Those of you who enjoy reading about fun travel and adventure have, no doubt, heard of the antics of the Donner Party, a California Trail wagon train of 81 American pioneers who in 1846 found themselves trapped by snow in the Sierra Nevada. Thirty-six members of the party perished as a result of starvation, exposure, disease, and trauma, and some of the survivors resorted to cannibalism.
On Thanksgiving Day, Life in the Boomer Lane and Now Husband board a Vamoose Bus, which is to take them from downtown Manhattan to Arlington, Va. The bus is filled with happy holiday travelers, many of whom are Yeshiva students, returning to their families in the D.C. area for their Thanksgivukkah celebrations.
We settle in for the projected 4-4.5 hour ride. The driver, a sweet Chinese man, has not yet mastered the intricacies of the English language. He welcomes us aboard, using words that do not contain nearly enough vowels or syllables.
About two hours into the drive, the bus pulls over onto the side of the highway and the driver explains what has happened. After listening to him very closely, his explanation can be interpreted in several ways:
1. Another bus has broken down and the six survivors will be added to our bus. This will take approximately 1.5 hours.
2. We have broken down and only six passengers will survive. We will arrive in Arlington in 1.5 hours.
3. In 1.5 hours, we will attack six members of our bus who haven't consumed all of their snacks yet.
All cell phones are immediately in use. The following conversations are heard:
"I have no idea where we are. All is lost. Tell the children I love them."
"We are in the middle of nowhere. I forgot to get my shots."
"Ani tu'bishvat oh seh shalom" (Is there any brisket left?)
Eventually, the bus starts up and lurches forward. Those who have been praying in the aisle, fall over. Others are caught red-handed, stealing their seatmates' snacks. Still others have voted to engage in cannibalism, if necessary. Two people are naked. A goat appears from under a seat.
For the next two hours, the bus inches its way along the highway at about 25 mph, exhibiting a pronounced lack of shocks. Passengers at the rear are thrown from their seats. There are frequent stops along the side of the road. Snacks are gone. One passenger has to be restrained. A new religious sect has emerged, which tries to convert the unruly passenger. The goat eats an empty snack bag that is left in the aisle.
About the sixth time that the bus pulls over, it does so directly in front of a sign that advertises Wendy's, iHop, and Dunkin Donuts. Passengers become deranged from lack of food. A rumor circulates that someone has stashed an apple in the overhead. The rumor turns out to be unfounded. Passengers start calling Vamoose headquarters, demanding restitution.
A governing committee is organized. Sleeping spaces are allocated. The fittest passengers are selected to leave the bus and hunt large game on the highway. The newly formed religious sect objects, as they are vegan.
Another bus pills over and the non-English-speaking non-American born driver is exchanged for a non-English-speaking American born driver. After several more stops by the side of the road, the bus manages to make it all the way to Arlington. We arrive after a little over six hours on the road.
It is cold, many passengers have missed Thanksgiving dinner, and no one will claim the goat. But we are alive and cannibalism had been narrowly averted. We all give thanks.