Friday, March 7, 2014
AUGUSTA — Lynda MacFarland tears up, in the cubbyhole office where she and her husband, Mike, sell Greyhound bus tickets at Augusta State Airport, talking about “Sir George” and other old friends they have met in their 35 years together in the business.
DEPARTURE: A Greyhound bus drops off and picks up customers Wednesday at the station at the Augusta State Airport. Mike and Lynda McFarland, who have served as Greyhound’s bus agents for 35 years, are retiring on Dec. 20.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
retiring: Mike and Lynda McFarland, shown here with their dog, Moka, who joins them at work daily, plan to retire Dec. 20 as Greyhound bus agents. The couple have sold tickets for 35 years in Augusta, currently at the Augusta State Airport.
Staff photo by Andy Molloy
The couple, who started working at Depot News in downtown Augusta in 1978, then bought the business and became agents for Greyhound in 1982 before moving in 2003 to the airport, where Mike also runs the adjacent Hertz rental car counter, plans to retire Dec. 20, leaving behind their nearly 11-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week schedule, and a bus load of memories.
Sir George was one of their many beloved regulars at the former Depot News, a downtown gathering spot that sold newspapers, magazines, cigarettes and, of course, bus tickets. But he didn’t start out very friendly. Without saying a word, he’d walk into the store every morning, slam his quarters for his daily newspaper down on the counter harshly, and walk out.
Lynda, determined to get him to open up, always greeted him warmly and told him to have a good day, getting no response. Eventually, the man told her the only way he would talk was if they called him “Sir George.” So they did.
Over time, he became more and more friendly with the couple. They even got to know his adult children, who lived away but came to visit in the summer. So one day when Sir George came in, shaking because of health problems, the MacFarlands called his children to let them know. The children took him to live with them, but not before he came by for a tear-filled goodbye with the MacFarlands.
“He was crying; we were crying. We knew he was never coming back,” Lynda MacFarland said.
Like Sir George, the MacFarlands are moving on, and leaving town, though they do plan to come back to their Chelsea home, at least for summers.
“We’re getting an RV and heading south. We’re going to see the country,” Mike MacFarland said of their retirement plans. “For the last 30 years, we’ve worked seven days a week. It’s time to go on vacation. We’re done.”
Kathy Saucier, of Augusta, stops by the MacFarlands’ office just inside the airport entrance regularly — not to take the bus or rent a car; just to see the MacFarlands, whom she got to know when they owned Depot News and she worked downtown at the nearby KeyBank building. They even introduced her to her husband, who was a Greyhound bus driver at the time. The pair got married in the MacFarlands’ backyard.
Saucier said she’d go to the Depot News for her morning coffee, where she’d chat with the MacFarlands and other regulars who worked downtown every morning.
“Mike and Lynda are awesome people. They have always been there for me, sharing the good times and consoling me in the bad times,” Saucier said. “I will miss them greatly, and a lot of other people will, too.”
Lori Buzzerio, area manager of Greyhound Lines Inc., said the company has not yet decided how, or whether, it will continue to serve the Augusta area after the MacFarlands’ retirement.
She said the MacFarlands are “great agents. I wish them well in their endeavors.”
Mike MacFarland said he thinks Greyhound will keep some sort of presence in Augusta. He joked that he doesn’t care what happens, as long as he doesn’t get hit by a bus on his last day at work.
Greyhound is one of two bus services in Augusta. Concord Coach Lines opened a bus terminal in north Augusta in 2008.
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