I Finally Learned How to Use the Bus

1 Nov

It's so big and scary.

Oh man, only 10 Lollipop Tuesdays left.  Whatever shall you do with your Tuesdays in 2012?

Cry, that’s what.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ya’ll.

In light of the Great Car Totalage of 2011 (also known as The Day of Sorrow), I decided it would be a good time to hone my bus skills.  And when I say ‘hone my bus skills’, I actually mean ‘learn how to use the bus’.  I’ve been doing the whole car/walk/bike thing for every one of my almost 6 years in the city because the idea of mass transit paralyzed me with fear.

There have been two exceptions: when I was with a large group of friends (monkey see, monkey do), and when the Burning Crusade Expansion for World of Warcraft was released.  I had to take a train out of the city to get to a WalMart, where I stood in line for the midnight sale because I was a sad, sad slave to the massive multiplayer online fantasy game

There’s no judging on The Jackie Blog, so stop it.

Anyway, I’m carless and it’s cold.  And while I still walked for miles out of fear of the bus system, it’s gotten a lot easier to try new things under the umbrella of a Lollipop Tuesday Adventure.  I’m happy to report that I’ve competently used the bus without a single familiar face to ride with me for an entire week. 

But since I’m sure lots of you live in the city and think that’s pretty lame (and you obviously don’t follow the ‘no judging on The Jackie Blog rule), I thought I should go a step further and experience the Megabus as well.

For those of you who aren’t aching for a cheap way to get from Point A to Point B on a regular basis, allow me to enlighten you to the ways of the Megabus.  You may have seen them rolling around the U.S. or even Europe.  They’re bright blue double decker buses with an enormous picture of a portly, cherry-cheeked guy in a bright yellow uniform touting seats for just one dollar* (*plus .50 registration fee).  It’s somewhat true that you can get a seat for one dollar.  It’s more true that the first 5 people to book a seat on a bus get it for one dollar and that the price goes up from there.  To get a seat for just one single George Washington, you have to book pretty far in advance.  It might be best to go by the “eh, I might go to NYC 5 months from now.  I’ll book it just in case” method. 

All the one dollar nonsense aside, it’s still a cost-effective mode of transportation.  For some routes, it’s half the price of a train and still well below the price of a Greyhound.  In most cases it’s also faster.  And the only thing you sacrifice is your personal bubble, any sense of comfort , and the ability to drink, eat, or pee comfortably for the duration of your trip.

They seem to have a pretty lax tracking system wherein you only need to get in line and have your reservation number handy.  They don’t ask your name, they don’t ask for ID, they don’t check bags, they don’t do anything that you would expect a transportation service to do.  You just give them a number and you board.

Sometimes you’re boarding in the middle of a much larger trip.  For example, there is a stop in State College between Pittsburgh and New York.  If you’re boarding at the midpoint (State College), you have to get bold because when you board, every New York passenger will have a pile of junk on the available seat, a pair of headphones in, and look mean as possible so you don’t choose to sit by them.  And you can either wander around to look for the folks who will willingly give up their seat with a little eye contact pressure, or you can just march right up to the folks who splay out all their belongings in their area and ask them to please move.  

Personally, I find the latter much more amusing and gratifying overall.

On the return trip, I was blessed by the Megabus gods, who made it appear as if the company had overbooked and sent a second independent charter bus to pick up the excess customers.  But thanks to a bundle of no-shows, the extra bus wasn’t necessary.  Having already been set on a course to Pittsburgh, however, the driver was willingly accepting passengers.  So I stepped on the bus expecting it to be fully crowded with cranky, tired New York folks and instead found myself on board with only 3 other humans in site.  I had 1/4 of the bus to myself and it was glorious.  

It reminded me of  another Lollipop Tuesday when I found myself in an entirely empty movie theater.

Sometimes you get a little unexpected reward for mustering up the mojo to try something new.


21 Responses to “I Finally Learned How to Use the Bus”

  1. Katherine Gordy Levine November 1, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    When I had to commute to the city on trains filled with seat hogs, I delighted in asking the most determined looking hog to move his–it was almost always a him- stuff and then smiling ever so sweetly when I sat and said thank you.

    The biggest hogs would sit at the aisle end of a three seater leaviing two seats free. Forced to, some would just slide over to the window seat. The true hogs would try to get me to wedge through, so I would have to say, “Sorry, but I can’t make it through unless you stand up or slide over.”

    Oh, the looks that filled my vengeful heart with glee.

    So cheers and no judging.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

      LOL Very nice!! I love this


  2. Jules November 1, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    You stood in line for Burning Crusade? What what!?

    Then I see this…

    “There’s no judging on The Jackie Blog, so stop it.”

