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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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