Bus rage

If you have 400 miles to travel and your options are Greyhound bus or a skateboard, choose the skateboard. You’ll get there faster and in greater comfort.

I left the house at 2 a.m. a week ago Sunday and arrived at the Wichita bus station shortly thereafter. I sat down with a book to wait for the 3 a.m. bus. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Evidentally Greyhound assumes that nobody reads any more, because there was a television up on the wall, tuned to CNN, the volume set to Very Loud. It was hard to read with the nattering voices. Nobody watched the television.

The stairway to the men’s room at the bus station was dark. It was not pleasant walking up them and, with my recent orthopedic problems, it was no fun at all making my way back down. Two of the four stalls were out of order, as were three of the five urinals. At the sink where I rinsed my hands, water flowed down the drain and onto the floor. There was no soap in the dispenser.

At 4 a.m., CNN repeated Larry King’s 2 a.m. interview with Colin Powell. Neither Powell nor King said anything worth hearing once, let alone twice.

At 5 a.m., just as CNN began repeating their 3 a.m. news report, the 3 a.m. bus arrived. It left the station shortly before 5:30, about two-and-a-half hours late.

My 7:15 a.m. connection east was long gone by the time the bus rolled into the Kansas City station, so I had the privilege of spending the rest of the morning there. At least the fixtures in the men’s room worked, and I was able to purchase a small hamburger that merely cost three times what it was worth. However, there were, not just one, but two televisions blaring, and none of the seats were comfortable. There were occasional announcements on the loudspeakers, but they were unintelligible with all the noise. I saw no chart listing which bus was boarded from which door. Fortunately, I correctly guessed which line was for the bus I needed in time to catch it.

The second bus left only about twenty minutes late, and I eventually arrived at my destination, about six hours late. ((Let me note for the record that all the Greyhound staff I talked to were courteous and apologetic. I’m not angry at them.))

Never again.

This was not my worst experience with Greyhound. Some years back, during a complicated journey, one of the bus drivers didn’t bother to go to work that day. I eventually reached my destination, exhausted and furious, in the middle of the night rather than the scheduled mid-afternoon.

It wasn’t always like this. Years ago, busses ran on time. You could even check in your luggage as you do at an airport rather than lug it from bus to bus, and you didn’t have to pay $10 for a second suitcase. I could buy a two-week pass for a very reasonable price, visit friends and family in several states out east and spend a few days at the Pennsic War on the way home. I used to entrust my hammered dulcimer to a friend with a car and take the bus to Winfield, arriving in time to set up my tent before the fingerpicking championship.

But not any more. Fewer busses run these days, seldom at reasonable times, almost never on time, and they don’t stop at Winfield.

Update: Maybe Greyhound executives should visit Japan.