    I’ll bottle it for up next time. 😀

    The bus ain’t so bad Jackie. I used to take public trans when living in Oak Park, IL. The train/bus ride to school was my way of sneaking in some sleep. I guess one of the worst experiences I had was giving the seat next to me to some stinky-ass bum. O LAWD! Yeah, don’t ever do that.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

      How can you sleep on a bus and not miss your stop? Or worry that something will happen? Or just obsess over whether you’ll snore and everyone will stare at you?


      • Jules November 3, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

        It’s one of those half-awake/half-asleep kind of things. Whenever the bus driver would get on the speaker to announce the stop and/or open its doors for people, it would pull me back to consciousness. I guess it helps that I’m a light sleeper.
        As far as obsessing about what other people might think of you in the bus… well nobody really gave a rat’s ass. That’s just how it was. *shrug*


  3. Sarah T. November 1, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Jackie, I will give you major kudos for learning the bus system. I have never been on a real bus. Sad, I know. (Or maybe not. Whatever. No judging.) But do not fear – you will not be carless forever and someday riding the bus will just be another memorable blog post from the past.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

      The insurance company is giving us a brief stint of a free rental car. I’m going to suck that sweet nectar until they rip it from my cold, bus-infected hands.


  4. sanetes November 1, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    There was a brief period in my life when I drove, but to make the earth a slightly safer place again, I gave up for good. I just have none of the coordination skills necessary for driving. Plus, I kept having a hard time remembering where I parked the car and how to get there. I understand using different transportation is challenging.

    That’s why I smiled reading your article. I can’t drive, but I have used all kinds of public transport all over the place, if I spoke the local language or not. I met a lot of interesting people that way.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 9:13 pm #

      lol I thought this was going to talk about cars being bad for the environment but it turned out to be about your coordination skills being bad for the preservation of mankind.


  5. mistressofpoetry November 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

    I only wish we had public transportation here. There’s maybe…. erm… one bus in the biggest nearby city, and that’s it. I did, however, have a blast on the trams and (I call them caterpillar) buses in Europe. Quite an adventure! I’ve yet to ride a train, but my day will arrive sometime and I’ll be able to add that one to my list of ways I’ve traveled. Glad you finally got the guts to take this mode of transportation on. You’ll get used to it and will be glad to save the money you’d otherwise be spending on gas and insurance.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

      Oooh take a train – I love them! Well, they typically take longer, but if you go during the day and have a scenic route, it’s actually quite nice 🙂


  6. pegoleg November 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Good for you! I’m afraid I’ve never heard of the Megabus- do I take it you used it to go out of town? Sounds like a good deal.

    I used to take the bus home when I was in college. You really see another side to life on the back streets of Flint, MI. Probably the main reason I stayed in school.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

      I’m a terrible explainer, aren’t I? Yes, Megabus buses from one major city to another. They started with service to only a few cities and expanded rather quickly. Megabus.com – try it for a cheap thrill 😉

      You’re a little national traveler. How many states have you lived in?


      • pegoleg November 3, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

        Only 2. Michigan for the formative years, then I got a job in Illinois after college. Here I’ve remained, firmly planted. I’d like to be a world traveler, but think I’ll have to wait until retirement to have the time and $$.


        • Jackie November 11, 2011 at 1:14 am #

          oh I was expecting much more indeed – but hey, I’ve tread the same 2.5 hours of land back and forth my whole life. I’ve also never been to Canada. To me, you’re exotic.


  7. Sandra Armstrong photography November 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    I stayed in Pittsburgh for 3 months looking after a group of students about 13 years ago.After a particularly horrific day i took a bus from downtown Pittsburgh which i though would take me in the direction of the Allegheny(it’s been a long time and I’m sure that spellings wrong)apartments. The driver just kept on driving and informed me he couldn’t stop.We travelled about 15 miles to a very pretty commuter type area where a bus stop sign informed me the next bus was at 7.00am. Not a good day and i finally paid an elderly couple to drive me very slowly back to Pittsburgh.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

      Spelled right, for the record 😉 That sounds terrible – thank heavens for the capitalistic older couple. I do harbor this deep fear that I’ll miss a stop or be on the wrong bus without realizing it, or a host of other possibilities that will leave me in the wrong location at the end.


  8. Margie November 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    I can relate to how scary that first trip must have been! We lived outside of London, England for two years, and my first solo trip on the train was quite the adventure. The train was more unnerving than the busy streets of the city, I found.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm #

      There are so many rules and things folks know but don’t realize they know so they don’t pass on. Like when to pay, what zones are what, what makes people upset, what drivers prefer, general etiquette – ugh. It’s a lot to take in and a lot to get nervous about if you dwell on it too long 🙂


  9. whatimeant2say November 1, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    I would be excited about an uncrowded bus, and then find out a half hour later that it was going in the wrong direction.


    • Jackie November 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm #

      I had to check several times just to make sure there wasn’t something terribly, terribly wrong. I was relieved to see us headed the right way 🙂


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