Adventures With Chest Pain, Part Two

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you all  how I spent four days in the hospital in Gary, Indiana only to be told, “Take some ibuprofen if it bothers you.”  It turns out my chest pain was NOT pending doom and no, a heart attack was not on my immediate horizon–or on my horizon in the near future, either, since my heart is good and healthy.  I had merely done something to inflame the muscles on my chest wall on the left side.  No clue what I did, but there you have it.

The aftermath of my hospital stay is where things start getting interesting.  And, in turns, hilarious.  I call this part of the adventure:

How Holly Came To Spend Three Days On The Greyhound Bus

It’s Wednesday afternoon before I get back to my company’s terminal in Gary.  I’m not sure what the protocol is for drivers coming back from the hospital, but I assume that the company needs to see some kind of discharge paperwork releasing me back to work.  I get directed to the safety office upstairs.  The lady there is nice, but she hems and haws over the paperwork.

“It says you have to follow up with your primary care physician in one week.  I don’t think they’ll let you back to work until you do that.”

“It says I’m released for work.  It says to follow up because they always do that.  It’s like hospital standard operating procedure,” I protest.

She gets on the phone to clarify things with people higher up the chain than she is.  This took quite some time, as she consulted several people and went to a couple of different offices in the building while I waited, anxiety growing by the minute.

“I’m sorry, but they say you’ll be on safety hold until you see your physician and get cleared by that doctor for work.”

“I don’t have a family physician.  I just got my insurance last month!  Besides, for most of what I would go to a doctor for, I’ll be going to those walk in clinics where you don’t have to make an appointment, and those hardly count as family physicians.”

“I’m sorry, but you have to go home and get that done.”

“Can I go to a walk in clinic out here and do that?”

“No, because our safety compliance people here out of this terminal will only accept certain approved clinics for certain tests, like your DOT physical.  If you go to your home terminal, you may have more leeway.”

“If I’m on a safety hold, how will I be able to drive my truck home to do this?”
“You can’t.  You’ll have to give up your truck and take the Greyhound back home.”

“I don’t have the money for that!”

“We’ll provide the ticket, don’t worry.”

“But what about all my stuff?”

“You can put it in storage here.  We’ll inventory it and lock it up and when you get released and get a new truck, you can come back here and pick it up.”

It turned out the guy who helps inventory stuff and lock it up has already gone home, so I have to wait until the next morning to pack up my junk and move it out of the truck.  Greyhound only allows one bag for free and one carry on.  I could bring an extra bag if I was willing to pay $15.  Both of the bags going under the bus had to be no more than 50 lbs. each. Trying to sort through my stuff and decide what I could leave behind and what stuff I needed for the truck that I got back on–bare minimum stuff that would keep me for a few days.  Like what tools?  What kitchen implements to bring?  What food?  Don’t forget to pack food to take on the bus, because you’re going to be stuck on it for a couple of days minimum….All these things were going through my mind and it was hard to figure out what to bring and what to leave behind.  I wanted to take everything, and couldn’t, obviously.  I use almost everything on my truck regularly, with the exception of my reading material and other stuff I use for entertainment.  The stuff I left behind pretty much covered up a pallet.  And yet, my truck still isn’t packed to the gills, like I hear some drivers’ trucks are.

I track down the guy in the morning and I work on unloading my truck.  I did research the night before and learned that the bus only leaves twice a day from Gary with connections to Portland.  I knew I wouldn’t make the morning bus, but I was trying to get everything done so I had plenty of time to make the 7:45 pm bus.

After I finished, I go back to the safety lady and tell her I’m done and ask if I’m supposed to pick up the ticket at will call or what.  She tells me I’m supposed to have the people at my terminal get the ticket.  I call my terminal and they tell me that she’s supposed to get the ticket.  We go the rounds.  Grr.  Finally, somebody buys me a ticket.  But it isn’t for that night.  No, Safety Lady told them to book it for the next morning.  So I’m stuck in Gary for yet another day, and no truck to sleep in.  I asked her why I wasn’t going that night, and she said, “Well, it’s night time and it’s kind of a rough neighborhood.  For safety’s sake, I figured it would be better for you to go in the morning.”  What?  She didn’t even give me the choice!  I was ticked.

