My first bus trip for any long distance was taken relatively late in life. It was the mid-90s, I was in my late 20s, and on a trip to visit friends in Baltimore prior to the three of us attending an event weekend in New York. The cheapest way to get between Baltimore and NYC, of course, was by Greyhound.
That one trek of not many hours convinced me I would never take a bus – any bus – for long distances again. First, the only available seat for me had a thick, shiny sheen of Vaseline or hair product on it, complete with hairs sticking out, from a previous passenger. Remember, there was no hand sanitizer back then, so I was forced to sit a little forward to keep from soaking in the grossness.
Then there were the fights. Screaming matches, in fact. Such altercations are bad enough in an enclosed space, but when neither party can just walk away, they tend to go on and on. Every time the bus driver threatened to pull over and call the cops, the overt fighting ended, but the anger-filled mumbling and murmuring back and forth never stopped.
The final nail in the bus coffin, however, was the one toilet for a full bus load of passengers. Wet floor, graffiti-covered walls, and the toilet would not flush for the duration of the trip. I remembering thinking I’d never complain about the hot summer porta-potties at rock festivals again.
Airlines at the same point in time were still serving food or snacks for free, had reasonable leg room, upscale passengers, and service above and beyond. I know because I flew about once per month for about 10 years through the 90s. People were starting to dress down to fly – I was seeing more jeans and sneakers – but it was still a relatively enjoyable experience.
As I write this, I am packed like a sardine into an aircraft that has obviously been built or modified to maximize number of passengers rather than comfort. We left just over an hour late, but the voicemail AND e-mail notification of the delay arrived on my smart phone just after I’d boarded.
One of my fellow passengers is an adult male with two tow-headed kids who look to be about 10 and 12 years old. All three of them are wearing – I shit you not – pajama bottoms, t-shirts, and flip-flops. The big brother spent his time in the waiting area getting his sister’s goat and there is no sign they’ve stopped – as I passed them on the way to my seat, the little sister popped him in the mouth. Dad didn’t respond. I’m not sure he could hear anything through his Bose headphones.
The gent next to me is agitated about missing a connecting flight. Before takeoff, he hit the call button for a flight attendant and asked why we couldn’t leave because “It’s just a little rain. We took off from blah-blah-blah city in worse.”
The flight attendant, obviously peeved (as I was, honestly – it would have been more prudent to let her do her job so we could take off), replied that it’s not just local weather which affects flights. This did not mollify Mr. Mr., so when the flight attendant left, I said, “Oh, and that was perfect tornado weather. Sometimes the airport in Denver gets shut down because of funnel clouds.” That shut him up real good. Probably ensured he’ll never pass through there again, too.
I just paid $8 for a snack box that’s mostly bad-for-you food, ate the olives and almonds, and saved the rest for travel emergencies. I’ve made a habit of boarding with a bottle of water (purchased after going through security of course), because I know once the drink cart is put away, one cannot get another glass of water without pissing off an attendant. We are packed in so tightly that as the person in the window seat receives their drink, I am accidentally elbowed in the face. Attendant apologizes, but I keep thinking if we had just two more inches of leg room …
Oh, faboo. A parent is allowing her toddler to run back and forth down the aisle, bothering other passengers and blocking the crew from doing their jobs. Though I am glad the kid isn’t screaming, I wish her mother had planned for naptime to be around flight time like other parents – dare I say better parents? – did. There are two small children snoozing away not far from where I sit. That’s the way it’s done, lady.
There was an announcement a moment ago asking people to please not line up at the lavatory door, yet I just looked and no less than six people are plugging up the rear galley area. I am secretly hoping we hit a big patch of turbulence. I don’t want people to be hurt; I would never wish such a thing. I want them to learn a small lesson about listening to professionals who know whereof they speak.
Nah. What I want is to return to the days when an airplane didn’t have the look and feel of a Greyhound bus.
I was just about to type “At least there have been no screaming matches yet,” and dude three rows up is starting to get loud with a flight attendant.
YES! Landing announcement! Thank (insert deity’s name here) … now if the lady in front of me will just pull her seat back into the “upright and locked position,” I can actually read what I’ve typed here.
Meh. Fuck it. I’ll post tomorrow.
The first world is where I live.