As I may or may not have mentioned, a few weeks ago I traveled to Cincinnati for a wedding. D didn't come with me because it was the day before his very important qualifying exam, and I don't drive because I don't have a car (I'm weird, I know) so I had to get creative when it came to modes of transport to and from Cincinnati. Fun fact: Megabus doesn't have a Pittsburgh to Cincinnati route. I looked into flying (hideously expensive), renting a car (also uber expensive, plus where would I park it?), taking Amtrak (no dice), doing a carshare like zipcar (also surprisingly expensive) and finally came to terms with the fact that the only way for me to get there cheaply and (as it turns out, kind of) efficiently was to take the Greyhound bus.
first I was a little worried. I'd never taken Greyhound before
(alternative modes of transport aren't really a thing in big, sprawling
Texas) and I had no idea how bad it would be. I did an informal poll on
Facebook and asked my dad what he thought and everyone assured me that I
would be fine. I decided it would be good to have a new experience,
maybe even a fun adventure!
case you are also in the market for a fun adventure, don't choose
Greyhound. When someone at the wedding asked me what it was like, I
told them "an interesting slice of humanity" because that's the nicest
way I could think of to put it. She laughed and told me that was a very
UChicago answer. The three main things I took away from the experience
1. Greyhound is very disorganized and confusing.
2. Everyone is pissed off and loud about the fact that they're pissed off.
3. The buses I took are old and grimy. Very grimy.
bought my ticket over a month in advance, and it had an order number on
it, so I assumed that we would board by order number, with priority
given to people who had lower numbers. Like a boarding pass! Well,
this was the case at two of the four greyhound stations I went through,
but at the other two you just had to line up (or park your stuff on the
incredibly dirty floor) at least an hour in advance to get a good seat.
So that was fun. Also, none of the departure doors were very well
marked, and it was hard to tell which line was for which departure city.
If you asked someone in line, there was only a 50/50 chance that they
knew which line they were standing in. None of the personnel I talked
to were very helpful. The whole thing was confusing and chaotic. Pair
that with the fact that I had very early departure times and it was kind
of a stressful ordeal just to get on the bus.
partly because of the confusing mess that is getting on your bus,
everyone seemed to be pissed off about something or other. Everyone.
They were all yelling and complaining about something, either to
themselves, the person near them in line, or the Greyhound personnel. A
young man actually got thrown off one of the buses I was on because he
wouldn’t stop yelling at the driver. Another woman straight up yelled
at a guy who had spilled a soda on the ground and wouldn’t clean it up
(I agreed with her on this one but I wasn’t about to start in on the
yelling). A third woman was IRATE when she learned that they charged
you more for extra bags. She also was escorted off our bus but later
was allowed to board again. Pretty much everyone was grumpy and rude in
some way or another.
I saw the words “free wi-fi on board!” on the door of one of the buses,
I had high hopes for this ride. These buses were new and fancy, like
Megabus! I could use the free wifi to get online instead of peering at a
tiny phone screen! Well, some
of the buses are new and clean and have free wifi. I was not on those
buses. The buses I rode on were old. Like, color schemes from the 80s,
everything caked with grime, stained seats and dirty windows, wheezy
and rattle-y. Old. I don’t know how they decide which buses travel
which routes, but if you’re taking the Pittsburgh--Cleveland--Cincinnati
route, arrive in your hazmat suit.
though, it wasn’t terrible. I don’t ever want to be one of those
people who doesn’t go outside my little bubble or interact with folks
who aren’t just like me, and this was definitely a step outside my
comfort zone. Plus now it makes Megabus look like first class! I know
there are nice Greyhound buses and that they’re probably working to
upgrade their entire fleet. I never felt unsafe and once we were on the
road, it was just a matter of sitting back, spacing out, and letting
someone else get me from point A to point B. It took about as long as
flying would have (including getting through security, boarding, etc)
and was about ¼ the cost, and that pretty much can’t be beat.