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My Bus Tour
by Amy Kenneley

What's not to like about a thousand-mile bus tour taking you effortlessly to Famous Places? Better yet, every Famous Place has a gift shop before the EXIT door.

Seeing the sights can be intellectually broadening and the elaborate hotel dinners broadening as well; but it was the PEOPLE on the bus tour who were the most interesting…such as:

The Tour Director -This man had every important piece of tourist trivia at his fingertips. He pulled enormous amounts of "did you know" s out of his memory cache to give us a rolling commentary through 6 states. He was also the cat-herder of his little group, as we all headed in opposite directions at every stop. Only once did we lose two folks who strolled north as we headed south. They were reclaimed within a half hour.

The Bus Driver ---Here was a man who was truly King of the Road. He loved to drive, even when we as passengers drove him crazy. Always smiling, he daily shuffled the suitcases of 45 tourists in and out of the bus's underbelly. A small man, he seemed uncomplaining while ferreting luggage from dark recesses, most of which were heavy enough for a round-the-world trip. Only once did he make the wrong turn and discovered his error within minutes. So efficient was he that when the bus developed overnight engine problems, a replacement bus was waiting next morning for our early departure….whattaguy!

The Foreigners -- If you are flying halfway around the world to visit the States, you might as well book several tours in a row and REALLY see the country--which is what the two Kiwis did. Polite to a fault, they made no comparisons to "us vs them" and were seemingly delighted with what they saw. They were always engaging and appreciative. Hope their American counterparts in New Zealand were as pleasant as they.

The Extroverts -Nothing can keep these Chatty Cathys and Loquacious Larrys quiet for long. They always had a story, or if they didn't, your own story would give them entrée to " that reminds me of the time" as their opening salvo. Not that they were a couple. It seems Chatty Cathy and Loquacious Larry were legally tied to their own Silent Partners.

The Introverts-Yes, we shouldn't put folks into little temperment pidgeon-holes, but what else can you call the ones who find the darkest corner they can find, and brood there the whole trip? The soothing rumble of the bus often found them slack-jawed, eyes closed, their heads rotating to the twists and turns of the road ahead. And so they napped and nodded silently through more than half of the scenery, and I was reminded of the infants we used to put into car seats and drive around the neighborhood until they fell asleep. Gas was cheaper then.

The World Travelers -The first question they will ask is, "Is this your first trip?" and barely have you indicated that it is or isn't than they begin their own version of Rick Steves' Travels in Europe. Oh, the longship up the Rhine! Oh, the Parthenon in moonlight! Oh, the Louvre! Oh, the Antarctic ice floes! It is too bad that their suitcases were soft-sided, or every location decal would have been pasted to it.

The Who's Who Person --- Was it that they never met a person they didn't like or was it they never met a person who wasn't important? I forget. Either way, they must have been on speaking terms with some very famous people. Some of them were even family. I am still working on remembering my kids' names, so there was a giant conversational bridge from me to them.

The Health Nut---Yes, she had to get in her walking miles every day, so "just pick me up down the road after you all are finished at the gift shop." And the bus chugged along about a mile or so, and there was The Health Nut, energetically walking, arms swinging, deep breathing. She climbed aboard, a glow to her cheeks, a spring in her step, and a somewhat smug look about her mouth as we slugs allowed ourselves to be carted hither and yon. At the loaded breakfast bar or hotel dinner, she picked salads over steaks, organic over insect sprayed (how did she know?) and generally avoided dessert except for one flamboyant Banana Supreme, which she swore was her first in at least 4 years. Of course she was slim and toned, flawless makeup, LL Bean clothes. Is it possible to envy, admire and hate at the same time?

The Obnoxious Kid --- Having raised my own, I know obnoxious when I see it. Having superior grandsons, I know angelic, of course. So what is this 12 year old Einstein doing with these Middle Agers and Golden Agers? Well, Grandma couldn't leave him home, I suppose. After a few hours, I understood why. Anyone at home would have killed him. Grandpa was given the task of entertaining the lad. Grandpa promptly fell asleep. Grandma found a "new friend" in a seat far away from sleeping Gramps and Kid. The Kid asked question after question, but listened to no one's answers. He hummed, he made airplane and car noises, he kicked seats and fidgeted. But mostly he talked. He loved to hear his own voice.

He wanted to know how much money everything was, how much money he could make when he was grown…how much money……I was willing to give him money myself. To shut up. Oh, and Gram and Gramps were making a side trip to Harvard after the tour, so Kid could see his prospects there in another 6 years. Bleed Crimson.

The Sickie -Isn't there one in every tour? Two days out and she is coughing, sneezing and giving a great imitation of Typhoid Mary. Then her voice turned to frog, and every croak was less and less understandable. Folks began to lean away from her seat, taking the farthest table at breakfast, and hiding behind newspapers (from a town they had no interest in whatsoever) just to avoid making eye contact with her. A few asked kindly, "Are you feeling better today?" and of course I---I mean The Sickie---replied, "I paid good money for this tour and by golly I'm going to stick it out." The look of disappointment on their faces was heartening.

Well, you may have guessed… I was The Sickie. So I had abundant opportunity to categorize my Fellow Travelers (those of you from the 50's should not confuse my choice of words with anything even bordering on McCarthyism). So with such a motley crew we went from town to town, famous place to famous place, gift shop to gift shop. We stored up memories, took snapshots, ate, drank and were as merry as we could be.

Can't wait for another Bus Tour. For me, a healthier one, I hope.

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