‘‘Greyhound People,’’ which many critics refer to as one of Alice Adams’s most popular stories, was inspired by the author’s experiences on Greyhound buses, which she rode to get from her home to the University of California at Davis, where she taught for a brief period of time. This short story, originally published in the New Yorker in 1981, was recently published in the highly acclaimed The Stories of Alice Adams (2002), with ‘‘Greyhound People’’ being singled out as one of the best stories in the collection. (Note that this story may have been previously published but the exact date could not be found or confirmed.)
The long commute from home to work and the bits of conversations that the author heard during the ride must have stirred Adams’s imagination. The story begins with a simple question, but one with possible complex consequences: What would happen if one day the protagonist got on the wrong bus? Where would she end up? What would she learn? And how might the experience change her? Greyhound buses, after all, are but distant cousins of city buses that rarely drive over city limit speeds, stop every two or three blocks, and never cross the somewhat barren lands that lie between two metropolitan areas. To get on the wrong Greyhound bus could have dire consequences, or, in the least, significant complications. And this is what Adams explores. In the process, the protagonist learns to loosen her grip on the stale routine that has become her life and to enjoy herself.
In a review of The Stories of Alice Adams, Michael Frank of the Los Angeles Times classified ‘‘Greyhound People’’ as falling into the category of ‘‘snapshot’’ stories—a sort of picture of life or as Frank put it, a kind of ‘‘collage.’’ This reviewer found that rather than building suspense in many of her stories, Adams tended to create sketches. In specific reference to ‘‘Greyhound People,’’ Frank wrote, ‘‘You come away from the story feeling that you have been taken somewhere—not enlightened so much, not shaken up—merely shown.’’ Then Frank adds: ‘‘Adams is a great shower of people, of place, of social moments and moments of intimacy.’’ In other words, ‘‘Greyhound People,’’ is a great vehicle for taking an enjoyable ride.