In which weird-ass bus drivers risk death for all aboard – and everything turns out okay?
BY IAN CRAFT
Last summer we were on a tour with a terrible bus driver, not that he was a bad guy – on the contrary. He was a hilarious guy. But I don’t think he had slept more than two hours a night since he started driving 30 years ago.
Several times we wondered what was happening up there that would be causing the bus to be frolicking and bouncing so badly. Mostly I think it was the lack of interest in driving and more focus on talking on the phone and CB, as well as eating sunflower seeds. As we sat in the back lounge we noticed a tractor trailer getting too close for comfort then to our surprise we hit him at 70 miles an hour. We were just outside Chicago and traffic was thick like gravy; no place for shenanigans like that.
That didn’t stop us, though. Neither did a stop sign. There were several moments of sheer terror when he ran over a stop sign like it was just what you do at stop signs, and that’s cool. As we plowed into the semi he screamed, “You wanna buy the motherfucker, motherfucker?!”
In his defense, it was a nice ride. Somehow we managed to make it to Chicago and had some awesome shows. Needless to say, we knew where we stood as precious cargo to be treated with nothing but professionalism and safety, minus the safety and professionalism.
This brought up some war stories from the rest of the crew. As we careened down the road, swerving from lane to lane and beyond, my buddy came walking up from the back of the bus right in time to get slammed into the cupboard. As he came out of the bathroom covered in piss from the bumpy ride, he started telling me this story.
He had seen the bus driver, who was supposed to be driving the bus, playing a unique game of Tag – the bus-driving version. Apparently the object of the game is to put the bus in cruise control and try and run from the front of the bus all the way to the back lounge and touch the wall, then run back to the wheel. Of course, if you win all is well and good and nobody knows the difference. Lose, and everyone dies in a bus crash. Pretty amazing what people will do to stay awake on a moonless prairie night.
I must admit, driving many late nights and long hours in the van, there have been several times where the lull of the road and the blur of the lines makes you wanna fall fast asleep. There isn’t much you can do about it – once that sleep gets a hold of your eyes, it’s a slippery slope. To think of ways to keep your self awake is no new thing but it does make you wonder just how do these professional drivers do it. Our hats off to you all!
Some good times were had and some hilarious stories were told, but the most fucked up story is when one night, one of the guys on the bus came up front to use the bathroom and noticed the bus swerving dangerously. The driver, while talking on the phone, eating and checking his CB feeds (much like our own driver on the current trip), attempted to reach out across the jump seat for his coat.
Somehow he was distracted and fell face first down the stairs, feet in the air, head down by the door, completely stuck and fucked. The bus was just wildly driving itself. This was the scene that our buddy happened upon. Nothing like a bus with no driver to help expedite that early-morning piss!
Luckily he was plucked from his imminent death. The driver recovered the wheel and they rolled happily down the trail. Ah, what fun it is to ride on a giant steel diesel death trap thru this great country! Hallelujah and amen to all that.
The Howlin’ Brothers released Howl on Brendan Benson’s Readymade Records March 5 (www.thehowlinbrothers.com). It’s reviewed here (https://blurtonline.com/review/the-howlin-brothers-howl/) at BLURT, and you can also watch a video from the album, below. Meanwhile, the group is on an extensive North American tour right now (tour dates at that link) which will include a stop this Wednesday, May 8, at 6pm at our companion business Schoolkids Records of Raleigh, NC (https://www.facebook.com/schoolkids), so come on down if you are in the neighborhood!
[Photo Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins]
THE HOWLIN’ BROTHERS – “HERMITAGE HOTSTEP”