Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Riding The Magic Bus

They say you can’t go home. Well they’re stupid idiots, because I did just that last week. I’m from Michigan and was returning to work at a club out there. When I travel I generally travel by bus. This is not an ideal way to travel, but it’s cheap and I’m what you would call a “nervous flyer.” I used the Megabus, which is nice because it’s both the cheapest and smells at least 45% less gross than Greyhound buses. Most bus travelers don’t discuss the finer points of bus travel. This is probably because most bus travelers don’t want to admit that they’re bus travelers, they’d prefer say that they flew and the plane just got lost for the other eighteen hours it took to get to their destination. The most important part about traveling by bus has got to be the seating situation. Unlike planes, trains, and other forms of travel that treat the traveler with a modicum of respect. There are no assigned seats. With the Megabus you just show up at 34th St. and 12th ave. There’s a crowd of gross people. You wait with the crowd of gross people. Hopefully a bus shows up eventually. And then you get on. The goal of corse is to end up sitting alone. Nobody wants to sit next to some weirdo for 8-16 hours. The desire to sit alone is compounded when you see the caliber of people you’re riding the bus with.

They thank you for riding by bus like you had a choice
You’re first inclination is going to be to run to the top level. You’re going to want either the first in the front or the last seat in the back. Both of these are mistakes. You don’t want back because you’re not the only person who has this plan. A lot of other folks are going to be sprinting for those seats. Unless you’re one of the first few in line you ain’t getting one of those, so just forget it. You’re going to get to the back of the bus and realize all the coveted seats are taken. So as you’re sitting there dumbfounded wondering how your plans went awry all the other primo seats are being snatched up. You’re gonna run into the same problems with the front section of the bus. I would throw out the front half right away. Megabus tickets are cheap. The reason they’re so much cheaper than the other bus companies is that they’re good at saving money. One way to save money is to hire drivers who sometimes run into things. I like to think of a bus as a chessboard. Let the pawns take the business end of an overpass while me and the rest of the important pieces hang out in back. So ignore the back and definitely ignore the front row.
Not so smug now are you Rosa Parks
After you’ve ridden the bus a few times you might start thinking you can game the system. You’ve seen the way people act, and you think you’re smarter than the unwashed masses that you travel with. You watch as everyone takes a look at the lower level realizes that all the seat rows have at least one in them so people venture upstairs. Only then if all those seat rows have at least one in them do they choose to sit with someone. They of course won’t come back down to do this so they choose a seat mate upstairs. You watch this a few times and you think you have the whole thing figured out. You think if you get in line early enough you can take one of those lower level seats. When people board after you they’ll just leave you alone and go upstairs. You’ve got it all figured out don’t you. Well you’re a naive fool. You may be right. The odds of sitting along may be a bit greater on the lower level, but you don’t realize the gamble you’re taking here. You take that seat on the lower level you’re opening yourself up to the three worst groups of people to ride the bus with. First you have the people who need to be really close to the bathroom. I’m not judging. I know there are a lot of medical conditions that require frequent trips to the bathroom. I just don’t know if I want to be in noseshot of any of them for the better part of a day. Secondly you’ve got the people who don’t mind sitting next to a stranger all day. These people will probably want to talk. You will definitely not want to. Thirdly you’ve got the people who not only are willing to sit next to a stranger all day, but ACTIVELY WANT TO SIT NEXT TO A STRANGER ALL DAY! If there are open rows and one of these nuts sits next to you. Run. Take a different bus, change your name, do whatever you can, but do what you have to do to get the fuck away from this lunatic. 
Hope you brought enough trail mix for the both of us.
The problem with both these strategies is that sometimes sitting next to someone is inevitable. If you get on the bus and every row has at least one person in it then you’re pretty well fucked. You won’t be getting your own seat. I’ve seen too many guys automatically go for what they think is the best option. Pretty ladies. This is dumb. Listen, you’re not gonna fuck on the bus. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but it’s true. People don’t want to have to sit next to anybody. When you sit next to someone they’re disappointed. Plus, you’ve been riding a bus all day. You are not at your best right now. You’re probably wearing your shitty clothes, because what kind of asshole dresses up for the bus. If this isn’t the first leg of your trip then your shitty clothes are probably pretty wrinkled, making you look even shittier. And you smell like you’ve been on a bus all day. Even if you haven’t been on a bus all day and you’ve just boarded the second you touch the bus you instantly smell like you’ve been on a bus all day. Plus if you have to go the bathroom you’re going to come back smelling like a bus bathroom. You’ll be dead in the water. Even if you’re a nice guy with good intentions, who has a giant bladder, and you smell like roses you will be looked at as the guy who fucked with her legroom. If there is a lady who catches your eye wait until the rest stop. Buy her a coffee  then make your move. 
You're into traveling to the rustbelt city your parents live at very slow speeds? ME TOO!
In my experience look for a bro. Bros are in my experience the best bus-mates around. They keep to themselves, they never want to engage in inane smalltalk, and as a rule they chew with their mouths closed. If you’re going to sit three inches away from a total stranger for upwards of eleven hours I can’t recommend enough seeking out a bro. Quick caveat on the bro rule though. Make sure the bro is a sports/frat bro not a frolf/Whole Foods bro. To the untrained eye the casual look of both may be one in the same, but if you choose the wrong bro you’ve just signed on to a marathon of awful smalltalk, weird smells, and the sounds of loud crunching on organic almonds. If you come upon a bro and are unsure which one you have on your hands just keep on moving. Regroup and try to find a more suitable bro. 

Sometimes no good options exist. This may feel like a defeat. But this is where the real fun begins. Don’t resign yourself to this fate, embrace it. If the only seats that are left are unappealing options then this can be fun too. Think of this as an opportunity. You’re not in a seat cowering in fear that you have to ride next to a stranger. You’re now the hunter. Your steely gaze locking onto your prey. You get to stalk the bus like a jungle animal looking people in the eye. You get to choose whose ride you get to ruin. Like a god walking among men, it’s all in your hands. Might I recommend the person who is staring the angriest at you. It doesn’t matter. You’re gonna have to squeeze in next to some piece of shit, might as well make it someone who doesn’t deserve to have a good ride anyhow. If they ask you if you have to sit there you get bonus points if you say “nope” and just plop down next to them anyhow. You definitely will not have to worry about smalltalk after that. 

Well that’s about it. That’s about all the advice I have to give you regarding bus travel. I would say happy riding, but that’s really not the point of bus travel. Just try to get there alive a relatively not smelly, and that’s really all you can ask for. 


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