On The Road Again.

The last time I rode a Greyhound bus was in 2000. I recently took one to Cincinnati. It would have been cheaper to fly, but since there are no direct flights from Nashville to Cincinnati the flight would have meant stopovers in Dallas, Honolulu, and Poughkeepsie, and while I didn’t mind that my wife thought it wasn’t such a great idea. I was also looking forward to seeing what had changed.

The first change, of course, was the Greyhound station itself. The old one was dull, gray, and dingy, and filled with an assortment of drifters, grifters, and sifters. The new one, in an entirely different location, is a much brighter shade of gray and seemed to have picked up a higher class of clientele. The old black and white TV sets firmly attached to chairs that cost you a quarter for five minutes of viewing were gone, replaced with plugs for charging whatever devices you happen to be carrying. I couldn’t use any, though, because there was no sitting room. My bus was scheduled to leave at 5:05 am. I got there at 4:15, hoping to beat the crowd, not realizing that the crowd had been there since at least the day before and taken up almost all available space. Maybe recent events in the airline industry have prompted more people to stay grounded.

In the old days there’d be an announcement of departures over a crackly intercom. This time a driver stood at one of the terminal doors and, in a clear voice loud enough to be heard by everyone,  announced, “ALL THOSE DEPARTING FOR MEMPHIS, ST. LOUIS, KANSAS CITY, AND ON PLEASE LINE UP HERE!”

Needless to say this was not my bus. My bus, it turned out, was leaving from the terminal next to it, the one where the driver walked in, looked around and mumbled something to the people closest to him before leaving again. I had to ask around a bit to confirm that it really was the bus to Cincinnati because the LED sign on the front of the bus said HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

I’m not making that up. It was part of Greyhound’s War on Some Late May Holiday.

In the old days whenever I’d take a Greyhound bus there were usually a lot of seats available. This time when I stepped onto the bus every seat was taken except one. In the very back. Next to the bathroom. A woman sat in the window seat on the far right. Next to her, in the middle seat, was a man holding a baby with his legs spread so far apart his knee was in the aisle.

The only open seat was to the left of him.

I tried to make myself as small as possible and we both might have been more comfortable if he’d put his knees together. Instead he decided to complain bitterly about the bus being too crowded. And I realized that f-bombs, unlike other forms of munition, lose their strength when you drop one every other word, but that’s another story.

The woman leaned across him and smiled at me. “Excuse me sir, could you move to another seat?”

“I would if there were one.”

It was true and also resulted in the man dropping several more f-bombs, none of which, surprisingly, were directed at me. Then we got a lucky break: a bus company representative came on and offered travel vouchers to anyone who’d take a later bus. I might have taken the offer but my diaphragm was compressed by my fellow passenger’s lower thigh. Several people did, though, and I was able to squeeze out and grab a window seat.

The bus finally got underway a little after six and I settled back with approximately two days of podcasts I’d downloaded in preparation for a long trip.

The bus stopped at Louisville en route to Cincinnati. In the old days I only had to get off the bus at my final destination. Disembarkation is now mandatory at every stop, so I got to look around the Louisville station and get yelled at for taking pictures of the cop and his sniffer dog.

The Louisville station, by the way, has been updated like the Nashville one, and, in addition to a bright gray color and lack of dinginess, also boasts a gift shop and game room.

Then it was back on the bus and I was fortunately able to snag another window seat. The rest of the trip was blissfully uneventful and, possibly because the driver exceeded the speed limit a few times, we arrived in Cincinnati on time.

The Cincinnati Greyhound station has not been updated, and I’m pretty sure they even still had some of those chairs with the TVs. Next time I may opt for the flight with the stopovers, even if it does mean going to Poughkeepsie.

9 Comments

  1. Kristine @MumRevised

    Poughkeepsie can’t be that bad?!
    I grew up in a town where no one except ‘special’ sorts of people took the bus. I’m now in a town where it is commonplace to ride the bus but only if you text during your ride. I think it is a rule, but I haven’t looked into it because I was texting so I didn’t look like a special sort of person. Enjoy your holiday as Greyhound suggested.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve never been to Poughkeepsie but I have reason to believe it’s really a nice place. I just keep hoping that if I make fun of it enough the mayor will invite me to visit. It’s pretty amazing, though, to see the diverse people who ride the bus now. Everyone from college professors to fast food workers now rides the bus.

      Reply
  2. Arionis

    Wow, that is one nice looking bus station. Ours looks like the one you previously described. Good thing people took the vouchers or you might have seen some forcibly dragged from the bus. Oh wait, is that another story? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Fortunately I don’t have any stories of anyone being forcibly dragged from the bus–at least not yet. And I wish I’d taken a picture of the Cincinnati bus station. My friend who picked me up there hadn’t been there in many years. She looked around and said, “Hasn’t changed a bit.” So I guess they’re only updating some and not others.

      Reply
  3. mydangblog

    Crowded buses are certainly more awful than crowded trains–at least on the train, there’s wine!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Plus there’s just the romance of riding on a train. I’m not sure why but it’s different from being on a bus. Although I do remember a guy telling me about riding the bus in “the good old days”. According to him everyone had jugs of wine and at least three people would be carrying live chickens. I guess if you’re traveling with farm animals you need alcohol.

      Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    I enjoyed this trip, Chris, especially since I travelled cross country via Greyhound Bus in the 1970s.

    Reply
  5. Holly Waldrop

    My dulcet darling, not to be argumentative or to stand in the way of a good story, but it would not have been cheaper to fly. It would have cost 5 times the price of the bus ticket to fly, which is exactly why your skinny butt was on the bus.

    With love,
    Your travel agent and wife

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I sit corrected. Or stand corrected, lean corrected, or recline corrected. Basically any position I’m in I’m corrected. Perhaps it’s just as well that you talked me out of flying to Chicago because the cheapest flight I found there was to the Midway Airport, and I understand you’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

      Reply

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