Roy Exum: The Education Of Watts Dantzler

Sunday, September 23, 2012

When Watts Dantzler was a little boy growing up in Dalton, Ga., he kept growing … and growing … and growing. Today, standing 6-feet-7 and weighing a sturdy 320 pounds, our modern-day Goliath is a standout tackle on the University of Georgia football team. As do many athletes of today, Watts has 4,900 followers on his Twitter account and added to the world’s laughter this week when a Tweet of his went viral: “How cool would it be if you could download food to your iPhone?!”

While we will leave such exploration and delivery options to the geniuses at Apple, you need to know that Watts has a sense of humor that encompasses his life as a fun-filled college sophomore. He is funny and perhaps that is best typified by “an educational experience” that has been taught to generations of college students for many years. This spring Watts took a ride on a Greyhound bus.

Every college boy should be required to ride on a Greyhound bus. I did it. My friends did it and, while nobody ever did it more than once, it is a delicious rite-of-passage that opens a vague set of eyes to an entirely different world in a way that is slowly served one grueling mile after mile. If you have a fatal disease and are told you are going to die shortly, some believe that if you’ll get on a Greyhound, the ride will last forever.

It seems Watts and some of his Bulldog teammates went to Florida for spring vacation and he said it was “super fun, got sun-burned, and ate way too much food.” But, on Thursday, he had to get back to Athens to prepare for spring practice while every other UGa student wasn’t budging until the very last minute on Sunday.

“How was I going to get to Athens?” he began an essay on “Possible choices: Jog (never gonna’ happen), hitch hike (might get killed) or take the Greyhound bus (oh, no ….) So I decided to go with Greyhound. One of the (UGa) Equestrian girls drove me to Panama City. For 40 dollars. (Very early) in the morning. And the trip begins ….”

“I arrive at the Greyhound station not knowing what to expect. I literally was scared for my life. I was ticket number 30. The bus pulls in and the bus driver tells the whole group he has 22 seats available. (So what do I do? Ride on the top of the bus?) I am standing by a white guy who looks kinda’ creepy.

“He told me his name was Mike but his friends call him “Lil Meek”. He told me that he had just gotten out of jail because he beat up a cop in Panama City Beach. Oh, good. He was ticket number 31. So he and I decided we would stand (in the bus aisle) for the first two hours with ten other people.

“I was not going to stand for two and a half hours. This story is 100% true. I laid on the floor of this bus from Panama to Tallahassee. I laid on my side because my shoulders were too big to lay on my back (between the seats). There was a Mexican guy kicking me in the side and cussing me out saying ‘There is a fat-*** white boy on my foot.’

“I slept a little bit the first trip but I was laying in the nastiest floor on the whole world. We finally arrived into Tallahassee and it took me five minutes to get off of the ground. I was practically stuck in the aisle of the bus.

“Once we get off the bus we took a thirty minute break and we got onto a nicer bus. I talked to Lil Meek for a few minutes and told me about his ‘Baby momma’ and his kid -- Malcolm -- who he was going to see. He seemed like a great guy. On the second bus I was lucky enough to get a seat. I sent a text to my roommate and said, “I have a seat #blessed”

“It had been four hours and my phone was almost dead. I asked every single person on the bus if they had an iPhone charger. Half the bus didn’t even own a phone. Three people asked me what an iPhone was.

“Anytime someone on the bus used the phone I could hear them. The best conversation was a young lady who was screaming at a man asking him questions, ‘Where is da baby at?’ and ‘You betta not let yo crazy-*** aunt have my baby’ and my personal favorite, ‘Once I get off this **** bus Imma come find you and beat yo ***’. She was really angry.

“The next few hours not much happened. We stopped in Thomasville, Cordele, and Macon. In Thomasville, to my rescue, a nice young lady carrying an iPad, iPhone, and iPad walked on. She let me use her charger three times. I was on my phone the entire time and had to recharge it three times.

“This part is the craziest part of the trip. We stopped in Cordele to get food. We pulled into a gas station that had a Dairy Queen inside of it. Me and about forty people got off the bus and walked inside to find the Dairy Queen was closed. There was one person who screamed, ‘I’m gonna burn this **** gas station to the ground!’

“Another guy cussed out the bus driver because they wanted food so bad. I had eaten nothing all day. They had these pizza slices that were not very good. I ate two of them, a bag of Bugles, and red Powerade Zero and a pack of Reese’s. When we got on the bus there was a guy sitting beside me and he had not gotten off and did not have any food. Each stop he smoked like three cigarettes.

“I felt bad so I offered him some of my Bugles. He said verbatim, ‘No thanks man, while I’m on Meth I never get hungry but thanks anyways.’ At this moment I almost lost it. The guy just admitted to doing Meth in front of me. The trip continued for a lot, lot, lot, lot, lot, lot longer….

“The Meth guy started talking to himself. A baby in the back cried for twenty minutes straight. I needed a ride back to Athens and finally convinced a pretty tennis player named Lauren Herring to come pick me up. She told me she was going to be a little late because she had dinner plans already. So I knew I would have to spend about two hours at the Greyhound bus station in Atlanta. Dear God help me…

“I swear there is not a scarier, sketchier, and ghetto-er place in this entire world than this bus station in the hood of Atlanta. I sat down and watched the basketball game and very shortly a fight broke out. There was an older white guy with a cane who was yelling at a Mexican for taking off his shoes. The old man said, ‘Put them dang stinky shoes back on right now, Amigo (in a very country accent).

“The Mexican, who looked really scary, decked out in tattoos, tackled the white guy and started punching him. The fight was very short, but had a great deal of intensity. They both got thrown out. Next, a man yelled at the Customer Service for literally for twenty minutes, then fell asleep, then woke up and started yelling again. He got thrown out by the same security guard.

“Lastly, I walked outside to wait for Lauren to come get me. I had four people beg me for money. I had one guy try to sell me a lighter for three dollars. Then another guy came up to me with a bag and in it had five Gameboy Colors. He wanted to sell them to me for thirty dollars. I kindly declined.

“Finally my ride came and I drove back to Athens. It took my 6 hours to get to the beach. I left Destin at 7:45 a.m. I arrived at my dorm at 11:25 p.m.

* * *

Obviously, the next time this happens Watts Dantzler will jog from Destin, Fla., to Athens, Ga., before he dares to crawl back on “The Dog.” As he now knows, “It will open your eyes to things that will blow your mind.”

And therein lies the story of a great lesson in the education of Dalton’s Watts Dantzler, age 20, or – if you prefer -- No.  78 in your University of Georgia program.

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