Friday, June 05, 2009

Worry Is a Terrible Thing to Waste

So we've been talking about giving Bantam14 a week or two alone with his grandparents on the farm in Ohio. And hey, if he can go while Pilot Uncle and family are there, what could be better than working side-by-side with Uncle AND Grandpa?

The stars aligned, and Wednesday was the day that I would drive him to the Greyhound bus station in Chicago. From there, he would travel as far as Indianapolis, where Grandpa would pick him up. Being under 15, he was only allowed to go on a bus trip of 5 hours or less, with no transfers--which is why he couldn't travel from Kenosha to Dayton or Columbus.

I understood all the restrictions perfectly--his trip had to be during daylight hours, too--because I had talked to three different Greyhound representatives and they all had the same story. My dad swore he didn't mind the 2.5 hour drive to Indy, and the ticket would only be $32. Our family will be going to Ohio for a visit soon, and we'll bring him home. It was a plan.

The day before, I called to order his ticket. "Is this ticket for you?" the rep asked. "No, it's for my son." "Okay, there is an $18 service charge for ordering a ticket for someone else."


And if I pay for the ticket at the counter tomorrow? Still, an $18 service charge. And if my son hands you cash? No service charge.

Stewing, I hung up without ordering a ticket. I tried repeatedly to call the Chicago office to ask about seating capacity, but it was late, and no one answered. Should I pay the stupid fee to make sure he has a ticket, or take my chances at the window tomorrow?

I decided to call again in the morning.

All night, I worried. I was planning to bring Bantam10, Chicklet6 and Bantam4 with me, so we could go to the Lincoln Park Zoo on the way home. What if I couldn't find parking? B14 would have to run in and order his own ticket. What if he got confused and ordered the wrong ticket? I couldn't leave him there in the station to wait on the bus--I would have to park somehow. What might happen while he was alone, while I found parking and walked--how far?--with the little kids? He could be robbed. He'd have cash, baggage, an iPod... What if the bus was full? We'd have to wait there with him until the next bus at 3 something. We'd totally miss the zoo. Would it be better just to leave the younger kids home?

I slept poorly, worrying and wakeful, disturbedly dreaming. But all that worrying, it turns out, was for nought; it did nothing to prepare me for what actually happened.

We got up at 6:30 and I called the station. "Oh, plenty of seats left on that bus." So I didn't order the ticket.

We got off later than I wanted, closer to 8 than 7:30, but still we arrived at the downtown Greyhound station at 9:35, almost an hour early for the 10:30 bus. We waited in line a few moments, then it was B14's turn.

The 10:30 bus was full. No more tickets available. But they wouldn't have been able to sell us one anyway, because children under 17 aren't allowed to cross the state line, unaccompanied.


But three different Greyhound representatives told me all the restrictions on minors traveling alone, and NO ONE mentioned this one.

Oh, that's because it's an Illinois rule. Those reps are in Arizona or someplace.


I spoke with a supervisor. Yes, she confirmed, it's true. It's on the website.

But I didn't read the website, I explained. I got the low-down from three different inadequately informed Greyhound representatives, instead.... Okay, so does Indiana have the same rule? If I take him to Gary, will I have the same problem?

She had no idea.

Well, can you CHECK?

Her supervisor appeared. Yes, he would check. He was sorry for the inconvenience. No, Indiana did not have that restriction. There was a bus leaving Gary at 11:40. It was nearing 10:00. We could probably make it. There was another at 2:50.

I was so grateful for my husband's GPS that I had borrowed! Off we headed to Gary. I asked Papa Rooster to call and order a ticket, while I called home to tell my dad not to leave for Indy yet.

PR had bad news. The bus looked full, they said, so they would not sell him a ticket over the phone.

My mom had bad news, too. My dad had left to do errands in town and did not have their cell phone with him. He might not be coming home before leaving for Indy.

We arrived in Gary about 35 minutes later, and I will admit to shooting up quite a few prayers en route. If there weren't any seats left, how was I going to explain to Chicklet6 and Bantam4 that instead of going to the zoo, we were going to spend the day at the bus stop in Gary, IN?

At the ticket counter, however, they didn't blink when B14 asked for a ticket on the 11:40 bus. (Thank you, Lord!) And what time would it arrive in Indianapolis? At 3:25, the same time my dad was planning to meet him. (The same bus, maybe?)

