Discovering the spirit of America.
|The Greyhound of the Baskervilles
Jason was frustrated. He had an education but no job. He had acquaintances but no friends. He could go anywhere he wanted but no freedom. He lived in the greatest country in the world but felt surrounded by pettiness and no sense of community.
Sitting at the bar one night, he asked, "What's happened to the American spirit?" He had questions, but no answers.
"You're looking in the wrong places," Sheila answered.
"What do you mean?"
"I spent last summer going around the county, meeting people, talking. Just because you're in a rut doesn't mean everyone is. Take a trip. Go find what you're looking for."
Jason thought about that. Maybe she's right. "You know, that sounds like a great idea."
With those words, Jason made up his mind. He went home, packed a bag, and stopped. He hadn't a clue about how to proceed. He recalled the stories his parents and grandparents had told about traveling by bus across the land. He pulled out the Yellow Pages and found the nearest bus terminal.
The first thing he noticed when he entered the terminal was that it was dingy and not well kept. "This doesn't bode well," he said.
"Boarding? There," a young boy said, pointing to the side of the room.
Jason laughed at the misunderstanding. "Thank you."
Jason walked to the cashier and asked for a ticket to Chicago.
"Youz 'ants 'at un way?"
It took Jason a moment to understand what he was being asked. Slightly embarrassed, he said, "Yes, please."
"Bodin in 'bout 3 mince."
Again, it took him a moment to decipher the information. "Oh, OK. Thank you." He grabbed his bag and headed for the door.
Entering the bus, the first thing he noticed was how small the seats were. The covers were worn and the air smelled like he imagined a foreign bazaar would. This isn't the America I came to find. Heck, this isn't America!
He moved down the aisle looking for a free seat. Toward the back, a large Hispanic lady was surrounded by a group of children. As he approached, a smile flashed at him.
"Hola señor. You want to sit with me?"
Jason recognized the young man that had tried to help him earlier. "Sure. Thank you."
"Me nombre es Jorge," the young man said, pointing to himself.
"Jason. My name is Jason," he replied, speaking slowly.
"I speak English," the Jorge said, flashing the smile again.
He took a seat and settled in. As the bus departed, the Jorge's mother asked, "¿ a visitar a la familia?"
Jason looked blankly.
"She want to know if you're visiting family."
"Oh, no. I'm just ... traveling," he finished lamely.
Over the course of the next several hours, Jason and Alicia (he had learned her name) talked through Jorge. She was going to Chicago because her sister had found her a job. She was here legally. Her husband had been deported for overstaying his visa.
"This must be a nightmare for you," Jason said.
"Not at all. This is the land of promise and my children will grow strong. They will get an education and they will have a better life."
"Señor," Jorge asked, "do you have a smart phone?"
The question caught Jason off-guard. "Well, yes ..." He pulled it out.
Jorge took it and hit several keys, and then handed it back.
Jason looked and there on the phone was a translation application.
"Now you can talk to anyone in America," Jorge said with a laugh in his voice.
Jason sat in the quiet darkness as the bus moved through the night. He thought of the stories his own parents had told him about coming to America and reaching for their own dreams – not unlike Alicia and her family.
"The spirit of America is alive," he said to himself. "... but who knew that finding it would require an app?" He shook his head, a smile spreading across his face as he closed his eyes, comforted by the discovery and the hum of the bus.
Word Count: 685