Christmas At The Bus Station Ain't Exactly Like IAH Or Hobby

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Photos by Paul Knight

The cab drivers were restless, sitting in their cars and vans along the street next to the Greyhound Bus Station near downtown.

"This is the slowest Christmas I've ever seen," Joseph Keener, a cab driver, told Hair Balls. "We're sitting out here talking about stuff that happened yesterday."

Keener said he's been working the Greyhound station since the 1980s. "This time of year for us is usually boom boom boom. People are carrying gifts and bags and we're in and out all day. Maybe tonight will be busier."

It was almost empty inside the station at about 12 o'clock this afternoon, besides some people who looked like they probably weren't there to catch a bus.

Near the front door outside, a 20-something man was sitting on a trash can next to some other people sitting on the concrete sidewalk. He said his name was Jamal Davidson, and was there to get a bus to his hometown of New Orleans to see his family for Christmas. He said he had only been in Houston for a month but took the bus back to New Orleans frequently.

"I'd say it's about a five-hour trip," Davidson said. "It's all right, you get people who start snoring and stuff, they want to lay their head on your shoulder when it's crowded. But it's nothing."

A police officer later approached the group and told them to clear out. Davidson protested, saying he was just trying to catch a bus. The officer asked him something, and Davidson left.

We stopped another man, who was carrying a duffel bag, walking into the bus station. We asked if he was there to ride the bus, and he said no, and when we asked why he was there, he said, "Come on, walk with me, because I ain't no snitch."

As we walked down the sidewalk, away from the crowd outside, he said, "There's a lot of people out here to sell drugs. Crack. There's girls that come through here looking for a pimp. There's some people getting off the bus looking for drugs. It's about 50/50."

We had no idea why he was telling us this, but we thanked him for the time.

"Let me ask you a question," the man said as we started to walk away. "I'm not on the streets, I work down here. I have a meeting in 15 minutes but I need to get something to eat. You think you could lend me $5?"

We hadn't exactly found the holiday spirit at the bus station that we were looking for, but when we went back inside, the place had started to fill up. (See picture at the top of this post.) One young man stood in the corner by the pay phones, with his luggage on the ground next to him.

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Elijah Collins was trying to get to California.

He said his name was Elijah Collins and was trying to get back to San Jose, California, where he grew up. He wanted to see his family for Christmas.

"I just don't like the airport or being on a plane," Collins said, adding that he had taken the bus before during his two years in Houston. "The bus isn't bad. I like it because it's a good place to clear your head, especially if you're riding alone, and not too many people ride the bus to California from Houston."

Trouble was, Collins was $30 short on his bus fare; a one way ticket to San Jose -- a 16-hour trip -- was $230. (That's about $50 cheaper -- not including taxes and fees -- than what a Southwest flight costs for the same trip, booked online today.) He was waiting on a phone call for someone who was sending him the money.

"I hope she hurries," Collins said. "I'm ready to be home."


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