We had over an hour to wait for the bus, but being the ever-prepared homeschool mom, I had just HAPPENED to bring along our chapter book, so we found an isolated corner and I read aloud one chapter, much to B14's embarassment and my own enjoyment. It passed the time, and soon, he was hugging us all goodbye and I watched as his broad shoulders disappeared up the steps of the bus. He had just asked me to measure his height the day before--5'9". Where did that little boy with the bowl haircut go?

That morning I had optimistically checked my homeschool mom's schedule of free days at the Chicago museums, thinking that perhaps we could go to the zoo AND a museum. It was a free day at the Museum of Science and Industry, I discovered--and those are infrequent! It was closer to Gary too. We'll go there first, I told the remaining kids. The zoo is free every day.

Long story short, we had a great time at the MS&I from 1:30 to 3:30, but then I had to make the unpopular decision to head home, hopefully avoiding the worst of the rush hour traffic, instead of going to the zoo as well. I considered going to the zoo during rush hour and heading for home at 6:00 or so...but I had a meeting at 7 and wasn't sure that would be enough time. Without traffic, it might be, but as it was, it took us nearly two hours. None of them napped.

Yet I squirm to think of how much more difficult that day COULD have been. And what if I had only had print-outs of Yahoo! Maps directions (which would have been useless after the first stop) instead of Papa Rooster's GPS? Thank you, Lord, for your outpouring of mercy!

And B14 is there now, with my family, doing a man's work with men I love. I am so grateful.

And trying not to worry!

(It doesn't help that we haven't seen or heard from Blondechick16 since Tuesday morning, while she's gone on an Outward Bound-type camping experience with all her sophomore classmates, designed to teach character, teamwork and self-knowledge. No iPods, laptops, cell phones, makeup--or bathrooms. Sleeping in tents and digging your own hole in the woods. She arrives home this afternoon. If she hasn't frozen to death....)


Moyra said...

Goodness me. All those complex restrictions.

I did a eight hour train journey in the UK alone at 13, (admittedly, this is 30 years ago!) and all that happened was I was put on the train this end of the journey, and met off the train at the other end. Process reversed three weeks later! My great-aunts were lovely people to spend that time with, and it goes down as one of my best summer holidays, ever.

Centre of England, to North East Scotland takes at least eight hours, even now.

Hope they both gain from their experiences!!

Jennifer Merck said...

Two quick thoughts:

1. What in the world did we do before cell phones and GPS?

2. I travelled solo through Europe at 15. Good thing I didn't need a Greyhound ticket!


Mama Bear said...

I went from Kenosha to Mississippi at age nine, alone on Greyhound. O.K. thirty years ago. We thought the world was safer then. Mama Bear

mama said...

Oh Jeanne! What a great story (although it was so exhausting to read, I can't imagine LIVING it!!). But one thing I learned throught the entire ordeal with Mary, is that worry is a big waste of time. I mean, it can be helpful to share our fears with someone who can reaasure us, but really who, but the Lord, can do that? So, my new motto is "Worry is the prayer of the unbeliever". For myself :) Not to say you're an unbeliever if you worry! Just that I need a reminder that God is most definitely in control. And He does know what's best for me. It might not alwys be to my liking, but it will ultimately be GOOD. So, I have been trying not to worry (which is difficult, because I am an anxious person by nature), and praying instead.

I am so glad everything worked out!! He will have an amazing experience sans parents. I can't wait for Charlie to be old enough to experience something similar :)

Thanks for the great blog!

William Dunigan said...

William Dunigan said...

Greetings to all in that mighty name of "Jesus":
Each Christian of whom know him in the power of His resurrection...or, maybe I should say...those who are well acquainted with the fact, that He truly did come back from the dead...also appeared to His disciples.

Thomas was invited by Jesus to feel the nail prints within His hands. So, those who also have been convinced by only having His spirit to convince them, having never had the opportunity to feel the nail prints in his hands, as did Thomas: Jesus said blessed are those who have seen and then believed, but greater are the blessings that rest upon those who have never seen, but still believe.

I am a full time writer and an ordained minister. I have written three books so far. My first book: Reviving the dead church, by reminiscing the day of Pentecost. The second one is: Beyond the Golden Sunset and by the Crystal Sea. My third book: Off to visit the Prophet Elijah, on this one, the contract to publish has been completed and soon the book will be published.
Warm regards

William Dunigan -