April 23, 2012

What Happens in NOLA, Comes Home

Quite frankly, I'm not even sure where to begin. It started so bat crap crazy that I thought surely it had to be some sort of joke.

The busses arrived at 315AM. As you know, I never bothered to go to sleep. We entered our bus with a decor of what I can only describe as circa 1970's brothel. The chairs were a brown velour and a brown/orange/beige striped carpet ran the length of the ceiling.

Our bus drivers greeted us and I thought we had two men, one was screaming NY Italian (being married to a NJ Italian, I can pick up on it pretty quick) and the other was just a very very unattractive man with the voice of Marge Simpson's sister, gravely from too much smoking and deep... manly gravely nasty deep voice. The hair was longish, blonde stringy, and the nails were vampirish long. That's the best way I can describe it. Creepy would work, but what do I care what the bus driver looks like as long as they drive the bus and we're all safe?

Except... we found out before we took off, that the very unattractive man, think Sam Kinison age 60, no kidding, was actually... a woman, who I will call... Cecelia.

If there was video of the band director's and my faces as we looked at each other upon the realization that he was a she, it would be on youtube with a million hits. We both deadpanned at each other, with the look we give each other that is saying, "You cannot make this crap up..."

But my problem was, I couldn't call her 'her'. For whatever reason, she stuck in my head as a he and whenever I referred to her, I kept saying, "Him" much to the amusement and horror, combined, of the band director, who I will now call BD. He'd shoot me this look and I'd cringe and realize I'd made the mistake...again.

It is a subconscious thing I do when I'm nervous. If I've made a terrible social blunder, and I'm stuck in the situation, my brain can't kick it out. It's like frickin' Groundhog day. I'll do it over and over.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one. Kids were telling me they'd called her 'Sir'. At our stop for breakfast, she put on pink lipstick and it was the visual cue my brain needed to start calling her by she/her.

It was 4AM and other than suspecting we were in a what was once a traveling brothel bus, all seemed fine. The kids stretched out and slept until time for breakfast, around 830 in Gainesville.

But by 0430, Cecelia had started to demonstrate some weird personality traits, like maybe... instability? Combined with OCD? NY Italian was driving (he gets a name later in the story, but I'll save it because it only gets better) and Cecelia is riding shotgun for lack of a better word, and she's starting to reverberate and tell me that this schedule she was provided wasn't going to work because they HAD to be back at our school by Midnight. They HAD to as they had another gig in the Keys.

Over and over she told me this, until I said calmly, "Let me look at the schedule later, see what kind of time we make and then worry about it... but for now, let's just enjoy our trip." She smiled her weird Sam Kenison smile and shook her head and said in her raspy voice, "yes, let's just enjoy it..."

In Gainesville, it started to rain. My son and his buddy had taken in the back bench, knowing there was more room and two walls, so each could lean and sleep. But when it started to rain, a HUGE stream of water flowed through the back window. The brothel bus had a leak... a BIG leak.

The bus drivers assured us it would stop when we started traveling and it did.

Just in time for the kids to notice we had roaches in the bus. Little roaches. Crawling on the floors. In the back of the bus. The boys were squishing them, the girls were horrified, and I was starting to take notes as to what was wrong... so much of it.

The bus was filthy. The brown brothel velour seats when you hit them, gave off a cloud of dust. Immediately our percussion instructor fell into a full blown allergy attack and ended up sleeping the next 15 hours as his body just shut down to the dust.

We arrived in Pensacola for lunch where my parents met us and took scads of pictures, met my kids' friends, and the school admin that was traveling with us. That was a real highlight. I can never see my folks enough.

The relationship with the bus drivers was starting to deteriorate. Cecelia had now started in on BD. The NY Italian was starting to get a bit ugly about their schedule. I'd finally met the two drivers on the other bus and something seemed amiss. I shook the head bus driver's hand and knew, "This is an educated well read man..." His second driver was a very young quiet man, but also very well dressed and well spoken.

How was it that we had Jack and Jill on our bus and we had two extreme professionals on the other? It seems that when the Tour Company called the FL bus company they use, they in turn subbed it out to two distinctly different bus companies, and the professional bus driver who I felt certain had probably read Yeats and drank single malt scotch actually OWNED his bus and kind of did this on the side for fun. Our bus drivers worked for some unknown face in Miami.

We made it to NOLA safely, but now things were strained and the realization that we were going to have to spend three more days with these nut jobs was a problem. Cecelia could hardly control herself, having fits and pretty much psychotic episodes.

We had a Tour Guide waiting for us, an angel sent from the Heavens to save us from Cecelia and her sidekick. When our guide, who I will call Margot, a fifth generation from NOLA, realized what was happening, she stepped in to try to fix it, only to feel the full brunt force of our Jack and Jill... with Jack in her face, informing her that he'd been a member of the Teamsters in NY, working for the head mafia guy up there. We will now call him... Teamster.

Margot was able to smooth things over, as only a woman from NOLA can do, instead of taking him as a threat, asking him where Jimmy Hoffa was buried.

She made phone calls to our Tour Company, I sent emails, we were at a truce basically by keeping Cecelia and Teamster apart. They each had a day off for the next two days in NOLA. But as I said to Margot, "You have no idea how much I appreciate what you've done... but you won't be on our bus ride home..."

Meanwhile, the bus drivers in the other bus were appalled and horrified and did their best to assist, but there was only so much they could do. They didn't work for the same company.

To be continued...

Posted by Boudicca at April 23, 2012 09:53 PM

You have to be kidding me. Roaches on a bus!!!!!
With a loser NY'er and a psyco and you make it a cliffhanger!

Posted by: AC at April 24, 2012 12:11 AM

There was just too much! We were away for four days!

Posted by: Bou at April 24, 2012 06:07 AM

So I'm thinking that the Band will be having some money comming back due to the inadequate performance of the second (subcontr@cted) bus company? Public health issues, ...

I would have had the NOLA Health Department inspect the bus ... just for fun.

Posted by: The Thomas at April 24, 2012 10:46 AM

Boy your comment interface sure is strange.

Why doesn't it like the word c o n t r a c t?

Posted by: The Thomas at April 24, 2012 10:47 AM

So did the bus have a stripper pole in it? :-)

Posted by: Pogue at April 24, 2012 12:01 PM

Or black lights?

Good grief, it sounds like you were trapped in a bad 70's sitcom! Next week: "serial killer". Ack!

Can't wait to hear the rest!

Posted by: pam at April 24, 2012 12:22 PM

You will have stories for years out of this one. LOL. Holy smokes! At some point it all becomes blog fodder and that's the only thing that makes it bearable. ;-) Glad you got back safely!

Posted by: Teresa at April 24, 2012 02:19 PM

Stories for years? Teresa, I'm sitting here reading this thinking I'M going to have nightmares tonight! Had I been on this bus from Hades, I'm sure the nightmares might have had an extended stay... Good Lord, Bou!

Posted by: Lemon Stand at April 24, 2012 04:24 PM

The roaches would have done it for me. I would have gotten off the bus and demanded a new one, asap, or at least waiting for us in NOLA. That's just sick. Add the dust and the leak, and I'm surprised you're not all sick. Don't even get me started on the bus drivers.

Posted by: caltechgirl at April 24, 2012 05:40 PM

I don't have the words...beyond a nightmare!

Posted by: Mrs. Who at April 24, 2012 05:49 PM

We're all laughing about it now. Actually, it got so absurd, we were laughing then.

I'm letting the school handle the financial compensation from the Tour Company. I don't deal with the money.

But I assure you, the trip I'm planning will have better busses...

Posted by: Bou at April 24, 2012 10:58 PM