Thursday, November 26, 2009

Double Crappiness

Holy mother of god. I need to stop being so freakin' cheap.

I headed to NYC for Thanksgiving for the third year in a row. We've made a tradition of spending Thanksgiving in the city, watching the parade, seeing how much food can be cooked in a ten square-foot kitchen, and celebrating with friends. Family gets me at Christmas. Thanksgiving is for friends.

After last year's fiasco where we circled the city for three hours looking for a parking space, I decided that there was no way I was driving in. And after the Mexico trip last year, I became a big fan of buses. Well, Mexican buses anyway. And, if I can get along in Mexico on the bus, I can certainly do it here, right?

Perhaps I should have taken Greyhound. Instead, I took the local Chinese bus. For $35 round trip, my local Chinese bus picks you up on a random street corner in my nearest city, and drop you off on another random street in NYC. If you are lucky enough to survive the trip.

My first mistake was trying to travel anywhere on the East Coast on the day before Thanksgiving. My second mistake was the Chinese bus. Prof drove me to the bus "station" (he stayed home to be with his family) and we were 20 minutes early, as the website had clearly instructed me. There was a huge crowd of people waiting on the other side of the street in the rain. They looked angry. And mean. I was pretty confused about where I was supposed to be, but the little dude running the place kept waving us back and telling us that the 2:00 bus was 30 minutes late.

30 minutes my ass. The 2:00 bus pulled up at 3:00. Prof and I joined the angry hoard on the other side of the street to try to board the bus. There was yelling. And pushing. And more yelling. And more pushing. I tried to get my bag in the luggage compartment but couldn't get near it. The little dude grabbed my ticket and waved me on, past a really angry black lady who was screaming "I was here first! Number 1! There's gonna be trouble if I don't get on the damn bus!" I left my bag with Prof and prayed that he could get it in the luggage compartment. I was jostled to the back of the bus, but fought my way back up. Prof is still standing there, with my bag - they wouldn't open the compartment for him.

Turns out, Prof got in a little screaming match with the bus driver, and he eventually succeeded in getting my bag on, as well as a bag some little Indian woman gave him to take care of. Once I was reasonably sure that my luggage was going to go with me to NYC, I desperately tried to find a seat.

What I found couldn't technically be called a seat. The Chinese bus people had clearly gotten creative with bus remodeling because there was no way an ordinary human being could fit in the space I was jammed into. Thank god my seat-mate was pleasant and didn't smell. She squeezed in next to the window and turned her legs at an awkward angle into my "leg space." I did the same into the aisle. Before the bus had even pulled away, I noticed that I was getting wet. I looked up - the emergency hatch in the ceiling was cracked open. It was cold. And wet. I prayed that when we started moving, the wind would keep the water off me.

So, the journey sucked. Totally. I didn't have room to even pull my magazine out to read, and because we were so late, it got too dark to read pretty soon after we left. I could have turned the overhead light on, but, I doubt it worked anyway and because of the creative seat arrangements, it wasn't really in the right location. Besides, no one else on the bus had a light on. They probably would have lynched me if I had even attempted it.

So, instead of reading, I chatted with my seat-mate, Ebony. This was the only good part about the ride. She was pleasant, not angry and able to have an intelligent conversation. When we were bored of each other, I just started listening to people's stories. The $35 Chinese bus is kind of a sad place really. I was there for a lark, being cheap for cheap's sake. Most of the other people probably didn't have a choice. The angry lady was across the aisle from me. She scared the crap out of me and she was the last person I wanted to be sitting anywhere near - but then I overheard her story and understood why she was so angry. She was traveling with her 15 year-old daughter, who seemed to be not all quite with it, to visit her mother in NY. Her mother was paralyzed and in a facility. She visits twice a month and is hoping to get her moved closer soon. No wonder she was angry. Twice a month on that stinkin' bus, a crippled mom, a weird daughter, no car and not enough dough to take Amtrak. I'd be angry too.

We were doing pretty well for time until we got to Exit 7 or so on the NJ Turnpike. Then we sat. And crawled. And creeped. I think we went 25 miles an hour from there all the way to the Lincoln Tunnel. Except once we got near the Tunnel, we just stopped. For like an hour, maybe more. And because we were no longer moving, it became apparent that the emergency hatch above me was the only fresh air on the bus. The heat was zinging, and the bus driver wouldn't turn it off. I started getting claustrophobic. And the rest of the people started yelling. "Its HOT!" "Turn the AC on!" "I'm gonna pass OUT!"

The driver jumped up (which he could do because we hadn't moved in like fifteen minutes) and shouted angrily "NO A.C.!" No A.C.!"

Oh my god. I thought he was done for. I really thought there was going to be a riot.

(PS, at this point, the bathroom started really, really reeking. Bad.)

Eventually, people settled back down, but it stayed ridiculously hot. I started sweating. So did the people around me. I wanted to tear off layers of clothes, but I only had one so that wasn't really an option.

I had never been so happy to see the Lincoln Tunnel in my entire life. What should have been a two and a half hour ride, maximum, ended up being a four and a half hour ordeal. Amazingly, nobody was trampled getting off the bus. People cooperated and helped each other. I think we were all pretty much united against the driver of the bus. I didn't see him when I got off - he was probably hiding, and good thing too.

Kiwi was there waiting for me, and we had a great time and ate delicious food.

There was no way I was fighting my way back on that bus - the mere suggestion made my stomach flutter - so sucked it up, spent the money and took the train. Oh how I love Amtrak. Clean, on-time, spacious, friendly Amtrak. No more Chinese bus for me. Ever. Lesson learned.


Elena said...

Well, think of it this way. Once you and the professor get married and start having babies, you'll just have to be torn between the grandparents' houses on Thanksgiving! I can picture it with a hot pink and green diaper bag, the prof lugging around your hippie ass mega stroller, the kids screaming "Mommy! Mommy! Kiki (your imaginary daughter's nickname) stole my stuffed horseshoe crab!!!" :)

Ms Behaviour said...

I can't believe the Chinese bus was worse than a Mexican bus! I grew up in Hong Kong which is pretty civilized compared to China. I attribute this to British colonialism. But I love living in Canada. Wide open spaces which includes wide open personal space. Uber polite people. No pushing or shoving or rudeness (well, rarely). The NYC Chinese bus sounds more heinous than anything I ever traveled on in Asia, with maybe the exception of the subway in India.

Ms Behaviour said...

PS. LOVE the title :)

kristen said...

the irony of it all? Alternate side parking was suspended on Friday for an indian or hindu or something holiday.

meaning we would not have had to move your car on Friday morning - saving us those 3 hours this year...

trish said...

Kristen's comment is the best! so, you could have driven this year and not had a problem with parking? oh, it's too much. the world was not kind to you this holiday.