By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty
It’s been one week since I experienced what I hope will be the worst bus ride of my life.
Until now, I have only ever retold one bus anecdote: the time I missed the school bus in 6th grade.
My mom would have been livid if she discovered I missed the bus due to my negligence. I had no choice; I had to run for it.
I quickly imagined the bus route in my mind. The bus would continue west on Wallings, and turn north on Skyline Road and then back east down Sprague, ending at the last stop in Cambridge Village, a posh neighborhood by Brady Bunch standards which featured a parking lot and swimming pool, before heading toward Chippewa Elementary. Hoping to meet the bus at that last stop, I high-tailed it through the woods like a frightened fawn, stumbling through the Hasting’s backyard, tramping through tricky territory beyond the back yards of homes and into the borders of the development, running along the curved streets until someone inside the bus spotted me and asked the driver to stop.
Panting for breath, I was welcomed aboard with a thunderous round of applause, and one standing ovation (thanks, Chris Corum).
I have to suspect that most parents do not have so forceful and effective a hold on their children.
Thankfully, my punctuality was never again an issue, and most other bus rides have not been noteworthy.
However, Chicago makes car ownership difficult, the local municipality squeezing every drop out of the unsuspecting legal parker. Street cleaning days pop up overnight like weeds with $150 fines attached.
After a few such incidents, I unloaded my car, donating it to a charitable organization, only to see an eerily similar 3-door silver Saturn in my neighborhood. Ah, well, it was someone else’s problem.
My new problem was getting back and forth to Cleveland for the “required” twice-a-year visits (disappointing my mom remains unwise). I know I have to visit, and I want to visit. I love my family and Cleveland friends, I truly do. I just don’t love the idea of spending $400 (minimum) on airfare to go to Cleveland twice a year. It’s a lovely place, but I’d like to see the rest of the world, too.
Enter the dreamlike solution of the Megabus. Cheap—cheap. I have never paid more than $50 dollars for a round trip journey, and I have frequently paid as little as $20 and occasionally even as little as $8. This is a good price. The tolls alone between Chicago and Cleveland are more than $20, so I ride the Megabus. Happily, the other passengers tend to be broke students, with whom I will always have a lasting bond, both having been one and teaching them for so long.
The bus arrived late because the day of my departure coincided with the Chicago Blackhawks parade and rally (Go, Hawks!) I anticipated a delay. No worries there. These things happen. The 1.5 hours late departure was corrected by our quick escape from city traffic. The driver was making excellent time. I had a book, friends to text, and a completely prohibited and clandestine flask of whiskey.
At the first rest stop in Howe, Indiana, I bought a bottle of Gatorade and a snack. Resupplied, I returned to the bus at the allotted time of 9:15 pm. With darkness falling, seemingly all the passengers settled in for the next two-hour leg of our shared journey which would culminate with a stop in Toledo.
Except someone didn’t make it back to the bus.
Some total moron hadn’t made it back to the bus after the rest break.
Worse, we had to turn around and go get her.
Everyone was amazed–confounded.
This was not a person who was old, infirm, or sick. This was not a child, or the pregnant woman we’d all noticed while waiting. This was just a person incapable of following the rules.
Under protest, we were forced to turn back. Not right away of course, we had to keep traveling east to Toledo before we could find a turn off. The entire process took two hours. I sent a lot of texts; I posted a lot of Facebook updates. I was entirely out of whiskey.
When she re-boarded the entire bus was silent; I have never been in a vehicle that was so eerily quiet.
I didn’t see the woman when she got back on the bus. She entered on the main floor and stayed there.
We arrived at the next stop at 1:10am; I envied the people who were able to exit at Toledo, which was a first.
When we reached our final destination in downtown Cleveland, it was 3:18am, approximately eleven hours from the indicated start time.
I sent a text to my sister’s kind husband, who was still willing to pick me up, “I’m at the corner of 21st and Prospect, wearing a pink polka dot cardigan and an expression of death.”
I hope to forget the frustration and fury I felt by December when I am again faced with a choice of $200 airfare or $20 bus fare.
Even now, it’s hard to know which is worse.