I hate driving. I love public transportation. Even with delays, crowds, awesome smells like urine or dead fish, and downright crazy people all around, I still prefer it to driving. If I’m on a bus or a train, at least I can read or nap while the person next to me trims their fingernails and farts. I don’t have to worry about dodging crappy drivers or getting filled with road rage. When I drive, my middle finger and my horn get used more than anything else in the car.
When Chris and I were looking at our options to get to NYC right after Christmas, he suggested driving. I probably overreacted a bit with my answer of “DEAR GOD NO.” But I really didn’t want to deal with traffic, exorbitant tolls, figuring out where the hell one parks a car in Manhattan, and not being able to nap at will. So I researched the cheapest option - taking a bus.
There are a lot of bus companies running between DC and NYC these days. My first stop on the internet was this handy review of the various companies by the Washington Post. I finally settled on MegaBus. They weren’t quite the cheapest of the bunch, but they had the most convenient schedule, and their pickup/drop-off point in DC was just one mile from my pad. Win!
Or so I thought. The trip to NYC was perfectly fine. We were delayed a bit getting to NYC thanks to the clogged glory of the Lincoln Tunnel, but all else worked as it should have. We had seats. It was warm. Electrical outlets were plentiful. There was wifi that kind of worked. We didn’t wreck. I was perfectly happy spending $28 on this leg of the trip.
If you look up “epic fail” in a dictionary, you will read a recap of our return trip. To start with, the pickup location happened to be in what has to be the only place in Manhattan that feels like the middle of nowhere. When we arrived, we were greeted by a long line of already confused people waiting for the bus. So we joined the line and the confusion.
Also, this was outside. In New York City. In December. After midnight. It was COLD.
About 5 minutes after our bus was supposed to depart (it was nowhere to be seen), a MegaBus employee appeared to tell us that the bus would probably be there in about 30 minutes. Fabulous. Another half hour standing in the cold with no place warm to duck into.
Half an hour came and went. As the crowd got colder, they grew angrier. Said employee appeared again to say it would be about another 20 minutes. I swear, the temperature dropped another 10 degrees once he said that.
The bus finally showed, and 2 MegaBus employees tried to herd everyone for our scheduled departure together. They haphazardly checked our reservations. Two buses actually arrived together, and there was much confusion as to which bus was which. Anger from the crowd reared its ugly head, and shouting commenced. I couldn’t tell exactly what all the shouting was all about, but I really didn’t care. I just wanted to be herded onto a warm bus - I really didn’t care which one.
We were herded onto Bus #2 and settled into seats on the upper level, only to discover that none of the outlets worked. Chris’s phone was dead, and mine was close to it. We had been counting on those to recharge our phones on the ride back. So much for that.
Just outside the city, the bus stopped at a gas station for some unexplained reason. It certainly wasn’t to get gas. The driver got out, and 15-20 minutes later, he came back and resumed the trip.
At about 4am, we finally made it to the scheduled stop in Philadelphia. . I was fast asleep and was awoken by more yelling. As it turned out, there were people in Philly that had reservations for this bus, but somehow, there weren’t any seats for them - the bus was full. They had been waiting outside in the cold, too, since the bus was running over an hour late. Now they were being told that they couldn’t board despite having confirmed reservations. They were livid. I never could tell how exactly the situation was handled, but we left 45 minutes later without them. God only knows where they were able to go at 4am to warm up and figure out how on earth to get to their destination. I felt awful for them. I was also pissed that we were delayed another 45 minutes.
We arrived to DC much later than scheduled with still-dead phones and lingering thoughts as to what those poor people in Philly ended up doing with themselves at 4am. Our friend from lunch in NYC later told us that his bus driver (yes, he took MegaBus, too) stopped in Baltimore, declared that his shift was over, and just left the bus full of customers sitting there.
I’m still pretty incredulous that MegaBus claims that a reservation = a guaranteed seat, and that they would somehow put up with behavior such as a driver leaving an entire bus of people stranded. The other stuff - the delays, the confusion, and the non-functioning outlets - that stuff sucks, but it happens. Shoot, even when airlines bump you off of a flight, they’ll give you free flight and meal vouchers and an apology as you saunter off to the airport bar that’s nice and warm and protected from the elements.
I wrote a letter to MegaBus detailing all of this, and I also asked for a refund. I have yet to receive a non-automated response. Next time, I’m using Bolt Bus. Or Greyhound. Or I’ll just hitchhike.