Op/Ed By Gloria Winston
What would life be without its trials and tribulations? Life seems to be one big exam after another, and if we don’t get a passing grade on the last exam, you are doomed to repeat the lesson, I believe.
This year, for me, has been filled with farewells and tributes to family and friends who have left this dimension.
I recognize we do not get out of this thing called life alive, but easing the emotional impact of losing a loved one, in itself, can take its toll on the strongest of us.
I look forward to the day when a trip does not include burying someone I love.
Not long after celebrating birthdays, and the graduation of my 17-year-old grand-daughter, Brianna, I received news of the passing of a 25-year-old grand-daughter, Britney Bonds, in Alabama who had lost her battle with Lupus, and kidney disease.
With the news came a sigh of relief that she was no longer suffering, and she was free of the emergency room visits that, for the last 10 years, had become a part of her normal routine.
And, in the midst of all the sorrow was the reality that she had been called home to rest, and to be with her grandmother, her mother’s mother, Frances Bonds, who had been buried just a month before.
Mentally, I had planned to spend the Fourth of July in Alabama; however, unbeknownst to me I found myself there prior to the holiday.
The journey to Alabama, for me, began and ended with a series of mishaps and miracles to say the least.
As much as I would have loved to fly to Alabama, birthdays, graduations, other expenses, and the reality of a fixed income dictated and reminded me that I was poor.
When they say FIXED income, that is exactly what it means; it’s FIXED, with no raises one can count on.
Driving 17 hours in the heat was not an option for my old bones.
So, after researching the cost of airline tickets, and the confused route to Alabama offered by Amtrak, my choice, and mode of travel, became Greyhound.
Normally, when my bank account dictates Greyhound will be my method of travel, I arrive at the station with ticket in hand.
This time around, I arrived with my bags, and a fresh hairdo, and began the ticket dance, reminding me immediately why I usually print out my own.
I booked myself one-way, on the twenty-hour ride; counting on the fact that, after the holiday, the cost of flights would no doubt drop dramatically.
So, I secured my ticket from Rochester, NY, to Athens, AL.
My final destination, Russellville, closed Greyhound stations years ago, as well as in Florence, in Decatur, so Athens was the closest I could get.
Luckily, I have a beautiful friend in Athens who seems to be always available to get me to my final destination.
One time he tried to pick me up at the bus station on his motorcycle, but, I digress.
So, there I sat, patiently waiting for the 2:20 p.m. bus, snacking on my KFC dinner, when the ticket agent came out, and headed my way with a puzzled look on his face.
He asked if I was the lady he’d sold the Athens ticket to, and I replied in the affirmative.
He asked for my ticket back because he thought he may have entered the wrong date, and he had.
The ticket had me leaving the ROC the following day because all seats to Athens, AL were sold out this particular day.
However, the ETA in Nashville, according to the original ticket, would be 5 am.
So, I called my friend to see if coming to pick me up from Nashville would work for him, and asked the ticket agent to get me as close as he could to Athens.
After a few minutes, the ticket agent was able to get me to Nashville, TN which is at least 99 miles from Athens. But, here is where it gets REAL stupid.
The ticket I was issued had me leaving the ROC at 2:20 p.m., headed to Buffalo.
Subsequently, I was expected to stay in Buffalo until 11:55 p.m., after a six-hour layover, and then head to Cleveland, where I was expected to lay over another 5 hours.
I don’t know whether the computer, or the ticket agent, had lost their minds, but there was no way I was going to accept what should be a 20 hour trip now becoming 30.
I looked at the ticket, and accepted it, but not before telling the ticket agent that THE DEVIL IS A LIAR!!!
When I got to Buffalo, I sat my carry-on bag and food bag down, to retrieve my one checked bag, because I have learned the hard way that if you don’t track and secure your own luggage, you are subject to find it not arriving when you do, or never to be seen again.
However, after securing my bag, I turned around, in a matter of seconds, to discover my carry-on bag was GONE!! Just that fast, it was GONE!!
I almost fainted, and was certainly fighting back tears. However, God led me in the right path, and I spotted a young man nonchalantly pulling a bag that looked just like mine.
I stopped him, and confronted him by telling him that I thought he had my bag. He unzipped one of the outside pockets, and revealed the keys I had placed in there.
He appeared legitimately surprised, and simply declared we had bags that looked alike, and apologized.
I never did figure out what happened to the name tag that was on my bag, but, for some reason, he convinced me it was an honest mistake.
I consider that to be MIRACLE #1, to have found my bag so quickly. Man said NO, But God said SO!!!
As I sat in my prayer corner, asking God to get me out of Buffalo before midnight, my eye caught the attention of a bus driver loading passengers on a new white bus.
What I’d heard that interested me, was the fact that he was headed to Cincinnati, the last place I was going to change buses before going to Nashville.
Long story short, there was a seat for me on that bus, a comfortable seat, one that bus drivers don’t like to give up, because they don’t like people sitting behind them.
I had never heard of Barons Bus before, but, if they stay in business, their quality service, and clean buses, will no doubt run Greyhound completely out of business.
The Baron’s bus driver told me to make sure I got my ticket changed, and straightened out when we got to Cincinnati.
So there it was, MIRACLE #2.
I left Buffalo within an hour after arriving, and headed straight to Cincinnati, bypassing any ridiculous five-hour layover in Cleveland. Man said NO, But God said SO!!!
But, because of traffic accidents along the way, the bus was an hour behind schedule, and I missed the connection out of Cincinnati to Nashville.
All 46 of us who missed the Nashville connection had to line up to get tickets re-issued. Then, one of the baggage handlers told me there was another bus to Nashville at 5 a.m.
However, when I got to the ticket agent, she and her manager REFUSED to re-issue me a ticket, because my ticket had been re-issued already in Rochester.
When I told her it was a mistake, and that I needed to be on that 5 a.m. bus, she told me there was no 5 a.m. bus, and that I could not leave Cincinnati until 2:30 pm that afternoon.
So, back to my prayer corner I went, and at 4:50 a.m. I saw a bus pull up, which was loading passengers for Nashville.
I approached the bus driver, and told her my tale of woe, and she said since I was NOT on her roster she would get me on, if seats were available.
Once she loaded, she had two seats left.
I was #3 in line.
However, as God would have it, a young Marine Vet in a wheelchair was on the bus watching all this unfold.
He beckoned to the bus driver, and asked her to take him off the bus, because he was in no hurry to get where he was going.
The fact that he was in a wheel chair took up six additional seats.
His explanation to all, including me, who were hugging and kissing and thanking him, was that he was watching the OLD lady, meaning me, and saw I needed to be sitting down, not stressing.
He said he was RAISED to be kind, and he felt good being able to do so, which was MIRACLE #3.
Man said NO, But God said SO!!!