Monday, June 11, 2007

The Megabus: There and back again

A jolly Megabus driver... I have survived the Megabus! I wish there was a t-shirt or something I could buy to proudly share this achievement with the world.

On Thursday I went from Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan on the bus... and on Sunday I came back. Here's the debrief:

On Thursday, although the bus was almost full, I lucked out and had no one sitting next to me. It must have been that "Stay away from me!" vibe that I was purposefully trying to emit. I was hoping I'd be able to read the approximately 30 pounds of magazines and books I had brought with me during the trip, but unfortunately the bus still felt very much like a car (probably bumpier, actually), and I was sure I would've gotten motion sickness so I made no attempt to crack anything open. Therefore, I fell asleep for the first two hours and listened to my iPod the rest of the trip (which was about 4.5 hours total) and did a lot of thinking. When we were only 1 hour away from Ann Arbor, the bus driver pulled into a truck stop/Hardee's/convenient store place and announced that we would be there for 30 minutes, and she would not wait for anyone if they weren't back in time. I was annoyed because we were so close to Ann Arbor, I didn't understand why we would stop at that point. But later I realized that there was a subset of travelers that were continuing on to Detroit, which was at least another hour past the Ann Arbor stop.

I think I'll stick to my ice cream, but thanks.I've never eaten at Hardee's and wasn't about to start after checking out their fast-food menu and having some bizarre older trucker in the line ask me if he's seen me before. I said, "I don't think so..." and he said, "Don't you always come on the bus? I'm sure I've seen you!" After mumbling something in response, I discretely shuffled over to the convenient store part of the building, got an ice cream cookie sandwich and then retreated to the safety of the big blue bus.

We would have arrived on time, except that the bus driver got Exit 171 and 177 near Ann Arbor mixed up and we had to circle back around the highway for a half-hour. In general, though, it was a smooth trip.

On Sunday, I knew the bus was going to be packed because there were a TON of people waiting at the commuter lot in Ann Arbor, and that wasn't even counting the people who would have already been on the bus from Detroit. So, sure enough, I ended up sitting next to someone on the way back. We never even acknowledged each other... he had headphones on and a laptop open the entire trip, and I like to keep to myself anyway, so it was all good. I'm not sure if it was because the bus arrived about 15 minutes late to Ann Arbor or if it was left to the driver's discretion, but we did not make any stops on the way to Chicago, which I was happy about.

On the way to Ann Arbor I don't think the air conditioning was on at all, which was fine by me because I am always cold. However, the temperature on the bus got very chilly on the way to Chicago because the driver was cranking the air conditioning. I had been forewarned that this was sometimes the case, so I brought my fleece jacket and remained comfortable. But when the guy next to me was blowing air onto his hands and rubbing them together like people do in the winter, I knew that the bus was unusually cold and I was glad I had three layers on.

Nap time!You can tell that the buses themselves are pretty old... but they are clean and fairly comfortable (a neck pillow would've been ideal, though... and several people brought their own). While I had heard that movies are aired during the ride, that wasn't the case for either leg of my trip. Which, once again, I thought was just as well.

For me, taking the Megabus rather than driving myself or taking Amtrak came down to time and money. You are not going to get a cheaper mode of transportation between Chicago and Ann Arbor than the Megabus, so that option wins the cost battle, hands down. I would also bet that the Megabus will always be closer to arriving on-time than Amtrak ever could or would be, based on experience. I can quickly get to and from the Megabus station (which is the same place as the train station) from my home or office, so that's better than needing to go to a rental car office and dealing with paperwork and getting keys and the car itself. Plus, you can't relax in the car if you are the one driving. So all in all, I'm happy that I now have the Megabus option for my trips to Michigan.

If I HAD to complain about anything, here's what I would forewarn future passengers about:

- The heat or lack thereof on the bus can be sporadic, so wear layers and bring a coat or blanket even if it is 90 degrees outside.
The universal sign for Sorry, can't chat.- Carry an iPod or headphones or earplugs if you are easily bothered by other people talking on cell phones or to each other, or by random things like the woman sitting in front of me on who cracked her gum for two hours straight.
- I personally do not think babies should be allowed on the Megabus. Am I discriminating against babies, you may ask? No, I am concerned for their safety... on a plane or on the train, there are never going to be harsh stops or quick changes of lanes like there is sometimes on the bus. The bus is essentially a large car, but someone else is driving it, you have no seatbelts, and there's really no place to go if you need to take care of a baby. But that didn't stop the couple who brought their baby on the bus to Chicago last night... this poor kid wailed nearly the entire time, and there was nothing the parents could do. Sure, that can still happen on a plane or train, but if I were those parents, I would've felt much safer with my child on a mode of transportation where I could at least get up and walk around to try and calm the baby down. There is literally no room and nowhere to go on the bus, and if you do attempt to stand, you will be tossed back and forth almost immediately, as I found out during the one time I made my way down the aisle to the small bathroom (which had no changing table... or sink) in the back of the bus. Don't put yourselves or other passengers through the stress of a 4.5 hours trip with a baby on the Megabus, that's my advice!

I'm off to NYC for The Man later today... the first time I've been back there since my last week with The Previous Man almost a year ago, so I am excited. More in a few days...
- e

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello There E

Just a comment concerning your other Blog in case you miss my comment on Locke's one ....

Do you still have the archives of your season 1 post/mailling List ?

Wanted to start from scratch as i'll try to see the series from the beginning again soon and wanted to confront your ideas/findings with mine but realized you started the blog @ season 2 ....

Cruel ,)