I've been a passenger on many buses in my life. In grade school I'd buckle up and cover the seatbelt with my personalized bags so that the "cool kids" wouldn't make fun of me. To me, wearing a seatbelt was second hand nature and obviously safe. As a teen I remember being confused by those yellow sensors on the public bus to signal that your stop is coming up and hoped that someone else would just press it for me. Then I'd wait to allow anyone in front of me to get out first - it seemed polite. All my life, on all different buses leading to all different places, I've followed certain etiquette.
It wasn't until I became a frequent traveler with the Grey Hound buses, that I realized I may be one of the only people to follow bus etiquette. Cheap-traveling caters to all types but a large majority of bus riders are among the lowest of the low-income block. I mean the kind of people that would stalk out tradeshows and wait in the back alley to collect fallen tradeshow giveaways. There are also some bus travelers that feel that they deserve first class seating and expect a complimentary pillow and blanket- not gonna happen - unless of course you consider the raggedy old promotional blanket the bag woman forgot when she got off the bus usable. And while I enjoy the company of all people, after my tortuous 10 hour bus journey to Maine this weekend, I feel it necessary to lay out some guidelines for these people.
1) Wait in line.
We've been taught this since "Single-file!" in grade school, but due to a sewage water spill in Port Authority, my bus travelers forgot the concept. The bus was first come, first served, which made the 100+ people waiting for the last bus of the night (12:15a.m.) nervous. Thankfully, an intimidating "Oh, no you diiiii-eeeeeeemt!" matching-sweat-suit wearing woman assisted me with the line problem. As the sea of people moved towards the bus like the notorious "blob" she walked ahead of the various line-cutters and waved her personalized keychains in their faces. "YOU diiii-ent get here be-fow me. And YOU ain't gettin' on dat bus be-fow me." The shaking-pretty-white-chicks (Cleary visitors to New York) didn't contest. Thank you, crazy woman number one.
2) Don't speak of impending death.
One of the most irritating things I heard while waiting on that wonderful line was this arrogant college guy talking to a bum, "You know," he said in his mono-tone voice, "they say the brain is the strongest muscle in your body." I don't know what he was referencing, but I hoped the flowers he bought for his girlfriend at UMaine were going to wilt away by the time we got there. A few moments later, the bum he was talking to decided to veer away from the political conversation that had formed and said, "Oh you heard about that guy on the Grey Hound? Went out at the rest stop for a cigarette just like we're gonna'. Came back and went crazy and killed the guy by him! Cut off his-" I don't think I need to explain in detail everything he said, but in the midst of boarding a Grey Hound bus it is incredible unnecessary to bring up this story, as “news worthy” as you think it may be.
3) No beer, please.
I tried to get the story of the crazy Grey Hound murder out of my mind, but when the guy in front of me began cursing in random bouts 5 minutes into the ride, I was a bit uneasy. I suppose he was also on edge, which is why cracking a beer seemed normal to him. The cursing stopped but the drinking didn't. I'm pretty sure it was our little secret- he'd place his baseball cap in front of his face every time he took a chug, and burped exclusively in my direction. From the sour watery smell I gathered that he was drinking skunked Budweiser. These three things all occurred before we even got out of the city, which will lead you to believe that the rest of my journey was splendid. I had a nose-blower cuddling up to me for her zzz's and a bus driver that acted like a cheering coach. At 2 am he came over the load speaker, "So how's everyone feeling!?" After only a few people responded he asked again, "I saaaaid how you feeeeeeling!"
As awful as it was, I always feel a bit more cultured after a long bus trip. I wouldn’t say it's "high culture" but I consider any experience valuable. Depending on when my next trip is, I may have to grab my promotiona keychains and bring my own wheels. I need at least a month to recover from that one. Maybe I should write to Grey Hound and suggest some customized stress balls.