Safety Lady books me a hotel for the night.  The next morning, I get a taxi to the Gary Greyhound Bus Terminal.  Rough neighborhood?  Puh-lease.  Just because a lot of black folks pass through there (it’s a transit center for the city’s bus system, too) does not a “rough neighborhood” make.  In addition, the nighttime bus was supposed to be there before it ever got dark!  I was irritated, but passed the time chatting away with the folks waiting for not just the Greyhound, but for their buses to go to work.

I did get a little annoyed with the competing i-products while I was there, though.  A young man played his rap music without headphones on his i-phone.  An older woman got out her i-pad or kindle or whatever the heck it was and cranked up her R&B and soul music.  Apparently, she didn’t like the young man’s taste in music.  I was sitting between them both and was getting a headache from the music competition.  Eventually, they both moved on and my poor head was relieved.

Anyway, the Greyhound bus to Portland from Gary was not a straight shot.  I had to transfer buses in Chicago, Missoula, and Spokane.  But the bus was late, which made me late for my connection in Chicago.  Because of that, I missed that connection, and they had to re-route me.  I had to wait ten hours for the next bus.  There were baggage lockers, but the locker reservation computer thingy was broken.  Here I am in Chicago, stuck with heavy luggage that I can’t just stroll around with, and I can’t go explore, even though I was given a ten hour window.  How cruel is that?

Does this look like a rough neighborhood?

Chicago Greyhound 006

Murals in the Chicago Greyhound.

Chicago Greyhound 007 Chicago Greyhound 008 Chicago Greyhound 009So I pull out my camera and start snapping photos of the art in the station.  A cop notices what I’m doing and says I can’t do that.  I ask why, and he says, “For security reasons.”

Bullshit.

I also notice during that ten hours that security guards, with the assistance of Chicago police, are searching people’s carry-on luggage now before they can board the bus.  Ridiculous.  First of all, they aren’t searching the rest of the baggage, and the moment they are done, people can take whatever they’ve got stashed in their regular baggage and put it in the carry on stuff.  I had a large chef knife in my baggage.  If they had bothered to search it, I probably would have been made to throw it away, which would have pissed me off, since it was an expensive knife.  What’s even stupider is that since people are in charge of handling their own baggage, what is the point of searching it if they can then do whatever they want with it after your done?  In addition, since the lockers were broken, people were sizing up other people for apparent visible trustworthiness, and once they passed inspection, asked them to watch their stuff while they took a leak or went to the 7-11 to buy a drink that didn’t cost $3 or some such thing.  People’s baggage was all over the place and it’s not like anybody was monitoring anything.

At one point during the day, I pulled aside one of the policemen.  I told him I wasn’t trying to be a smartass and I really was wanting to know, but how is it what they were doing was legal?  He said, “Well, private companies can have whatever search policies they want before people can use their services and it doesn’t require a warrant.”

I said, “True, but Greyhound gets federal dollars and you, as a city official, are here.  For you to look in anybody’s stuff, you need a warrant, right?”

He took a big breath, and tried to figure out how to answer.  “I don’t know what to say.  But then, I’m glad I have the capability.  I feel a whole lot safer.  There is crazy crazy stuff out there and it’s dangerous.”

In other words, it’s not legal, but he likes to have the power to do it.

Ugh.

When it was my turn to go through the line, one of the guards saw my can of wasabi peas that I brought for a snack.  She was curious what they were, so I gave her some.  She tried them and said, “Oh!  So that’s what that tastes like.”  The cop asked he if she liked it and she said, “It’s okay.  Not my favorite, but not bad.”  Talk about surreal.  Sharing snackies with guards doing obligatory nonsensical searches that don’t do more that provide an illusion of security.

So my trip started Friday morning, and I didn’t get to Portland, Oregon until about 6:30 or 7 pm on Sunday night.  That’s three days and two nights of sheer Greyhound pleasure.  I was afraid that the luck I used to have when I was a teen and rode the bus regularly would hold out.  Back then, it never failed–no matter how many open seats there were, the stinky vomit/cigarette/booze infused drunk wino would sit next to me.  I reaaaally didn’t want that to happen this time.  I decided to sit in front, where the old people sit.  Besides, I wanted to see where I was going and at least try to enjoy the drive through the country side.  The tactic worked, and I didn’t have to have anyone sit next to me at all, at any of my transfer points.

The driver that picked us up in Chicago was a real pro.  Very conscientious.  He regularly checked his mirrors, didn’t speed, kept his lanes well, was organized, kind, helpful and polite.  I’d like to commend him!

