Epona told me this story while we worked together and over the course of some hikes we took. I have long since lost touch with her and so reproduce this story at my peril, for the story is not mine, nor is it mine to share by any right. But the story left a lasting impression, colored my experiences and restored my faith, somewhat, in humanity. So I share it anyway, throwing caution to the wind. The following is my best recollection, embellished, and somewhat fictional.
Once upon a time, before the ubiquitousness of mobile phones, there was a magical bus service pseudonymously called Magenta Hare that transported people from Seattle clear down to Los Angeles and back again stopping for a sweat lodge in Oregon, stops for nature walks, visiting vistas and having a generally fantastic party all the while. The bus did its magic trick in the late evening while everyone was taking a potty break.
It transformed into a variety of sleeping spaces – a group space, the luggage racks become private singe sleepers and there’s two double beds, at least. Yes, it was a “hippie” bus, meaning it was communal and very social. They were still going strong after some rough transitions back in the day and have some hostels as well as “adventure travel” excursions. What I wanted to emphasize as clearly as possible was that the real life business of this outfit was not culpable for the events that transpired. There’s definitely things they could have done, as a travel business, that would have prevented what happened to one of their passengers. Perhaps they have since tightened their policy regarding stops, mid-journey, to include a fail-safe passenger check for the “buddy system”.
Epona was riding the Magenta Hare from Seattle to Los Angeles. The bus makes stops along the way for food, the restroom and for the transformation into sleeper bus. The driver had asked each passenger to find a “buddy”, yes, grown adults using the buddy system, I know right? Epona was feeling anti-social and made the fateful decision to refrain from getting a buddy. She was the only one. She also didn’t check in with the driver – a more important and ultimately fatal decision. At a truck stop in Oregon, the MH pulled in and disgorged its passengers into the florescence and diesel fumes. The line for the women’s restroom was, of course, ridiculously long and she waited, then she waited some more. By the time she finished with the restroom and made it back to the parking lot the bus had left and she was stranded.
Looking around the truck stop she noticed there were virtually no women. The line for the bathroom had been populated by the ladies riding the bus. Only the clerk behind the counter shared her gender, the rest of the truck stop inhabitants were, surprise, male truckers. She approached the clerk and told her what had happened. All of Epona’s belongings were still on the bus, she literally had nothing but the clothes on her back. The clerk was sympathetic but wasn’t sure she could help. She gave Epona some change to use the payphone. Unable to contact the bus headquarters, she decided on a radical course of action. She would hitch a ride to San Francisco with a trucker. As she realized this was a dangerous proposition she took the precaution of making herself look as unattractive as possible by messing up her hair and applying greasy dirt to her face. She then set out to talk to some truckers. Just as she was walking out, the clerk hailed her and gave Epona her phone number. She said, “Good luck, honey. Be careful and call me when you get to San Francisco. If I don’t hear from you in a day or two I’ll go to the police.” Epona gave the clerk her information.
After several uncomfortable conversations with very lonely men she found a guy who seemed nice enough and was heading all the way down I-5 to San Francisco. They got in his cab and started driving and as they drove they talked. The spoke of traveling and places they’d like to visit. He told her he was married. She began to let down her guard. They spoke more freely and Epona began to think that everything was going to be fine. She even told him that once they got to San Francisco she’d be able to pay him something for the ride. She thought that maybe she had even made a new friend. It was about then that the truck driver pulled the rig off of the freeway to an underpass so that the truck was underneath I-5 and could not be seen from the road. He told her he just had to jump out for a second and he’d be right back. Epona began to worry.
Epona was not a small girl, nor was she what you’d call obese by any measure. She was close to six feet tall and solid. When the trucker got back in the cab his demeanor was changed. He turned to her and said, “So, how about some lovin’?” Epona was shocked and regretted every letting her guard down. The trucker tried to grab her head and shove her down onto his lap. She resisted. They struggled. She screamed but no one could hear her. Then he reached into a glove-box and pulled out a gun. He told her to take her clothes off. She moved away to the opposite side of the cab, petrified. He began telling her how this could be so easy and how it could all be over quickly, almost pleading with her. He was waving the gun at her and she boldly made her move. She slapped the gun out of his hand and it landed on the passenger side floor. They both dove for it. Epona was doubled over reaching for the gun while the truck driver was stretched over her back, on top of her, grasping at it. His head was smashed up against her left ear. Epona managed to grab the gun. She pointed it at her own face, tilted it just a bit to the left and pulled the trigger. There was a loud bang. She did not know what happened and thought maybe she had missed and the trucker was just waiting for her to let up so he could get the gun back. Then she felt something warm, something liquid, running down her back and the side of her face. She pushed him off her and got out of the truck without looking at the truck driver. She ran up to the freeway and tried flagging down cars for nearly an hour. Eventually a police car showed up. She told them her story but they didn’t believe her. They brought her down to the station. After taking samples and interrogating her she remembered. With her one phone call she called the clerk at the truck stop who verified her story for the police. Finally they let her clean off the blood.
When she finally made it to San Francisco on a greyhound she managed to make it to the magic bus headquarters and tell her story to the drivers. They felt terrible, especially the one who accidentally left her at the truck stop.