighter and Mr. Montreal.

So we had a few.

Well, Mr. Fighter dude couldn’t hold his booze very well and passed out at the table. It was kinda funny, actually. Apparently they’d been drinking before they got to that restaurant. When I got there we had a few shots, mostly tequila, and then he just dropped his head and went to sleep right there at the table.

The time came to leave. As we’re walking back to the buses, Mr. Fighter mutters something completely incoherent. Mr. Montreal and I agree, thinking we could just keep going. It works the first time, but now Mr. Fighter dude is on the highway, with large snow-plows going by. Finally, he turns to us, mutters something incomprehensible again, we tell him we’re going back to the buses, he says ‘no’ and sprints down the highway in the opposite direction. I’ve never seen a drunk man run so well. Perfect form, he would put Olympic sprinters to shame.

Mr. Montreal and I stand there kinda confused. We don’t want to babysit him, but at the same time we didn’t want to read in the papers about this guy passing out and dying in the snow. For all those thinking that it would’ve been smarter to just leave the guy, you’d be right. I commend you for your foresight. But, we go look for him.

We find him at the Tim Hortons sipping a coffee. We ask the lady working there, who’d just come out for a smoke, what would happen if we just left him there. She said he’d probably pass out and then they’d call the cops.

I don’t know why, but we thought it best to take him back. We go inside and get him. He seems to be better with the coffee.

As we’re walking back to the buses (again), I compliment him on his amazing sprint down the highway and that he was actually able to buy a coffee. Well, that seemed to set him off. He takes the lid off of his coffee, splashes it in my face, and starts swinging his arms at me.

Mr. Montreal is just as surprised as I am by the sudden change. To be honest it wasn’t really a fight, more like a polka. I wasn’t sure if Mr. Fighter was serious, he kept coming at me with his hands in the air and his eyes wide open. He reminded me of a monkey. I really wanted to ask him if that’s how he learned how to fight, maybe it’s a distraction technique? I decided against further instigating the approaching monkey and instead concentrate on trying to deflect the wild beast.

So we grapple, and turn, and do the polka all the while Mr. Montreal is trying to talk him down. I keep telling Mr. Fighter that we’re trying to help him, but he keeps telling Mr. Montreal to stay out of it, he just wanted to hit me. Just once.

There was a moment I thought about letting him hit me, Fight Club style. I mean, I’d done Thai boxing but never actually fought before. I quickly let that thought perish as he came at me monkey-style again.

Realizing this wasn’t going to end well, I ask Mr. Montreal if he could pin him so I could clear out. We manage to get him down a few times and start to back off but the guy just kept getting up. Kudos on the tenacity and endurance.

Finally, on the last polka he grabs at my face and grasps my glasses. Up until this point, the worst thing that had happened was the fact that I was covered in coffee, but now he had manged to grab my glasses! Mr. Montreal is finally able to pin the guy to the ground. But I can’t take off until I get my glasses!

After a little bit of a struggle, I manage to tear my glasses away, they’re not broken but they definitely had more of a modérn look to them, and who knows how long they’ll last after they’re fixed.

So Mr. Montreal pins Mr. Fighter to the ground and that seems to do it. I take off and, looking back, see Mr. Montreal take off as well. Mr. Fighter just lies there, a monkey sleeping on the side of the highway. How serene.

And that’s why you don’t go drinking while stranded in the middle of nowhere: some people get cabin fever and can’t deal with the stress of sitting on a bus for that long of a time.

The next morning I tell the bus driver what happened. He is less than happy to hear about it. They find the guy out and I say all I want is the replacement cost of my glasses. Understanding that there’s nothing really that can be done, pressing charges would mean having to come back to Wawa to be a witness. My goal here is Ukraine, not a court battle.

Settling back down into my bus seat I make a discovery that made me laugh pretty hard, kinda like a crazy man. I notice that the lids on the Tim Hortons coffee cups have a penis and vagina on them. Typically you fold the plastic lip backwards onto the cup to make a drinking hole. Well, the lip that folds back had a what looked like a vagina, and the part it clips onto looked like a penis. Not two seconds later, the Winnipeg chick and Montrealer step out of the hotel.

At this point I think I’ve gone crazy and am thinking about other things I’d rather be doing than sitting on a bus, driving through a Canadian winter, having polka’d with a crazy drunk guy and still only 2/3s the way to my destination.

The rest of trip, thankfully, passed by pretty uneventful. We left Wawa around 9 am and made it to Sudbury a few hours later. Having made it to Sudbury, we transfer to another bus that then takes us onto Ottawa, finally! All being said and done, 62 hours on a bus! I commend the Greyhound bus drivers for their navigation of the weather and roads (though others have seen fit to bad-mouth them). But I’m not sure I’ll be signing up for another epic bus trip, even if it’s dirt cheap.

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