Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Tale of Four Busses: The Bus, The Replacement Bus, the Other Replacement Bus, and the Great Big Bus that Could!

It was a trip!

Part I: The Trip

On Wednesday I joined a group from the Grand Rapids Chapter of the American Sewing Guild for a trip to Chicago. Our first stop was the Textile Discount Outlet. We would then go to the Chicago History Museum to have lunch and see the Chic Chicago Exhibit. On the way home, we would stop at Hannah's in New Buffalo for dinner. This is a fun group, and I looked forward to the trip.

The bus started in Grand Rapids, but there was a stop along the lakeshore to pick up about 8 of us. This lakeshore stop meant that instead of leaving the house at 5:45 am to get to the other side of Grand Rapids, I could sleep in till 5:45 am and meet the bus at the Saugatuck commuter lot at 7:15. The lakeshore stop also meant that I would get home earlier--8:30 pm instead of 10:30 pm.

All went well until I saw the signs for the Saugatuck exit. That was when my oil light went on. Well, what do you do? I got off at the exit, pulled into the commuter lot and called my husband. If ever there was a time to delegate responsibility, this was it. After a few choice comments, he accepted the responsibility.

The bus pulled into the lot, and as I approached it I saw my husband driving down the road. We had a brief conversation through the car window as I stood in the light rain. We'd trade cars. But I didn't have a key for his car. (I had removed all unnecessary weight from my purse in preparation for the festivities.) He couldn't park his car without moving mine because all the spaces were full. Everyone else was on the bus. They were waiting for me. More delegation... I'll call from the restaurant on the way home.

We arrived at the Textile Discount Outlet before it opened. (Guess I could have done the car switcheroo after all.) The bus pulled around the block to park, and several travelers made an emergency stop at the Dunkin' Donuts on the corner. I resisted.

The Textile Discount Outlet is something else. Clearly it is not for everyone. To start with, it is not organized in what I would describe as a left-brained, sequential manner. And for the most part, prices are not marked. But for those of us who are on an adventure, who have a high tolerance for chaos, who are looking for the unexpected, and who have a good sense of direction so they can find their way out in an emergency, it's a blast. It's a mishmash of fabric, trimmings, notions, and remnants. No wonder it's known as The Dumpster Diving Place.

True confessions: I picked up three pieces of not-quite-UltraSuede to make jackets. It's really an almost upholstery weight moleskin. I also got some zippers, ribbon, and lace. And I found a treasure trove of Nymo thread. Most of it was very heavy weight, but I did find some cream D weight. The outer layer is a little dirty, but the rest is good.

Our next stop was the Chicago History Museum for lunch and a tour of the Chic Chicago exhibition. The exhibition featured gowns worn by prominent Chicago women from 1861 to 2008. If you are interested in fashion design, clothing construction, or the history of fashion, you will enjoy it. My assessment: Fabulous! There is nothing in the museum from Michelle Obama yet, but all of us predicted there will be soon.

Another fascinating exhibition showed the clothing and accessories of Bertha Honore Palmer, the most prominent woman in Chicago society in the late 19th century. She was known as the "Princess of the Prairie." If you read The Devil in the White City, you will remember Bertha Honore Palmer as the president of the Board of Lady Managers of the Columbian Exposition of 1893. One of the fascinating smaller pieces in the exhibit was a list of her purchases from Tiffany's during a five-month period. Over $107,000! Ladies and gentlemen, that's in turn-of-the-century dollars! $107,000!!!

The Chicago History Museum is an interesting little museum, and I would recommend it.

Part II: The Real Trip

It was 4:30 pm Central time, and the museum closed. There we were, 29 tired but happy women waiting on the sidewalk in front of the museum. And waiting. And waiting. No bus. And no cell phone number for the bus driver.

"He's run away with all our fabric," someone commented.

Our leader did have an emergency phone number for the bus company. After several calls and a 45 minute wait, we learned that the bus had broken down about six blocks from the museum. We decided to walk to the bus so we could at least sit down. Another bus was on the way from Someplace Else to pick us up. More waiting. We took advantage of the opportunity to have Show and Tell so we could all see what was purchased. That was fun. More waiting. The windows on the bus were propped open with empty water bottles. More cell phone calls. From everyone to everyone else at home. Some people were looking stressed.

