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Monday, 27 August 2012
All the excitement of the greyhound
The bus journey from Ottawa to Edmonton took 52 hours in total. Here are the events of day one:
I sat on a bus today.
And here are the events of day two:
For most of today I sat on an uneventful bus. For most of the journey I had had two seats to myself, that changed at Thunder Bay when the most enormous passenger of the trip boarded. Of all the seats available he chose to sit next to me, perhaps I have a friendly face, or a skinny arse. Either way I was left with half a seat thanks to the 6'5" (height and breadth) of the excellently named Andrew McCooey. As the driver came down the bus to count the passengers he pointed out that there was a double seat available further back. To my astonishment Andrew declined. Unbelievable! I was too shocked/polite/British to say I'd take the other seat but if Andrew was staying on all the way to Edmonton I'd have to move.
After half an hour of squashed silence Andrew spoke 'Where you from?'
'I got a friend from England. He used to live here but he got deported'
Five minutes passed then Andrew spoke again
'How long you been here?'
'About a week in Canada'
He reached in to his wallet 'You seen Canadian money before?'
'Err. Yes I've needed to use it a fair bit this week'
'How about American?'
'Actually yes, I was in New York at the start of my trip' He seemed disappointed that he had nothing to show and tell so he rooted in his wallet and puled out a card: 'Firearms Licence'. Oh God.
'You wanna know why my buddy got deported?'
'If you want to tell me then yeah'
'He stole his Dad's money and car and got in a high speed pursuit with the cops'
'That would do it'
'He like to drink too much'
For five hours I was sat next to/underneath Andrew McCooey and the conversation ran as smoothly as a rubix cube down a sandpaper slope. I couldn't figure him out, he was either slow, a danger to the public, desperate for a new friend or all three. It was like the most awkward first date. Topics he covered: What movies do you like? What food do you like? What music do you like? Do you like drinking? - actually that part of the conversation went on well for a while.
Some good and odd McCooey conversation tit bits, usually dropped in with no link to any other part of the conversation:
'If you go to a strip bar you know how to get the girl to dance up to you? Ignore her. I'm telling you it works'
'Thanks, I'll bear that in mind'
'Your light on your watch, you know how that lights up?
'No I don't actually'
'I'm not sure that's right'
Occasionally it got scary. After I'd fallen asleep for half an hour Andrew woke me with a nudge and asked 'Did you get some sleep?'
'I was sleeping yeah'
He leaned in and whispered 'Did you hear about the guy who had his head chopped off on the greyhound?'
I became very aware that I was pinned in to my corner of seat with no escape route. Andrew continued 'After he did it he walked up the aisle holding the head up by the hair. It was on this route too.'
I nervously replied 'It wasn't you was it?'
'No. But that's why I never sleep on the greyhound'
And thanks to Andrew I didn't sleep again on the greyhound.
Eventually an explanation came for Andrew's conversational oddities. At age thirteen Andrew had been knocked off his bike by a truck and suffered brain injuries that took him years of rehab to recover from. I felt bad for judging him earlier but was glad I had chatted to him. It had been the most interesting part of my journey and he was just looking to be friendly.