Through the blur of anxious and lonely tears, I made out the numbers and names of my friends in Minnesota well enough to dial them.
Relief flooded my soul simply at the sound of the phone ringing. It did sink a bit in despair when no answer came, but not enough to throw me off the hunt.
I dialed Nastassia after Bobbie didn’t answer, and a heartfelt cheer of “Praise the Lord!” escaped my lips when her sing-song voice sounded on the other end of the line.
“Nastassia, I’m stuck in Chicago! I can’t leave for five hours!” and renewed my tearful outburst.
All the shock and outrage that a loyal friend must express on such occasions was sufficiently expressed by Nastassia, much to my relief. She confirmed that I was not going crazy!
After this virtual foray into the land of those unshackled by bus transport, the despondency of my situation returned upon me double fold.
I was about to let the tears flow again when an older Hispanic man took a seat near me. I glanced towards him, and the first smile in the Chicago Greyhound station shined out at me.
Here was one in whom I could find comfort—I could practice Spanish!
Immediately determining to dispel my fears and distract my soul with a little Spanish exercise, I struck up a conversation with one of the kindest gentlemen I would meet on that trip.
After the usual “where are you from” pleasantries, I entreated Santiago, an immigrant from Mexico, to confirm or belay the normalcy of my recent tragedy.
He could offer no comfort, of course, except that of softening my time of wait.
He offered to take me home with him and his family for my five-hour wait and return me when the Minneapolis bus was scheduled to leave.
I have to admit that at that point, I was highly tempted to go with him.
A returned phone call at that moment from Katee prevented a dangerous act, and I refused him. He shrugged, wished me well, and moved on.
How naïve I was proving to be!
Moments later found a dazed Nashville girl cautiously venturing forward from the Greyhound environs onto a brown paved sidewalk in downtown Chicago.
I longed to see the city, but knew that I could not drag my little suitcase down the busy streets.
Or could I?
I decided to try it. I walked confidently to the corner, ignoring oglers and idlers all quietly jeering in my direction. At the corner, I paused to gather my bearings.
Sky scrapers crowded the corner like teenagers in the mosh pit of a rock concert. Cars rushed past, honking their horns in the simmering summer heat. Languishing homeless men stared at me from almost every direction.
“What’s yo’ name?” called a particulary forward black man, covered in silver chains, flashing a golden smile as he sauntered up to me.
I turned and bolted back into the relative safety of the station.
My tear ducts filled, but I pushed the lump in my throat back down my gullet. No, I would face my situation like a big girl.
I marched into a wide section of seats close to the women’s restroom. I found a knot of elderly ladies chattering good naturedly in the seats, passing baskets and boxes back and forth for their road trip dinner.
I smiled hesitatingly towards them, hoping to catch an eye.
“Honey, why don’t you sit down here? Do you want some tuna and crackers?” I almost burst into tears again when I saw the disarmingly soft expression in her brown eyes. Oh, how I sat!
We quickly began exchanging information. I found I had stumbled upon an entourage of ladies on their way to an annual women’s convention, and these women did not like to fly. Instead, they road the Greyhound every summer, despite the monopoly and rude drivers.
“I remember the days when the clerks and drivers were as cheerful as you please,” said one.
“Now, since they are the only line in the business, they think they can treat us however they want,” continued another.
But they just shrugged and boarded their buses every year.
I have to admit that I enjoyed the comfort their company afforded me, but I could never agree about those plane rides. I love plane rides. How will I ever get to Israel again if I don’t fly?
Five hours, dinner on Greyhound benches, conversation with a young musician, and five new friends later, the Minneapolis bus pulled in.
Gladys, the youngest of the quartet (the fifth friend had been a musician sitting across the benches from us), wrote down my email address, promising to keep me abreast of the ladies’ happenings. I couldn’t have been more delighted to oblige them.
As I confidently boarded the next bus—a veteran by now!—I couldn’t help but shake my head at the comfort God had brought me in the middle of a consternating situation.
How He loves me! I thought.
And how I would love a Southwest Airlines plane ticket to visit friends in California the following Spring!