This past weekend, I took a trip to New York City. By myself. Via Megabus. It was my first solo trip to the city (second time there ever) and my first time on a Megabus. Naturally, I was nervous, but I had a plan to meet my friend there and stay the night with her, so not as nervous as I might have been otherwise. So I would like to tell you some things about the Megabus, for those of you who have never been on one, or may be contemplating a trip in the near future.
First of all, I’d like to say that I had some previous (mis)conceptions about Megabuses. I pictured a Megabus as a grimy, single-level bus with a disgusting bathroom, half-full of dirty, crazy people. I thought the bus would be super sketchy and I was prepared to avoid eye contact at all times and hug my purse close for eight hours. Quite the contrary.
In keeping with my fear of being late for anything I lined up under the Convention Center in Pittsburgh forty minutes early. (But I still wasn’t the first one.) And I saw a lot of twenty-something kids–this was expected: the bus is pretty cheap. But they were like me, dressed like me, acting like me, college grads taking a trip to the Big Apple. Definitely not crazy people. Oh, don’t get me wrong, some people were very interesting. But I wouldn’t have called anyone crazy. I was surprised to see some families. Not surprised to see a few foreigners. Surprised at how much luggage some people had with them. Surprised at the length of the line–the bus was completely full.
The big blue bus pulls up–double decker, clean, with wi-fi and electrical outlets, and a moderately clean bathroom. Since I was in the front of the line, I got my pick of the seats. Figuring a window seat is a good thing, I sat on the top level, near the back staircase (in case of bathroom emergency) and was soon joined by a large, twenty-something guy. I didn’t speak to him. The last thing my dad said as he dropped me off was “Don’t talk to strangers.” Oh, parents. But I took his advice just in case. So the only words that passed between us were from me–“Would you mind putting this in the trash bag next to you?” He fell asleep on his lap leaning toward me and his sleeve kept touching my arm. But otherwise, a good seatmate, I suppose. The eight hour trip passed uneventfully with an unexpected rest stop (I thought buses didn’t stop. You’re hungry? Tough luck. But I guess I was wrong about that too.) So I only had to use the restroom on the bus once. I’m not sure if the window seat was the best idea. But at least I could look out the window easily as we pulled into the middle of Manhattan.
Return trip–a little different. This bus left at 4:20pm and wouldn’t get to Pittsburgh until midnight. I got a window seat again. More twenty-somethings this time. My seatmate was a girl about my age. And she promptly fell asleep on my shoulder. I shifted as far to the window as I could to avoid her mass of frizzy hair. She wore her headphones the whole time and I could hear the lyrics of every song she listened to. She took her shoes off and put her bare feet up on the seat in front of her. Needless to say we didn’t speak. The only words that passed between us were hers, asking “Would you like a piece of gum?” This trip took a half hour longer than expected. But after we dropped some passengers off at State College, my seatmate moved, I put my feet up next to me, and fell into an uneasy sleep for the rest of the trip.
So, note to self (and others) about the Megabus:
1. Bring hand sanitizer. The first bus was out of sanitizer in the bathroom and I was thoroughly disgusted the rest of the trip thinking of myself and all the other people not sanitizing our hands and touching all the same handrails.
2. Wear pants. Unless you enjoy the itching of raw wool seat cushions feeling like a bazillion bugs and needles digging into the skin of your bare thighs.
3. Bring a sweatshirt. The driver said he could adjust the temperature, but I was freezing for eight hours. And it seemed that no one else was, so why would he adjust it just for me? I pulled out all the extra t-shirts I had brought (one) and laid it on my lap, trying to think warm thoughts.
4. Pack more food than you think you can eat. With not much to do for eight hours, my brain just kept telling me I was hungry. And the rest stop is not something to rely on.
5. If you don’t have headphones, invest in earplugs. On the return trip there were two extremely chatty girls who couldn’t get seats next to each other. They yelled across the aisle instead. The whole bus now knows all about this girl’s interview, her friends who live in the city, her classes she took for jewelry-making, the contents of her portfolio, (which must have at least seven two-dimensional pieces and six three-dimensional pieces. Girl on the Megabus, if you read this, I am very proud of you, keep up the good work and I hope you get the job), etc, etc.
6. Don’t drink too much water. Have water, just in case. But don’t drink it unless absolutely necessary. Better to not even have to use that tiny little bus bathroom, especially while the bus is in motion.
I hope these tips help someone out on their next journey. I will most likely take a Megabus again in the future. It was a cost-effective way to travel without too much hassle. But of course, now I will be better prepared.