Saturday, December 30, 2006

The tale of the eternal bus misser

After an uphill run, there was the bus, whizzing away without me.

I have a knack for missing buses. There are times when I would be a minute late, and the bus would have left. There are times when I would be there on dot, and the bus would have still left, early. There are times when I leave early (in my defence, early enough...), and the bus would have been earlier still! I have a bad luck with buses.

I was so afraid, that when I left NYC after thanksgiving, I reached the bus stop 1 hour in advance so I wouldn't miss it. For the rest of the journey, I was hungry. When I had left home during the break, I reached the bus stop 30 minutes in advance. But in my anxiety, I forgot to bring my passport for a flight I was to take in a few days. When we stopped in Harrisburg, I missed the bus because it was overbooked. I had to wait 2 hours for the next one. I was in half a mind to go back home.

I had to call my roommate and ask her to bring my passport to Philadelphia, and meet her when she gets there to take a flight. Sad part was, I had to take a bus to go to Philadelphia. And this time too, I missed it. I missed it big.

It was that morning when I left Greenbelt, and Kiran came to Washington to send me off. After we got out of the train station, we were searching for I Street. Rather, we thought it was First Street, and later someone corrected us that it wasn't the Roman numeral '1', it was upper case 'i'. So the entire time, we had to have looked for 'i' street.

We ran.

I called the bus service when I was on the way. Chinese guy tried hard to understand what I said, and I tried hard to drain out the traffic noise and get what he was saying. He told his address alright, but not the directions. I told him I was on my way, just 5 minutes, please hold the bus.

5 minutes later, I was almost there. We found H street, K street, there was no I street in between. There was a Manhattan St in its place! This can't be right... We ran. More. I called them up again, nobody answered. Poor Kiran. My little trolley suitcase was too heavy to lift and run, but too short to drag and run. I took it from him, gave him my phone, asked him to keep calling them. Finally someone did answer, and the bus had left. I was still searching for their office.

When I did get there, they went on and on in some accented English that I didn't understand a word of. What I did get, was that they had no more buses running, but there was another bus service around the corner, with a bus to Philadelphia leaving any minute!

We ran. Again.

That bus had already left too. At least they had another bus, but that was at 4 in the evening, reaching at 6 45. My roommate had to be in the airport by that time, so bye-bye passport!

Dejected, we stood outside the bus office. Kiran suggested we get back to the train station, since that is the only other fast way to Philadelphia. (Don't even start about taking a flight... I don't have my passport... catch-22 here)

We got there, and the next train to Philly was in 5 minutes!
Put me on it pleeeeez!
Sure, do you have some ID?
Er... Student ID ok?
Oh thank you thank you thank you!
Thank god I did not bring a big suitcase, I couldn't have checked it in!

After a quick goodbye hug and more running, I got into the train, collapsed into the seat, unable to bear the cramps, not to mention the fact that I had run enough to counter a month's consumption of choc chip cookies.

I reached Philly in time to meet my roomie, took my passport from her. At the end of the day, all was well... and I was $68 short :(

Friday, December 29, 2006

I hate greyhound

I took a bus from my campus at 3 in the afternoon, scheduled to reach Washington at 7.50pm. There was to be a transfer at the not-so-nearby city of Harrisburg.

The bus left at 3.15, but reached H-burg at 4.55 itself. Perfect, I was impressed! We took our luggage out of the bus, saw a Washington bus leave at 5, waited for the one we were supposed to board.

So we waited.

And we waited.

It took me a while to realize only half the passengers who had come with me were still there. Where were the others? Why am I waiting with these guys, I'm not even sure if they're going the same way as me!

I waited. It was 6.45pm by then. No way was a bus going to take me to DC before 7.50! There had to be a mistake. And me being the genius that I am, must be the one to have committed it. I went into the bus station, waited for the receptionist. She told me the one that reaches a 7.50 left the terminus at 5. The one I saw leaving. The one with half the passengers who came with me.

The one I should have been on.

Dejected with myself, I drag my feet outside to the cold. How could I have been so stupid ???

Where the remaining guys supposed to take the next bus? Is that why they were waiting? Was i on another schedule? But who in their right mind would book their tickets specifically asking for a two-hour layover? No, can't be. Am I really making sense? But before all of that, can I still take the next bus with my old ticket ?!?! I rush back in, the same girl nods in familiarity. Yes hon, ya' can use it for the next one! Thanks Ma'am!

Out again, having cleared up the confusion on the ticket, I set out to find out what is really going on. What I found out left me speechless.

The bus I was (well, me and the other two dozen people were) supposed to take was overbooked. Yes, overbooked. That means more than one person had been sold the ticket to a single seat, expecting half of them to not turn up. Typical ticketing system, but not at this magnitude. You can sell two extra tickets for every twenty or thirty seats. Not 25 extra tickets for 50 seats. And although this has been going on for a very long time now (I learnt of that too), another bus is usually sent to ferry the remaining passengers to the same destination. Senseless. Double the running costs for half the used capacity. I guess Greyhound Operations did come to their senses, but only on the day that I had to wait at a seedy-looking bus station in the middle of a crime-ridden capital in the dark hours of the winter evening. They did not send the second bus. At all.

We took the next bus on routine schedule, but it so happened that we got priority and those who were headed to other places who couldn't fit in the bus, had to wait for the next one.

I reached Washington DC at 11 in the night. And trust me, you don't want to be there. It is not Capitol, it is not the White house, it is of no significant importance, that means no security to a commoner. The nearest train station was a 5 minute walk, but more than 2 people (locals themselves) told me NO!!!

I had to wait for my host to pick me up and escort me all the way. It was 1 when I reached his place.

When there is nothing else, I don't have an option. But nevertheless, I hate Greyhound.


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