Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Loathe the Bus, Take Two

Here I am, gentle readers, easing back on to the Internet. I hope you all had merry Christmases and happy Hannukahs and krazy Kwanzaas.

So here's the deal with today: I'm going to cheat a little bit. My brain is all warped from visions of sugarplums and probably inhaling some errant tinsel, so I'm going to re-post. BUT. It's relevant to my present day life, I promise.

This weekend Jeff and I took the bus from NYC to Boston and back. We took Bolt bus, which is like the Chinatown bus but less likely to catch on fire. We took it because it was $32 one-way for both of us. We took it because we are poor.

Every time I take a bus I vow never to do it again, but then I forget and convince myself that taking a bus is romantic in a quintessentially American, Jack Kerouac kind of way. I think about It Happened One Night, that scene when they're all singing as they whiz across state lines, and I convince myself that taking the bus is rustic and romantic, a way to see the countryside and contemplate life.

No. That is what road trips are for. Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady were in a car, not a bus. And no one who has ever looked even remotely like Clark Gable has ever waited in line at the Port Authority.

While I must admit that the Bolt bus rides were not as terrible as what I describe below, which I wrote back in my days of Greyhound travel in 2006, the essence of my general misery remains the same. On our return trip yesterday, I had no sooner sat down than I noticed a brown smudge on my finger. Jeff was eating a Whatchamacallit (Yes! They still exist!), but a quick sniff test confirmed that the smudge was not chocolate. So when I say my bus ride was shitty I am being literal.

Anyway, here is my seminal work on bus loathing.

Monday, January 9, 2006 (On Friendster, y'all--throwback!)

Throughout my childhood I loved bus trips, so much so that I repeatedly worried my parents, declaring at every opportunity (i.e. whenever I saw a bus, which, in New York City, was a lot) that I wanted to be a bus driver when I grew up. Buses are very kid-friendly: bouncy, loud, full of the kinds of stimulation that can only be appreciated by people whose brains are not fully developed. On long trips to exotic destinations outside the city, I liked to watch the landscape pass by, green trees melting into gray cement with a dancing telephone wire vibrating in between. As an adult, however, I have lost my appreciation for the trademark sounds and smells of buses. In fact, I have come to regard bus travel as one of the deeper circles of hell, a notch or two above being given a jalapeno enema while listening to an Ann Coulter book on tape.

Why, for instance, do the movies shown on buses appear to have been selected by a panel of blind people who have recently emerged from comas? A true story: I was once on a bus from Washington, DC to New York, and my friend and I had forgotten to bring reading material. As the bus started moving, the driver announced over the intercom that he would be starting a movie momentarily. My friend made an excited noise, at which the intercom once again buzzed to life. “You say that now,” The driver cautioned. My friend and I laughed and looked at each other. How bad could it be, we asked ourselves? Was there really a movie out there that could make a three-hour bus trip worse? Actually, yes. Its name is Pluto Nash. Another time I was subjected to Cody Banks 2.

Now, I don’t mean to be picky, but I was a film major and I know for a fact that there are approximately three hundred bazillion movies that are better than Cody Banks 2. I’m not asking for Citizen Kane here, but let me explain: to take a person who is poor to begin with, so poor that they cannot afford even to take the train, let alone rent a car or fly, and then to make them wait in long lines in the bowels of the Port Authority Bus Terminal with even more disgruntled, even poorer people carrying fragrant fast food containers and wearing expressions most often seen in mug shots, and then to herd them onto a vessel that looks and smells like a carbon monoxide-filled Port-O-Potty circa 1985, that would have been punishment enough. But to then offer, as the sole distraction from the crying babies, guttural coughs, and inane cell phone conversations (sights and sounds that have already made it near-impossible to read, assuming one has the kind of X-ray vision required to see through the soft, urine-colored light shining down from above), to then offer up a steaming piece of celluloid crap like Cody Banks 2, well that is just cruel and unusual, not to mention completely fucking tasteless. Unless Frankie Muniz himself selected the movie, there’s just no excuse.

Oh, and wait, wait. I haven’t gotten to the punch line yet: this fabulous experience – which did not include beverage service and took me approximately 175 miles each way – cost me $76 dollars. I would also like to point out that it is nineteen times more likely that you will die in a car than in a plane, and that this statistic only gets worse for buses. And so, in summation, if you are poor and you live in America, your last moments are probably going to be spent watching Gigli and smelling feces as you and fifty angry strangers bounce slowly but surely down I-95.


  1. No no no no! Please tell me that wasn't shit. My face scrunched up while I was reading this.
    It's funny, I feel that way about road trips as well. I often entertain becoming a trucker.
    But then I think I would learn to hate the open road and become bitter.
    Happy Holidays!

  2. Haha. It could have been something else, but I don't know what. I must admit, however, that whatever it was probably got on me before I got on the bus.

    And happy holidays to you!

  3. Great essay!
    Any mention of the term "road trip" makes me want to chew my arms off. Boarding any kind of bus triggers an immediate Tourettes type urge to start singing that song from Midnight Cowboy.
    Man on the moon and yet no teleportation? Where are our priorities here?

  4. Right now I am sitting in traffic on a Boltbus, the driver of which keeps hitting the break. (On the bright side, the internet works.) I may have to re-read your hilarious post every time I take the bus.


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