Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Wisconsin 101: Is this the bus to Cartagena?


I don't think I told you guys that I took the bus from Milwaukee to northern Wisconsin. SH couldn't leave town until Saturday (which of course turned into Sunday - I love my procrastinator, I do), but I had arranged to take two weeks off starting the Wednesday before we went to the cottage so thought I would take advantage to go early to visit family.

We have two cars, but I am not allowed to drive one of them - the yellow one. Not that I am interested in driving it. SH's prize and joy is the same age he is. As in, they are both '65s. Which is a good age for a man, but not for a car.

Which left the good car (aka the Red Car), but if I drove that car to my aunt's, then SH would have to drive the Old Car. It has no a/c, the windshield wipers don't really work, and it gets horrible gas mileage. Plus then we would have two cars to take back to Milwaukee.

So I took the bus. I took Greyhound from Milwaukee to northern Wisconsin.

This is a route that takes SH about three hours to drive. It takes over five hours by bus.

Which - whatever - I don't care because if I'm not driving, I can be reading a book and not feel guilty about it.

Not that I would read while I'm driving. I mean that I can read without feeling like I should be cleaning the bathroom or cutting the grass.

But here's the deal: Greyhound lies. They lie, lie, lie. They are worse than the airlines. At least airlines have competition. We were supposed to leave at 8:50 a.m. Not that I would know it was time to leave because although there are several TVs in the bus station, there is only one tiny little clock, high on the wall behind the seats.

We didn't leave until 9:20. We didn't even board the bus until after 9. At no point was there an announcement explaining the delay and giving us a new departure time. While we were standing in line at Door 6, which was differentiated from Doors 1-5 only by the number above it and not by the destination, i.e., all the doors opened to the same place, aka The Sidewalk, a man came up to us and asked if we were waiting for the bus to Green Bay.

Yes, we were.

Well, he said. It was going to be late.

Yes, we noticed, I said. It is now our official departure time and we are still standing in line.

He shrugged. "I was late," he said, "and there are other buses to board before you."

Thanks, guy. Thanks for your explanation and your apology. Seems to me Greyhound is pretty sure that its passengers don't have other options and treats them accordingly.

Although I was less sympathetic to the what appeared to be standard Greyhound passenger once I sat down and realized that the kid behind me was going to kick my seat repeatedly, even after I turned to ask him to stop. I didn't look at him when I said it. I looked at his mother, the subtext clearly being, "Make your kid behave, lady, as he is violating all kinds of social norms."

She refused to make eye contact with me and said not a word to her child about the kicking. My friend Anita said I was too nice and should have used my mom voice with the kid. I'm out of practice. I do have one, you know, even though I do not have children. I have more than once told strangers' children to Get Their Feet Off the Sofa in a store. Seriously, people. Your kids are jumping on furniture you don't even own? Tacky. (And yes I know I should have used my mom voice with the kid on the dock at the cottage.)

Fortunately, the kid fell asleep, so I didn't have to take more action.

But the bus was delayed. The driver never announced the long stop in Green Bay that I thought I had remembered from the website, so I wasn't sure it was happening. If I had known I could get off the bus, I would have done so just to find some food. I thought I had brought enough food with me for a five-hour ride, but I was wrong. I was starving. I ate my two hard-boiled eggs, my emergency granola bar in my purse, and my little sandwich, but that wasn't enough. All I could think of was food. We passed the Nueske Bacon headquarters, which was torture. We also passed a lot of steak on the hoof. I was hungry enough that I thought eating a raw cow might be a good idea.

When we arrived at my stop, the bus driver got off the bus and closed the door behind him. I was stuck waiting inside the bus. Know what? You can't open a bus door from the inside unless you are the driver and know the magic code. I could see a Subway sandwich shop ahead of me - so close - and yet I could not get off the bus.

Five minutes later, the driver finally returned. He looked surprised to see me. "There's nothing on my manifest about a passenger getting off here," he said.

I was not shocked to know that Greyhound does not supply the drivers with the necessary information.

Moral for next time: pack as much food as I would for a plane, because I will be just as trapped.

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