Strangely Specific Tips for Riding the Bus

My car and I recently had a falling out. Her name is Ruby, we’ve been together since I was two, and I’ve told several of my ex-boyfriends that I’ll always love her more than them. Unfortunately, Ruby and I spend a lot of time fighting. I am of the opinion that even if there is snow on the ground, and even if there’s the tiniest slope, it is a car’s duty to get from Point A to Point B with minimal cursing on the driver’s part. Ruby is Swedish, and must be from a particularly balmy, flat area of the country, because she is of a different school of thought. That’s how what should have been a four-hour trip between school and my house turned into an 11-hour journey involving the state patrol, two tow trucks, a bag of cat litter, and a surprising amount of blood coming out of my nose.

It’s also why, when I had to make the trip again a few weeks later, I decided to leave Ruby at school and ride the bus home. I am by no means an expert bus rider, but after several trips, I feel like I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. I’d like to share that knowledge with you now, because in my experience, people walk off of buses changed. I want you to have the advice I never received.

Make sure it’s the right kind of greyhound.

Tip #1

DO arrive at the station an hour before your bus is supposed to leave. Sometimes they tell you when the bus gets there, and sometimes they just let you guess, so it’s good to leave yourself plenty of time to buy all the microwaveable hamburgers your heart desires. That way, you can sit down, begin to eat your lukewarm food at a leisurely pace, and still have time to perform the Heimlich maneuver on yourself when they announce the first and final warning for your bus.

Tip #2

DON’T make eye contact with anyone in the station. Much like a silverback gorilla, habitual bus riders will interpret eye contact as a challenge and a sign of aggression. If the man across the station appears to be missing an important facial feature, DO NOT LOOK AT HIM. Even the adorable Asian man eating an orange slice will turn out to be crazy. DON’T LOOK.

Tip #3

DON’T sit next to the woman who brought a comforter onto the bus instead of luggage. She has holes in her face from meth use, and she smells like feet. Nice people don’t smell like feet.

Also avoid sitting next to the guy with the Sam Elliot mustache. He will lure you into a false sense of security by making you inadvertently think about beef and how it’s for dinner, but he smells like someone pranked him by putting chewing tobacco in his shower head and he either didn’t notice or didn’t care enough to fix it. Ideally, sit alone.

Tip #4

DON’T look at the vents too closely. If it looks like it’s a slimy gob of human hair, it probably is, and you’ll obsess over it for the next few hours.

Tip #5

DO add a buffer of three hours to your travel time. This will frustrate whoever is picking you up, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Even if your bus arrives on-time, it’s extremely likely that you will be told by your terrifying bus driver that the bus can’t leave until a bus from Albuquerque gets there. That bus, which is still an hour out, has a woman with a baby on it, and she has to catch this bus because the next bus that comes through your podunk little town isn’t until 2 a.m. and she and the baby have nowhere to stay. It would be perfectly understandable if, at this point, you joined every other passenger on your bus in actively hating the woman and her baby.

Tip #6

DO realize that when the bus from Albuquerque finally arrives, the woman with the baby is going to sit next to you. She’ll ask if it’s cool to change the baby’s diaper, and you’ll say it is, noticing that the baby has more teeth than she does. It will quickly become very uncool, because the baby is apparently an Indian food enthusiast and then everyone on the bus will start actively hating YOU. After this, stay away from anyone who looks like they might have a shiv.

Tip #7

DON’T agree to watch anyone’s baby, because otherwise a tragic series of events will be set into motion. At the first stop the bus makes, the woman will ask if you can watch her sleeping baby while she smokes a cigarette and buys some milk. If you agree, thinking of your years of babysitting, she will lift the baby off her lap, tell you she hopes it doesn’t wake up because it’s “weird around people”, and then she will accidentally bump the kid’s head on the seat. The baby will immediately wake up and open its mouth to cry, but the woman will already be off the bus by the time it gets the first scream out. You’ll attempt to calm it down by patting its head and saying things like, “There, there. Your ambiguous female relative will be back soon. In the meantime, tell me about that Indian food.” The baby will have none of this and will continue to cry until it’s distracted by a girl wearing a cat-shaped hat. If you’ve payed attention to this tip, skip to tip #9

Tip #8

DO understand that new passengers will see you and the screaming baby sitting together on the crowded bus, and will assume you are a teen mom. Because you speak a small amount of Spanish, you will clearly overhear an old Mexican man say to his wife that you are an example of why 13-year-olds shouldn’t even know what sex is. Resist the urge to shout in Spanish, over the crying baby, that you just look young for your age and anyway it’s clearly not your baby because YOUR baby would have better hair.

