Thanksgiving 2023

Two weeks ago I decided to go home for Thanksgiving to see my family dog. And my family, but you know, priorities. I took a 17 hour bus ride from Grand Rapids to Houghton, Michigan. My sister has taken this route before and she had a goldfish at the time. Unfortunately, the bus system has a no pet policy so she smuggled her goldfish Alphonso the First, in with a Subway cup. I unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask) do not have a goldfish so I only brought remote work, 5500 downloaded songs, and my trusty ball bearing Penelope.
About five hours into the journey as we started approaching the Mackinac Bridge, a man a couple seats back struck up a conversation with me about the UP. We made polite small talk about hiking and how pretty the upper peninsula is in the fall. After about five minutes I get an uneasy feeling. Something seems off about this guy even though he hadn’t said anything inherently wrong. A few moments later my concern was confirmed when he started talking about all the drugs he’d been doing in the bathroom and how much money he has. He then proceeded to try to get me to drink the liquor he brought. (Note that it is illegal in Michigan to consume alcohol in a motor vehicle even if you aren’t driving and carrying an open container on board is prohibited by the Indian Trails bus lines.)

Thankfully we arrived at the transfer station shortly after that. I told the security guard at the transfer station about him and he said “we’ll look into it”. I left the college I went to my freshman year because there were seldom any real consequences enforced by school authority, but double standards and cheap bans. So I figured I know what “we’ll look into it” means. Usually nothing. At this point I was about to hide in the women’s restroom and call my mom but just then one of the drivers called me over. I told her what happened and she asked me to pretend I forgot my phone charger on the bus in order to step outside and identify him. He immediately followed us back to the bus and claimed he forgot his lighter. I nodded to the driver that it’s him and she motioned me to go back inside. A minute later she called him inside as well to question him. She asked if he had been drinking and his response was almost comedic. You know when someone is lying in a movie and you think to yourself, what terrible acting, no one lies that obviously? Well apparently this guy does. He said “No… no noooo nah I had some drinks before getting on the bus.” (Which would have been over five hours ago and somehow he hadn’t sobered up. A medical marvel that should be intensively studied.)
I had previously asked her to not tell this guy that it was me who told on him as I suspected he’d get aggressive if he found out. She told him there were cameras on the bus, they knew he had been drinking, and he would not be able to board the next bus. He was still in denial and not intimidated by her in the slightest. He told her in a very aggressive tone that this was a mistake and he was fine to board the next bus. Her response was simply to point to the next driver who was standing behind him who, unlike her, was about twice his size and looked like he could pick this guy up by the scruff of the neck. Again, like a scene from a movie, he turned from looking down at her, to up at the other driver, and was met with an equally aggressive “BYE!”
The security guard and the driver got his ID and began looking at his file. They recognized him as Nick, who had quite the record. He once pretended to be mute in order to get close enough to spit tobacco in a driver’s eyes in Green Bay. Nick was now yelling in the parking lot and begging the driver of the other bus, which was headed in the opposite direction, to let him on. “I got kicked off that bus so I can get on this one right?” It was no longer about getting home for Thanksgiving, but rather being on a bus regardless of the destination. He even tried to convince the driver to talk to his rehab guy on the phone. He ended up being escorted from the premises by the police, permanently banned from all Indian Trails bus lines, and spent Thanksgiving in a holding cell.

The sense of community at this remote bus stop in St. Ignace was so wholesome. Everyone was extremely supportive and thanked me for reporting him so they didn’t have to share a bus with him for the next five hours.
I can only imagine what would have happened had I taken that drink. It’s not at all far-fetched to think that I could be locked in a shipping container on the other side of the world. I implore any other young girls who travel alone to not accept drinks from people you don’t know. I know it goes without saying but I am saying it anyway.
Now I don’t say all this because I’m against drinking. I recently turned 21 and I’ve enjoyed having a glass of wine now and then with family and mixing a good mango cocktail with a long time family friend. However, there’s a big difference between drinking in a safe environment when you’re not driving, and trying to get a young girl travelling alone to drink your mystery alcohol. If I had spotted someone quietly sipping out of a flask minding their own business, I wouldn’t consider that an issue worth ruining their Thanksgiving over.
Another thing I couldn’t help but notice was how in the span of 20 minutes, Nick transformed from a functional member of society, a wholesome yooper guy who wants to hike as many trails in the UP as he can before he gets too old, to that person on the streets who you hope your children never encounter. This goes to show that none of us are above temptation to compromise. Everyone, regardless of race, gender, or beliefs, has done and will do things they’re not proud of, but the good news is that no one is beyond redemption. Now this might sound a bit churchy and believe me I understand if you hesitate to take a churchy tone seriously. Many Christian organizations in their attempts to be culturally relevant, have made it difficult to tell the difference between a sermon and a movie review. However as Ben Stuart said, “Don’t reject the real because of a counterfeit”.

“For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:7-11
This is more than a wishy-washy, head-off-in-the-sky-somewhere, coffee mug quote. This is what can change a person like Nick, back into a functioning member of society. This is what heals suicidal thoughs and ideation. This is what changed my life, and it is extended to you as well.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Some disclaimers:
I do not write this to defame Indian Trails. Quite the opposite. The staff handled this incredibly well. This is actually the second time this kind of thing has happened to me. Indian Trails and The Rapid have incredibly patient, yet no-nonsense drivers who in my opinion, don’t get enough credit.

I’m not sure why, but it is a human tendency to pick an extreme in situations like this. You hear about them and think “that’s crazy” but when they happen to you it doesn’t feel different than any other day. Over the course of the next couple days, I went through the roller coaster of panicking over what just happened, to questioning whether I was exaggerating, back to freaking out if I saw anyone who looked remotely like him, back to blaming myself for being too dramatic. This goes to show that emotions are not always truthful. There is a middle ground where you don’t accuse everyone over minor issues, yet have the ability to stand up for yourself when the situation calls for it. The solution here is not black and white, but it calls for wisdom and discernment.

This didn’t put too much of a damper on our holiday plans. I rolled in at 7:00AM Thanksgiving Day. We watched Madame Blueberry from Veggie Tales, ate my mom’s amazing food, and video called family out in Colorado. Only thing is that I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night so I slept most of the day, but that would have been the case regardless of what had just happened.

Lastly I can’t help but laugh at the fact that he was too drunk to realize that the drivers had absolutely no time to review the security footage. By cameras alone, he would not have been caught and I would long be out of his proximity by the time he realizes who really reported him.