The driver that took us through Saturday night, though, was a sheer terror.  Apparently, the route they were having us take was brand spankin’ new, and she didn’t know it.  Her leg of the route took us through Montana.  At first I thought she must be sleepy, since she wasn’t staying in her lane very well.  Then after watching her for a while, I realized that’s just the type of driver she was.  For her, lanes were optional.  In addition, since she didn’t know the route, she kept turning her phone on and using it as a back light.  She would put the route info paper on top of the phone so she could read it.  Of course, what teeny little bit of lane control she bothered with completely disappeared anytime she did this.  I finally decided to sleep, since watching her was making me cringe.  Except I couldn’t sleep, because every time we drove over the rumble strip (which was often), I’d sit straight up, wide awake, convinced, “Oh my god!  We’re all gonna die!”  At times it looked like she was actively trying to kill us all.  I could see everything she saw, since I was sitting in the seat directly behind the driver.

I got very little sleep on the bus in general.  First of all, you have to sleep sitting up, which isn’t comfortable.  Also, there was a heavy set woman with sleep apnea who snored so loud that people on the bus started laughing and giggling every time she’d do a “snnnngghk snk huuh”.  Seriously, I bet her snoring was at least a seventy or eighty on the decibel level.  In addition, she was having nightmares off and on Friday night and Saturday night, and it seemed like they only got worse as the weekend wore on.  At first she was merely hollering “nuuuuuuuhhhh!”  Later, she was screaming.  I tried to wake her up, on three different occasions, but she wouldn’t wake up.  I patted her hand at first.  Nothing.  Then I gently took hold of her arm and tugged on her shirt.  Nothing.  Then I grasped her arm and shook it.  Still nothing.  Even another woman got in the act and tried to help me wake her up by shaking her shoulder.  Nope.  The nightmares stopped momentarily, but she still snored and snoozed away.  Saturday night was the worst.  She was screaming something about Fred or Frank or Ray or something like that.  “Fraaaay!  mmphs mp smmabb shm blm divorce!”  Divorce was the only word I could make out.  Then she got violent.  She was sitting directly behind me, too.  So not only am I having to listen to this loud snoring, the screaming and hollering from the nightmares, but I’m also getting the back of my seat beat up as she repeatedly struck it.  I sunk down in the chair with the hopes that she wouldn’t accidently whack me over the head.  The driver asked what the problem was when she was hearing the screaming, because she was alarmed (I would be, too).  I explained to her that this woman was having nightmares, and we had tried to wake her up, but nothin’ doing.  So the driver relaxed and just kept right on driving.

So, you know, it’s hard to sleep in conditions like that.

There was also a woman who kept spritzing something, but she was toward the back of the bus, and us folks up front were moaning and groaning about the perfumey stench.  Later, at another transfer, this woman moved up front and sat across from me.  At one point while we’re waiting, she pulls out a can of something and starts spritzing her stuff and the seat.  Aaaaugh!  I said, “Whoa, lady, can you please do that outside?”  She stopped and put the can away.  But no sooner do we get going again, she pulls it out and starts going to town with the can, spraying long blasts on everything around her.  I and a couple of other people go, “Hey!  Lady!  Don’t spray the perfume!  That’s nasty!”

She says, “It’s not perfume.  It’s Glade.  There’s nothing wrong with it.”

I say, “But perfumes are what make Glade smell the way it smells.  I’m sensitive to perfume and I can already feel my eyes starting to burn.  Please do NOT spray that stuff.”

“Well, it’s not perfume.  And it’s not like I’m spraying it in the air.”  She just won’t listen!

And one of the passengers a row or two behind her says, “I can smell that stuff from here, and you say you aren’t spraying it in the air?  How is it that smells travel?  They get in the air!”

At which point, the driver butts in and says, “Ma’am you can’t spray that stuff in here.  Some people are allergic.”

She may have been a crazy driver, but thank Gawd she made that woman not spray that awful stuff.  I mean, really.  Spraying Glade in what is in essence a sardine can full of people?  It just intensifies the smell and doesn’t give it any way to get out.  It’s horrible!  Why would anybody do such a stupid thing?  So thank you, Crazy Driver, from the bottom of my heart for that.  (But you still need a refresher course in driving.)

At long last, after driving through Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, I made it into Portland.  I was tired, my legs were very swollen from having to sit for so long (and ironically, I just got tested for blood clots in the legs for having a job that makes me sit a lot).  I was so relieved to get home and just sleep for a while and catch up on the sleep that I missed out on.

Tune in tomorrow for the last segment of this chest pain saga.

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