by Dave and Jane Scherrep
TC and his Uncle, The Clemson Tiger, had recently received an invitation to visit a friend in Virginia for Thanksgiving. As they had nothing special planned for the holiday, they decided that a road trip sounded like fun and if they were going all the way to Virginia they might just as well continue on to the “Big Apple”. Bus tickets had been purchased and bags were being packed with everything they would need for a seven-day trip. The Tiger was allowing TC to pack his own suitcase, but knew TC would probably pack half his room.
” What time do we leave tomorrow? ” TC asked. Meanwhile, TC continued stuffing his bag with everything from his CD collection to his Clemson underwear.
” We have to be at the Greenville bus station by 6:30, so we’ll need to leave here by 5:30,” his Uncle replied.
“5:30 in the morning!” TC roared.
“When you ride the bus, you travel when they say,” his Uncle replied.
At precisely 5:30 the next morning, IPTAY Andy pulled up to the front of The Tiger’s house in his orange 1985 Ford minivan. Two blasts on the air horn was all it took to get The Tiger and TC out the front door and strapped in their seats. Arriving with plenty of time to spare, Andy helped The Tiger and TC check their bags and make sure they had all their carry on items. At 6:15 sharp, the Southern Express arrived at the station and by 6:30 everyone was seated and ready for departure. As this was his first bus trip, TC was particularly interested in the luggage compartment, on-board restrooms, and driver’s area. TC also took special note that the bus was made of shiny aluminum and that it’s tires were almost two feet tall. TC and The Tiger waived goodbye to Andy as the bus turned left on King Street headed for Interstate 85.
As the Southern Express made it’s way through downtown Greenville, the driver dimmed the cabin lights so that passengers could sleep. TC was too excited to consider sleeping so he began to forage through the food bag his Uncle had brought for them. He selected a banana, a chocolate pudding pack, and a carton of OJ. TC shook his Uncle’s arm as he was nearly asleep and asked if he could move closer to the front of the bus to get a better view?
“It’s OK with me, but don’t bother the driver, and don’t make a mess with your food,” his Uncle said. TC gathered up his breakfast and moved to an empty seat two rows behind the driver. Since there was no one else in the seat, TC had plenty of room to stretch out and a great view of the South Carolina countryside. The Tiger had explained to TC that the first leg of the journey would be a straight shot up Interstate 85, with stops in Spartanburg, Gaffney, and Gastonia, NC to pick up passengers.
When the bus arrived in Gastonia, the driver announced that there would be a 10-minute layover if anyone wanted to take a stretch. TC looked back at The Tiger who was sleeping soundly and decided that it sure would feel good to take a stretch. The first thing TC spotted when he got off the bus was a well-stocked snack bar where he purchased a 32 oz. Super Slammer drink. About halfway through the Godzilla sized drink, TC realized that it might be a good idea to visit the bathroom before he got back on-board. TC washed his hands and was walking back towards the bus when he noticed it was no longer parked beside the terminal. Dashing out the front door of the station, TC caught a glimpse of his bus making a turn about a hundred yards up this road. Panic began to set in, and TC’s little head began to spin.
Returning to the station, TC noticed a large van now occupied the spot where his bus had just been parked. The sign on the side of the van read, “Charlotte Airport Express – Round Trip or One Way”.
TC ran up to the van driver and blurted out, “My Uncle is on the bus that just left for Charlotte, I’ve been left behind, and we are on our way to Virginia to eat turkey with a friend, and I’ve got to catch up with my Uncle.”
“Hold on one minute young feller,” the van driver said, “why don’t you slow down and tell me the whole story from the get go.” TC explained what had happened much slower the second time around eventually pleading for a ride to Charlotte.
“I can give you a ride to Charlotte, but there’s no guarantee we’ll find your Uncle.” TC’s heart was pounding like a drum as the airport shuttle made it’s way up I – 85 and into the heart of the “Queen City”. When they arrived at the Charlotte bus terminal, TC’s eyes were peeled for any signs of his Uncle. He darted from bus to bus in the parking lot, but no orange tiger stripes were in sight.
“Let’s go inside and check with the Southern Express people the van driver suggested.” It only took about two minutes to learn that the Virginia bound bus had already departed and that there was no way to contact it until it reached it’s next stop.
“What am I going to do now?” TC exclaimed.
“I believe you had better stay right here and let your Uncle find you,” the van driver recommended, “I’ve got to be getting on over to the Airport, but I’ll be back as soon as I complete my next run.” TC thanked the van driver for all his help then found a comfortable chair in the terminal lounge close to the information counter.
After only a few minutes of waiting, TC’s stomach started feeling empty so he told the Southern Express man that he was going to get something to eat. While TC had his heart set on turkey, he thought barbeque would be a good substitute so he went next door to a combination restaurant, truck stop, and gas station. TC placed his order and took a seat in one of the window booths where he could keep an eye on the bus terminal. He was feeling pretty lonely, and even the smell of pit cooked barbeque didn’t help much. He had not cried all day, but now he was having a hard time fighting back the tiger tears. He had never been alone like this before and vowed that if he ever found his Uncle again he would never ever leave his side. Just as TC’s food was being served, he noticed a white bus with a large tiger paw painted on it’s side pulling into the truck stop. TC held his breath as he waited to see who was on the bus and to his surprise Coach Shyatt and the men’s basketball team began unloading.
“Boy am I glad to see you,” TC howled, ”I’ve lost The Tiger, and I don’t know how to find him.” Coach Shyatt and the team gathered around TC to give him a feeling of security as they could see he was pretty shaken up.
“Let’s go into the restaurant,” Coach Shyatt said, “and you can tell us everything that happened.” Coach Shyatt and the team listened carefully as TC told them the entire story about how he missed the bus in Gastonia and got a ride to Charlotte with the van man and everything.
“Don’t worry TC,” Coach Shyatt said, “I’ll make a few calls and we’ll find The Tiger in no time.” “I suggest we all order something to eat and try to relax.”
It wasn’t long before Coach Shyatt got a return call from the Gastonia bus station where he located The Tiger. Coach Shyatt explains to TC, “It turns out that as soon as The Tiger woke up and realized you were missing he got off the bus and walked back into town.” “The Southern Express attendant told your Uncle that you had taken the airport shuttle to Charlotte in hopes of catching up with the bus.” “Knowing that if he kept moving you might never link up, The Tiger decided that it was better to stay in Gastonia and track you down using the telephone.” “Meanwhile, The Tiger has just spoken with the station manager who told him you were safe and sound.” “In fact, The Tiger has a seat on the next bus bound for Charlotte.”
TC was so relieved he would soon be reunited with his Uncle that his appetite returned in full force. I need something extra to go with these ribs, TC thought.
“Excuse me Miss,” TC said to the waitress, “could I have a side of dressing, and some cranberry sauce to spice things up.” Coach Shyatt and the team looked at each other then started roaring with laughter. “I’ll know better next time,” TC said, “to stay close to my Uncle and don’t buy Super Slammers.”
April 17, 2019