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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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: