It’s that time of year again! The holidays are upon us and that means travel. Now, for some of us travel is a magical luxury in which you fly on your private jet and a hot flight attendant gives you a hot meal and a hot towel. Make no mistake, you, my friend, are an asshole.
For the rest of us, holiday travel is a horrendous, expensive burden. Whether your flight is oversold or your train is delayed or your car breaks down, it’s a nightmare. But, there is one special kind of travel, reserved for the worst among us. Maybe you’re the type of person who went into an art career and then as a second career decided go into something where you make even less money. Maybe that’s a thing sane people do. Or maybe you’re a college student, or a drifter or better yet, a convicted felon. You’ll meet all of these characters and more on the Dickensian hell scape of travel, the Greyhound bus!
I’m a frequent bus traveler because, look you guys, shit did not go exactly as planned. My life I mean. I’m well aware that by now I should at least be able to afford a plane ticket or a car or a have a nice boyfriend that would actually bother to come to Thanksgiving, TED.
Cough, cough. Sorry about that. Anyway, an upside, if there is one, is that I’m not the biggest loser riding the bus. Things could always be worse. ALWAYS. The last bus I got on smelled like deli meat and toilet cleaner and the first think I thought was, ‘Hey, at least I’m not sitting next to that guy traveling to Albany to talk to the parole board!’*
What I’m saying is that you meet a lot of interesting people. (As a side note, I once saw a woman on a Greyhound with the greatest tattoo I have even seen. It was a mural on her back of the phases of Michael Jackson’s face. Fresh faced young boy, Thriller pop star and sad, decrepit skeleton man. I would have taken an picture but I was afraid she would stab me.)
Anyway, aside from the fact that they usually get you to your destination on time, (Seriously, it’s actually the most reliable form of transportation I’ve encountered.), traveling via bus is pretty terrible. Here are a few tips to make things a little easier, so you can resist the urge to throw yourself out the emergency window in a fit of despair and/or boredom.
Sometimes, if you are lucky the bus won’t totally be sold out. This means that there is a small chance you won’t have a seat partner. This makes a horrible, disgusting, incredibly uncomfortable, sad, degrading experience, just sad, degrading and slightly uncomfortable. From the moment you get in line for the bus, it is your job make sure this happens. Avoiding a seat partner requires the skillful combination of understating human behavior and looking like the worst possible seat partner possible.
• Get there early, like 45 minutes to an hour early. You’ll be close to the front of the line and have your choice of seating.
• If you can, go for the first seat on either side. Preferably the left side. For whatever reason, everyone always skips the first two seats, so they are the last to fill in. Also, for another reason that I don’t understand, humans have a tendency to veer right, hence going for the seat on the left. The front left seat is the most likely to be unoccupied. Believe me, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s true. This is the seat I always go for and it usually works. (I am really getting sad that I know this.)
• Once you’re seated, pretend to be asleep. No one wants to wake a sleeping stranger, let alone touch you. Unless they REALLY want to touch you. Then you should probably just get on the next bus.
• If you are uncomfortable with the sleeping thing or are at the beginning of your trip, pretend you have a cold. When the bus is boarding cough and hack like you have tuberculosis. Maybe, get fancy and throw some red food coloring into a tissue. Sell that shit! Once I saw someone on the bus who had a huge goiter. I’m not saying I want a huge, gross goiter but no one sat next to her for the entirety of the 10 hour ride, so it couldn’t be all bad, right?
• OH NO! The worst has happened and the bus is full or there are no open spots. Sit next to the smallest, non-creepy person you can find or at least the person with the least amount of luggage.
***Do not under any circumstances, sit next to someone who has all of their belongings in a garbage bag. They are escaping.***
• The bus is the great equalizer, in that you will meet an equal amount of crazy and sane people. I have to travel through Albany a lot, which happens to be the New York state capitol. In addition be being a garbage town, it is also the place where they process prisoners for parole and other totally not terrifying things if you are stuck sitting next to them. You’ve been warned.
Ok, so now you’re seated. No matter what your seating situation is like, actually getting there is gonna be on the scale from terrible to ‘Oh God! My eyeballs are bleeding just thinking about it.’
To make next X amount of hours bearable:
• Bring food. Yeah, the bus makes a few station stops, but have you SEEN bus station food? Christ. It’s terrifying. Do yourself a favor and bring a sub or something or you might actually ingest a delightful combination of rat feces and public hair. Unless that’s your thing.
• Bring something to do. There are outlets and wifi on most Greyhounds so you can actually bring a laptop and watch a movie or something. Or an iPod, or some knitting. Anything to distract you from staring at that weird lady with the eyepatch that smells like cheese.**
• Drugs.*** The best way to get through this is to just knock yourself out.****
There you have it! This is literally the best you can do.
Good luck to all you weary travelers out there! Traveling via bus isn’t easy, and you are a true soldier! As for me, I’ll be taking the train. *****
*actual man I encountered
**actual lady I encountered
***IF they are legal and prescribed to you. Seriously. Most illegal drugs would be pretty terrible on a long bus trip anyway, so just roll with the mellow stuff. Also, weed is legal in some states now, so uhh…use as directed?
**** Don’t do this if you have to make a bunch of transfers or aren’t really familiar with the route. Don’t be an idiot. The goal is to make this trip as short as possible.
*****…and taking the bus back home. Whaddayou think I’m a millionaire?