Tip #9

DON’T get off at the stop immediately before the major destination, because you will of course be the only jerk departing there and everyone on the bus will hate you a little more (if that’s possible). The terrifying bus driver will get mad when you tell her you have luggage under the bus. She’ll get even angrier when she asks you another question in the ear that’s a little messed up after your childhood run-in with a Q-Tip, and instead of asking “What?” and risking her wrath, you go with the old smile-and-nod approach, which is less than effective when she’s asked you what color your bag is. In the meantime, the methy blanket lady will have snuck up behind you to growl something unintelligible into your good ear. You’ll worry the angry bus driver is going to try to run you over when you walk in front of the bus, and then you’ll worry that you’ve fallen into a Stephen King story and the methy blanket lady is really a gypsy who has cursed you. You’ll spend your entire trip wondering what that curse entails. Not even lame romance novels will make you feel better.

No matter how awful your bus ride is, though, this one was much worse:

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17 comments

  1. CloneTV

    Also avoid sitting in front of the woman transporting a live goat between villages in Greece. Goat was very quiet and seemed well-behaved during the trip. Later, I discovered it was because it kept itself entertained by maowing off a shoulder strap of my backpack.

  2. ThisIsMyCleverAlias

    I took a bus trip once. What was normally a 7 hour car drive was a 17 hour bus drive. Which is bad unto itself, but gets worse when you realize you have a weird reaction to claustrophobic situations – a perpetual feeling that you have to tinkle, no matter how much you go to the little rocking bathroom or how much you dehydrate yourself.

  3. thepsychconvert

    Hahaha hilarious as always. Can you start a second blog? or find a way to make lists out of some of your other stories? I’m really interested in hearing why it took two tow trucks and a bloody nose to get your car out of they snow.

  4. propupavanje

    I wish all the people in the world read your blog, I say that for their own benefit! But since Facebook became popular, nobody reads blogs any more. It’s like that song says:

    Facebook killed the blogging star! Facebook killed the blogging star! Pictures came and broke your heart, put the blame on that nerdy Zuckerberg guy!

  5. theliteraryhorse

    Okay, that’s it. I’m subscribing. I can’t decide whether I pay you for the privilege or send a computer repair bill because now it’s TWICE I’ve spewed hot beverages onto my screen and into my keyboard.

    I believe I’ve been on that bus…did you notice the guy with the rooster under his jacket, in the back?

    • Stephanie

      I hope you don’t send me the bill, because my computer is about to blow up or something and I have to repair it, too. As for the rooster, if that had happened on my bus, I would have left at the first stop and walked home. I can’t deal with meth addicts AND poultry.

  6. Flesbian Flover

    I’ve taken the bus. You are right it’s terrifying. I was dreading the trip once so i purposefully kept myself up all night and then took sleeping pills before i left. This was a bad choice because I was squished next to a not so welcoming convict or escaped prisoner. I fell asleep on his shoulder and drooled.

  7. Tori Nelson

    Haha I used to purposefully volunteer to work late to avoid picking up friends at the bus station. Creepy creep. Any place where “methy blanket lady” is the norm is surely no good!

  8. Pingback: Strangely Specific Tips for Riding the Bus (via Listful Thinking) « JJBaker's Aviation/ Seaplane Safety
  9. Kenn

    I ride the bus all the time myself and here’s a tip that helps. Ride with a backpack and place the backpack on the side of your seat nearest the aisle and sit by the window. For some reason, nobody wants to disrupt said backpack and you get the seat to yourself. Works almost everytime—- even when it’s SRO. Try it sometime. 8)

  10. shenanitim

    Wow, I haven’t riden the bus since college. I would actually recommend making friends with the scary bus-drivers though. I can remember many times where I’d fall asleep and they’d wake me up and even make a special stop for me. (It also helps if this is a city bus, and your stop is the last one before the station.)

  11. Jake

    How to win at long-distance bus travel:

    If traveling from a familiar station on a familiar route:

    Be at the gate at least 25 mins before departure, at least 30 during or around holidays.

    Pay attention in case anything has changed.

    If traveling from a non-familiar station and/or on a non-familiar route:

    Be at the station at least 45 mins before departure.

    When you arrive at the terminal, ask an employee if your baggage will need to be brought anywhere for a claim check or tag.

    Be at the gate at least 25 mins before departure, at least 30 during or around holidays.

    Pay attention to the other passengers at your gate, if none of them have luggage, you probably shouldn’t either. Ask them where they dropped theirs and what they had to do beforehand. (Tags, claim check, etc.) If they all have tags or a claim check, you should too.

    Be nice to all employees on the bus and at the bus station.

    Bring food, books, entertainment, phone, etc. Take these AND CHARGERS out of any luggage BEFORE you get on the bus.

    Sit in the front half of the bus.

    Get your luggage off the bus as soon as you arrive at your destination.

    Personally watch your luggage as it is moved by employees AT ANY TIME, IF POSSIBLE.

    Finally, use common sense. Research stations before you book your trip. Familiarize yourself with their locations and the food choices around them. If you come across a station in a shady part of town, it may be a good idea to just stay in a well-lit, well-populated part of the station. Plan to eat at the station before or after it.

    Safety in numbers. If you can, travel with a buddy.

    If followed, these guidelines SHOULD generate a positive bus experience. However, like any mode of transportation, problems can happen on the bus or at the station. Don’t expect perfection. You certainly wouldn’t expect it from the airlines…

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