Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I hope yours was enjoyable, complete with good dinner, close friends and happy conversation. I spent my holiday with my son and his wife, Yvonne, who make their home near Williamsport, PA, and I had, as I always do when I visit there, a very good time. My trip to Williamsport, however, wasn’t that enjoyable.

I tried something a little different in getting to Joe and Yvonne’s this year. I do not drive, so in previous years my son drove down to Ligonier to get me. I decided I would save him that trouble this year and take a bus to Williamsport. That sounded like a good plan. It didn’t work out quite as I intended. Well in advance, I purchased a ticket on a bus to Williamsport. The bus had a scheduled departure time of 1:40 PM on November 21st, the day before Thanksgiving, from Johnstown, PA the stop closest to my home in Ligonier. I was not familiar with the streets of Johnstown and so, to be sure of the location, I arrived early for the bus. I was in the correct place at the bus stop at 1:15. So I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

When the bus was not at the stop in an hour, I started calling the bus company on my cell phone. There were a number of college students waiting at the stop with me and they began using their cell phones as well. None of us, to my knowledge, was able to get any information other than that the bus had been delayed. Where it was or what had happened was unknown. There was speculation among us that there might have been a serious accident or breakdown and we worried for the well being of those presumably on the bus. Then again, we wondered, if that were the case, why wasn’t the location of the bus known by someone at the bus company? Speculation mounted that the bus had taken a wrong turn at some point and was mistakenly headed to Albany, or that it had been hijacked and detoured to an unknown destination and would be featured on a subsequent edition of TV news. The unfortunate conveyance was referred to, at times, as the “phantom bus.” I used my cell phone to talk to my son’s wife to inform her of the occurrences and let her know that it was useless to expect to pick me up at the bus station in Williamsport at 8:30, my scheduled time of arrival. I told her I would keep them informed of events as they happened.

To make a very long (four hour’s long) story short, the bus finally arrived about 5:35, almost exactly four hours late. We never got an official explanation for the bus’s delay, but I pieced the story together from information obtained from passengers already on the bus. They said there were simply too many passengers for the bus when it was scheduled to leave Pittsburgh at 11:30 AM. There were enough bound for Philadelphia, the bus’s final destination, to fill the bus, so the bus was loaded with those people and sent as an express. Those remaining passengers, all bound for other more local destinations, were told there would be another bus available to carry them. Only there wasn’t—until almost four hours later, due, apparently, to a shortage of either buses or drivers or both.

Some of the students at my stop in Johnstown had abandoned their wait by the time the bus arrived. Once we were aboard the bus, I felt secure in the promises I heard from the bus company that it would transport me to Williamsport. The bus took us through stops at Altoona and Tyrone and then, at State College, PA, another scheduled stop, the bus driver informed us that she had driven the maximum number of hours she was allowed to and that she could no longer continue to drive the bus. Another driver, she told us, was on her way from Harrisburg, PA to drive the bus. We would simply have to await her arrival.

I’d had it.

I called my son in Williamsport to ask if he would be willing to drive to State College to pick me up, only to be informed by his wife that he had already left to meet the bus in Harrisburg, its next stop. Again to make a long story (three hour’s long) short, I met my son when the bus pulled into Harrisburg .We left in his car to arrive at his home in Montoursville, near Williamsport, PA at approximately 1:30 AM. And so ended my twelve hour journey from Ligonier, PA to Williamsport, PA, a trip that should normally take from three to three and one-half hours by auto. We were both quite exhausted at the end of it.

It could have been worse.

I suppose.

Next Thanksgiving, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do to get to Williamsport.

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