Finally the Replacement Bus arrived. Yay! We grabbed our purchases and climbed onto the Replacement Bus. Charlie, our good-humored driver, started her up. Something was wrong. I don't know what except the word "air" was used over and over. The Replacement Driver got back on. He and Charlie had conversation about levers. I heard, "Really step on it...once you get going..." and little else. After about 15 minutes we went around the block. Apparently the problem continued. More cell phone calls. Lots more calls. More people were looking stressed, but everyone remained pleasant.

After a while a man in a blue cap and some sort of uniform knocked on the bus door. More conversation. More cell phone calls. And then a proposal surfaced: The 29 of us could squeeze into the Other Replacement Bus, a 24 passenger airport shuttle-type vehicle the man in the hat had parked across the street. More discussions. And a decision was made. We would take the Other Replacement Bus to our restaurant in New Buffalo, about a 90-minute ride. Still another bus would meet us there.

And so we did. The Other Replacement Bus may have had a sign on the outside that said Executive Transportation, but we weren't feeling like executives unless we were executives on the way to the clink. It was a little crowded three to a two-person seat, and the temperature controls were not the best--either hot and humid or absolutely freezing. But off we went. We may have been frozen, squished, hungry, and tired, but good humor prevailed.

And then the next issue: The restaurant closed at 10:00 pm Eastern time, and our estimated arrival time was a few minutes before 10:00. More cell phone calls. Should we try to get out of our pre-paid dinner? Should the driver of the fourth bus pick up the dinners to go? Or should we eat really, really fast at the restaurant? The restaurant manager agreed to stay open late, and we decided to eat at the restaurant.

As we pulled off the expressway into New Buffalo, we could see the fourth bus already there. Whew! We had a nice dinner at the restaurant, and the hot fudge sundaes really hit the spot. Everyone tried to call everyone else at home again, but most of us couldn't get a cell phone signal. Remember that if you ever go to New Buffalo. While we ate, the bus drivers transferred our belongings from the Other Replacement Bus to the fourth bus.

When everyone finished, the leaders did a head count to make sure everyone was on the bus. Oh, no! Only 28! Who is missing? Where is C? Is she in the restroom? She had joked about using the men's room because of the long line in the women's room (all us, as everyone else had left). Is she ill? Did she fall in the dark? Did she call her husband to come and pick her up? Where could she go? The leaders went back to the restaurant and searched the place. No C. Then they started walking around the grounds. Everyone was getting quite worried. And then a voice from the back of the bus: "C's back here." How could we have missed her? Because of two things--she's relatively short and not easily seen over the bus seats and she's somewhat hard of hearing so she missed the commotion. Finally, we were on our way home.

The Great Big Bus That Could arrived at the Saugatuck stop just after midnight. After finding the car key my husband had hidden, I drove home. At the very last stoplight before I got home, I was behind a police car. I could imagine the officer looking in his rear view mirror at me and thinking, "That woman should not be driving at this hour." He would have been right.

As I pulled into our garage at 12:30 am, my husband opened the door. "I'm back," I said.

"I hope you're not planning to do that again," he replied.

"Oh, yes, I am," I responded. "It was a blast!"


The Bus was towed to the bus garage.
The Replacement Bus was driven to the garage--slowly.
The Other Replacement Bus went back to Indiana.
The Great Big Bus that Could got us home.

My car is sick, and it has an appointment at the auto hospital with Dr. Leo on Tuesday.

The leader of this event left Friday to spend 10 days in Hawaii. She may need it.


Carol said...

What an eventful, tiring day of bliss! I have been hearing from a lot of bloggers about going to the Outlet. If I ever hear of a bus trip, I'll be on it. I hate to drive in Chicago past the loop. Sounds like you were in good company.

Lynn said...

I think I would have needed meds- or at least a really good vodka and tonic (or 2, or 3,...)! Time for you to show your purchases--that warehouse looks so amazing!

pam T said...

Oh what fun Marty!!! (despite all the commotion...)
ooooo and the Textile Discount Outlet sounds like a dream!~ wonder if I can manage to make it there sometime - sounds like my kind of place (with no daughter or husband along!!!!)

a2susan said...

Oh, what a story. I just laughed and laughed as I kept reading. You obviously have a great sense of humor and managed to make the most out of it. Poor C! Thanks for sharing this great trip story.