Stories from Travel Hell

I recently took the Megabus from Washington DC to New York City and back. It was the most infuriating bus-related experience of my life, and that says a lot coming from a guy that’s lived and traveled extensively multiple continents.

Its not that I thought we were all going to die in a head on collision or plummet over the edge of cliff to meet our fiery doom. There were no bloody fistfights between angry bus passengers, nor any old Indonesian lady insisting we keep all the windows closed despite the 90-degree heat and the fact the chain-smoking driver sandwiched 25 people in a minibus built for 12. See, I’ve come to expect these situations as part and parcel of traveling by bus in the developing world.

But, my expectations in the US are a little a higher – it is after all illegal to smoke in public buses and most have those little “how’s my driving” stickers plastered to the bumper with a phone number you can call to lodge a complaint. Megabus however managed to crush my most feeble hopes for a relatively hassle-free trip to New York.

First, the bus arrived two and a half hours late with no acknowledgement, explanation or apology for the delay, which meant we got stuck in a three-hour traffic jam on the Jersey Turn Pike. Next, the driver had the AC on BLAST. It was FRIGID. This was the middle of summer, we were all wearing sorts and t-shirts – no one was prepared for arctic conditions. The driver refused to change the temperature, so we all froze for the entirety of the six-hour bus ride, which should have taken no more than 3.

I made it to NYC and over the course of a phenomenal weekend forgot about the horrible experience. On Monday morning I rocked up twenty minutes early to the pick-up point for my Megabus home, only to find the driver had given away my seat and I’d have to wait an hour for the next bus. Great. Superb. Spectacular. Its not like I had to get back to DC for work or anything.

The next bus arrives; I hop on and am immediately sandwiched between a fat lady who smelled like a really bad yeast infection and a huge meaty dude who proceeded to pass the time by having phone sex with someone on the other end of the line. I guess he was oblivious to the fact that it was 9:00 AM and the rest of the bus could hear his conversation. Seriously, who has phone sex at 9 in the morning? It was unbelievable.

I haven’t taken Megabus since and will do my best never to again, even if it means paying an extra 10-15 dollars for a real bus.

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