Friday, July 27, 2012

Hop on the Bus, Gus

I "don't need to discuss much" (Paul Simon, anyone?) but I would be remiss if I didn't briefly share my recent Megabus trip. I didn't have the amazing experience Megabus worshippers rave about, but it was a very cheap, fairly reliable way to get to Chicago.

Jon and I had tried to take the Megabus over Christmas vacation, but were stymied by the internet. For whatever reason, our reservation didn't go through...which we didn't realize until the week before the trip when all of the seats were taken. Hence, our very first Greyhound trip. While we joked about sleeping on the overnight bus with one eye open and packing a shiv in our carry-on, it was a perfectly uneventful trip, one that I slept through, actually. In all seriousness, everyone should travel by Greyhound at least once in their lives.

But back to Megabus. Due to my recent involvement with the Board of Directors of an honor service organization I belonged to in college, Cardinal Key, I was invited to attend the annual board meeting in Chicago. However, Memphis is a bit of a challenge to fly out of (ie, expensive), so in order to save money, I volunteered to take the Megabus.

I was intrigued, really. I'd heard wonderful reports of people snagging seats for just a couple of dollars and then having ample room to stretch out and sleep/read/type. Since I wasn't able to book my ticket until just a couple weeks prior to the trip, I missed the unbelievable fares, but I was hoping for spacious accomodations. I thought that leaving on a Wednesday night for an overnight trip would ensure me plenty of space...but I was wrong.

Unbeknownst to me, there was an optometry conference in Chicago the same weekend as my board meeting. When Jon took me to the designated bus stop 30 minutes early, the line was already quite long and it was full of optometry students. I must say, though, that I have never seen so many pairs of trendy glasses in one place.

Needless to say, every seat on the bus was taken. In hopes of having the seat next to me free, I had brought both of my bags on the bus instead of putting one in the cargo hold, so I spent the night a little cramped. I was worried when the optometry students couldn't seem to contain their excitement about the weekend's "eye-tinerary" (first and last eye pun, I promise), but they quickly quieted down.

We arrived in Chicago at Union Station right on time and I spent the weekend discussing all things Cardinal Key. After a successful meeting, it was time to return to the Megabus. While I prefer traveling long distances overnight because it's just so efficient, I opted for the mid-morning bus that would get me back to Memphis at around 9pm. I was proud of myself for navigating Chicago's transportation system, and I returned to Union Station with extra time, even though I had to walk several extra blocks due to track construction.

Once again there was a long line for the Megabus. Actually, there were long lines for several Megabusses, all traveling to various spots in the Midwest (Megabus is based out of Chicago). I found myself toward the back of the throng of people, which proved to be good because right before I stepped onto the bus, the driver stopped me and told everyone to evacuate the bus. The gaseous fumes everyone was choking on were not an indication that we were hanging out around half a dozen busses, but rather of a mechanical problem.

So, everyone "de-bussed" in an orderly fashion and we began to wait. We really only had to wait for about 30 minutes, but the hot sun definitely made it feel longer. I did my good deed for the day, however, when I volunteered to help translate for a passenger who only spoke Spanish. Finally, my Spanish minor was good for something!

Once the new bus arrived, we piled back on again. Of course, I had selected the same bus as several of the optometry students, so no empty seats again. I put my larger bag under the bus this time, though, so I was much more comfortable. I had set myself up with snacks, books, and my iPad and was ready to travel the ten hours back to Memphis. I shouldn't have been surprised that wifi on a bus is not that reliable. I also wasn't surprised that I chose the one seat without a functioning electrical outlet. Other than that, though, it was a smooth trip. Our driver was a bit of a ham and played his personal playlist for our enjoyment, and in between all of the reading I did, I had a nice conversation with the wise-beyond-his-years man sitting next to me.

My final assessment of the Megabus is that it is definitely an affordable way to travel, and I would probably do it again. I prefer the romance of train travel, certainly, but when it comes to bus travel, I'm pretty satisfied.

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