Monday, November 26, 2012

Souls of the Station

By Stephanie  Heigh

Try to envision it.  A gray and dreary edifice at 5:00 AM.  The world’s asleep, and here in this bus terminal shadows seem to skulk in every corner.

Over there we see a college jock, his gangly limbs spread out so as to cover and protect his backpack.  He is dozing, but from his iPod emanates the muted screeching of heavy metal.

His body is tanned and admirably conditioned from endless workouts.  He  is blissfully oblivious to his surroundings.

Across the cheerless, poorly lighted waiting room a fatigued looking  young father feeds apple juice to his pride and joy, a cherubic little boy with a profusion of dark brown curls.  Next to them the weary mother, whose smiles belie her exhaustion, colors with her three year old daughter, a pretty but somewhat whiney child.

“What a lovely picture, Sweetie,” croons Mama.  “Can you color one for Daddy now?”

At that moment a suited , thirtyish executive type enters haltingly, looks around, and hesitates.  Soon he spies a long,

splintered wooden bench.  At one end an ancient crone is curled in the fetal position, all grime and ragged clothing.  Deep in her tremulous slumber she escapes the intruders surrounding her. This is her turf - has been for a long time.

On the same bench perches a bouncy teenager munching on a pear.  Her hair is half purple, half emerald green. Pear juice drips down her chin, and she is completely unaware of the startling beauty of her porcelain skin and angel eyes.

After surreptitiously testing the seat for dirt with a snow white handkerchief, the  yuppie gingerly sits down.  What is he doing in a bus station anyway?  Two  hours to wait before his bus is to depart.  Two long hours.  He pulls a laptop from his shiny leather briefcase and begins to work, his eyes nervously darting back and forth in every direction.

A grizzled vagrant hobbles by.  Although his semblance is that of an elderly man, one realizes upon careful observation that this is not the case.  Life for him has been cruel - a constant series of woes.  His eyes, large and black as coal, stare into the wide blue orbs of the sweet young teen, a magnetic force rendering her motionless.  “This candy bar’s too much for me; will you have some, little miss?”

She shakes her head in refusal.  He turns and begins to limp away.  Suddenly a change of heart and a murmured “Okay…please, why don’t you stay?”  The small sad gift is bestowed upon her with a flourish, and she nibbles tentatively at the confection.  The vagrant’s eyes soften as he watches and then rewards her with a wide toothless smile.

Beyond the vast plate glass windows morning is breaking.  Buses rumble in and out of the huge terminal.  Gradually the sleepy would-be passengers become alert, stretch, fumble for their tickets.  Gathering their belongings, taking up their children, they shuffle out to board the bus.

Inside they settle back, and as the coach roars out of the terminal in a rush of exhaust they can see the sun rising over the hills.

Stephanie Heigh has lived in Sullivan County, New York most of her life, many years of it with her husband Robert,  a retired teacher.  Writing has long been her passion as well as reading.  While very young she found even cereal boxes  fascinating to read.  Her other primary interests are music and her grandchildren.  Stephanie's best loved job was in her small hometown library as a front desk clerk.  Besides meeting many wonderful people, she had the magnificent perk of borrowing any publication when it was hot off the press.  The library is still a second home.  Visiting there provides a warmth and human connection that no other venue does.

copyright 2012, Stephanie Heigh


  1. Brings me back to the 70's. I drove the Utica NY to Syracuse NY bus for many years. Takes me back to the days when I would sit on the shoe shine stand, getting my boots polished by an old gentleman named Danny, while sipping a hot cup of coffee from the coffee shop. Normally I would have a coffee, a smoke, and chat with the boys in the baggage room before loading my freight for Utica. When the freight was loaded, I would pick up the microphone hanging from the wall just inside the door to Greyhound dispatch, and make my announcement. I would send my deepest voice booming over the speakers in the terminal area with my well memorized announcement. "Central NY Coach Lines coach number 191 is now loading on the East side of the terminal,boarding passengers for Fayetteville, Chittenango, Canastota, Wampsville, Oneida, Sherrill, Vernon, Kirkland, New Hartford, aaaand Utica. This will be the final call for Central NY Coach Lines Eastbound service to Utica."

    After 23 years of full time and part time service to that company, I can still roll that announcement off the end of my tongue, enunciating each and every stop clearly. Many fond memories of those days still come rolling back every time I see an intercity bus rolling down the highway.

  2. ... and how did you pronounce Chittenango? Most of us in Utica dropped a syllable and said "Chit-nango."
    And of course, you could tell a real outsider when he said O-need-da. :)


  3. Nice story, Stephanie! For myself as well, it brings back memories of those days when traveling on the bus was interesting. Today, it might be called something else.