I’m exhausted and probably still running on adrenaline, most of my peers are sleeping while I’m here, awake, writing to you. I even took some melatonin and nada. An alarm I set months ago to celebrate my arrival in Atlanta just went off. In Atlanta, however, I am not. Our Megabus is currently on its way to Tupelo, Mississippi. We were supposed to arrive in Georgia today around 8:30 am. That definitely didn’t happen.=
This entry is not meant to be a scathing review. I’m good at those and will happily supply them needed. In this case, it’s not needed.
On the 22nd I arrived at the Megabus stop around 10:30am to wait for my 11:30am departure. Our departure time came, buses arrived, people boarded, and buses left. Mine was not one of them. We, the other potential passengers and I, were able to suss out who was going to Atlanta/Memphis and who was not. We commiserated a bit and built a rapport. Many of us were concerned we were at the wrong stop. I kept looking at my phone because isn’t that what we do in odd situations? We cling to the Internet hoping for answers. I wasn’t clinging quite yet, just consulting.
I’m a well-traveled 29-year-old woman. I’ve been on something like 6 cross-country road trips in the last 3 years all by car. I can’t recall how many times I’ve traveled to both coasts by plane. I just know it was a lot. As a result of my experiences I’ve become someone who doesn’t fluster easily. If I’m trapped in an airport for 16 hours I curl up on benches and go to sleep. If the airport shuts down, I’ll ride public transportation until dawn. If I’m lost in the backcountry, hours from civilization, bushwhacking with a group of students, I won’t panic. I’ll laugh, but I won’t panic. It takes a lot to upset me.
Our bus finally arrived and we pulled off — it was about an hour and forty minutes after our scheduled departure. Surprisingly, folks were in good spirits. I remember one woman being really mad at the man who was checking us in, but she wasn’t even getting on the bus, just dropping someone off. I chose a seat on the upper deck near the back. Our first stop was Champaign, IL. As we got close, I noticed the bus went to an off-ramp that didn’t seem right. Turns out, he’d missed his exit we were lost. Shortly thereafter, you could tell he was lost again and was going to take an exit to Memphis. There was a collective, “NOoOo,” and then a flurry of directions from passengers. We arrived. The bus drove to the back of the Amtrak station where he could park. There was a bridge. We hit that bridge. I heard a huge noise, looked up at the ceiling in time to see the glass roof shatter. I just sat there, wide-eyed and confused. He kept driving and the glass kept shattering. I watched as pieces of glass sprinkled onto those ahead of me. In preparation, I shut my mouth, put my hands over my head and shut my eyes. Luckily, he stopped midway. We heard the sound of gas and people Freaked. Out. It could have been worse, but there was this confused rush to get off the bus before either the bridge collapsed, or we blew up (hyperbolic in reflection, but very real in action).
Everyone got off safely. Camera phones were out and I even saw what appeared to be an amateur news camera filming. I started to laugh because that’s what I do when I’m nervous. I “tweeted” @megabus and their response was impressively quick. (Nice job y’all) I text them a picture of the license plate and some other details. The bus driver that met us in Champaign who was supposed to drive us to Memphis, TN decided the bus was unfit to drive (which I completely agree with) and said “they” would send a replacement bus out, but it would take a few hours. Again, folks were surprisingly calm. I sat on some tan bark and chatted with a guy from the bus named Mitch.
Let me tell you about, Mitch. He looks like that guy you see on the street corner playing an instrument asking for change. The one you’re pretty sure is doing, or about to do drugs, and maybe sells them too. He had long blond dreads but the sides of his head are shaved. His black sweatshirt was ripped and had some patchwork on it. His pants were tucked into the top of his knock off Timberlands each procured separately. From their tint I could tell they were not sisters. He looks like he hadn’t showered in a bit, but didn’t smell. His tiny frame was sealed off with these bright blue eyes. Initially, I steered clear of him because that’s the guy I always gravitate toward, the odd ones. I’m trying to go against my inherent nature and pursue different people. I was on a bus full of beautiful Black men and women and I wanted to get to know them. This situation however didn’t help me break my cycle. I gravitated toward the hippy White guy with mismatched shoes. Of course.
We talked on the tanbark for quite sometime. Our conversation varied from the organic orange I gave him, to his girlfriend, to both of our recent road trips, to stories of him riding the rails. Eventually, a young man joined us. He was not from our bus. He was a former marine with an admitted drug problem for whom a priest had just purchased a bus ticket back to California. At one point, a cop came up and said something to him because he’d been drunkenly rolling around on the ground. The cop led this kid away and Mitch and I continued to talk about traveling. Eventually, he pulled out his ukulele and started to sing. I loved that.
During the two hours we were waiting for our replacement bus those of us traveling to Atlanta were told to call customer service at (908) 282-7420 because we were going to miss our connection. We called and were put on hold. The first time I waited for 22 minutes all while hearing a prompt thanking me for my patience every twenty seconds. I couldn’t take it any longer so then I hung up. I tried calling the (877) 462) 6342 number and was able to speak to a person quickly. This person tried to help but told me to check with the bus driver and call back. After our second conversation she gave me the (908) number. I tried two or three more times and couldn’t get through. So I called the (877) number again. I talked to an associate, Crystal Vierra, who was just triflin…nasty…smart mouthed, obnoxious. She said that I had to call the (908) number because they were the only one that could help me. I got what she was saying. I even told her that. I told her about what happened Patrick. He had called the (877) number and was given a new reservation number that secured his seat on the 7am bus out of Memphis to Atlanta. That was my concern. I was flying out of Seattle on the 24th. If I didn’t secure a seat on that bus I might miss my flight. She continued to tell me that she couldn’t help me. I asked her why that happened with Patrick and she said she didn’t. I told her that we were trying to get through to customer service and couldn’t. I didn’t want to hang up with a person just to listen to some crazy boring music and recording. Here’s where I had enough. I asked to speak to her supervisor because I wanted to know why Patrick got a new reservation number and I didn’t. She asked me a bunch of questions, which was fine, but it was the way she asked them. I’d really like to see her treat me that way in person. I don’t think it would happen. She wanted to know why I was escalating the call and I told her. She said something like, “Okay, because you don’t feel like/want to call the (908) number…” That’s where I had to cut her off. That was just not true. I’d called the number several times. Not only was I wasting minutes, but I was also wasting time and THAT MUSIC WAS DRIVING ME BONKERS. She tried to cut me off and I didn’t let her. I’m pretty sure I started my monologue with, “So, you were just disrespectful and tried to cut me off so I’m going to explain something to you and then you may speak.” Not verbatim, but close.
All the while, @megabushelp via Twitter was on point. They responded to my tweets and assured me. I got more information from them with less hassle and it was fabulous. Seriously, thank you. I cannot thank the individual running your social media at that moment enough. I received and email from Megabus, before I could even ask for it, refunding the cost of my fare. THAT’S how you do things. Crystal was disgusting.
I’d love to finish this story, but it’s already super long. The next part involves me falling for a celibate hitchhiker on a 30-day pilgrimage. I’ll write more tonight and try to post tomorrow before I catch my flight back west. For those of you concerned for my safety, thank you. I appreciate it.
Be well and travel safe,
UPDATE: 4/25/2013 I’m in Seattle and I’m TIRED. I’m not going to update for a few days because the weather in gorgeous and I mess my adopted home town.