Saturday, October 25, 2008

And nobody wearing a three-piece suit

Jonathan Richman, a musician who inspires adoration in even the hardest of hearts, has a wonderful ditty on his album Jonathan Goes Country called "You're Crazy for Taking the Bus."
The song masterfully sums up the bias one encounters when telling friends about taking the Greyhound, that much maligned transportation option of last resort for many, with lines like,
Modern Lovers (his band): You're crazy for taking the bus!
Jonathan: Well, I'm crazy then, so, what's the fuss?
ML: Two whole days on that stinking bus!
J: Yeah, and I sleep fine
You take the plane, and I'll take the bus this time
I'm with Jonathan on this one. I'm a regular Greyhound rider, and it's a damn shame their system is so outdated and inefficient that lots of estadounidenses consider it unusable.
Illustrative anecdote: we're going up to the bay area next weekend to enjoy the Flaming Lips' new movie, Christmas on Mars, with friends on Halloween (side note: oh, yeah! You bet your ass I'll be costumed). My dear good friend is driving us up there, but we're going to take the bus back. Having discovered last year that it is extremely unwise to take the Greyhound from the station in Skid Row because it stops a few more times in the city before actually hitting the freeway, I was trying to find out how close the North Hollywood Metro stop is to the Greyhound station there. The two are just a few blocks apart, as it turns out.
While using Google Maps to search for the stations, a Yelp entry on the North Hollywood Greyhound station showed up, and, ignoring my brain's pleas to stay away from that seething pit of exhibitionist ignorance, I clicked. And I discovered that multiple idiots made posts (with humorous intent, no less!) about how the people on the Greyhound, including the drivers, are smelly jerks.
Now I'm not into smelling other people, don't get me wrong, but I think bashing those who are forced (that's right, they probably don't have other options) to use this bus system, I'll just say it, using Yelp to bash poor people, is absolutely disgusting.
If you get on the Greyhound and expect to encounter stockbrokers, models, and whatever other glamorous professionals, you will be sorely disappointed. It's a (relatively) cheap way to get around, and you may have to interact with (or even sit next to! gasp!) poor people. So I'd say you should prep yourself for that and enjoy the human beings around you instead of using Yelp to display how much better you think you are than the gross, stinky bodies on the Greyhound.
Adding to the jerkstorm, Bobby discovered that right now when you do a Google search for Greyhound the autofill suggestions all involve the tragic incident in Canada that happened this summer. I'm sure that just confirmed people's assumptions about how awful the bus is.
Around the time of that incident, I took a Greyhound from DC to Atlanta, and again from Atlanta to Chicago. The highlight of the first trip was when our bus broke down in South Carolina and I spent two hours at a truck stop. Check out this gem of a t-shirt message I found there:

Now that's social commentary!

The highlight of the second trip was hanging out in the Indianapolis station at 3 am. I'm not being sarcastic here, I do consider these unpalatable inconveniences on the Greyhound valuable experiences (even if at the time I'm not so appreciative).
Anybody who is content to feel contemptuously toward the "undesirables" of the U.S. shouldn't take the Greyhound, but anybody who is interested in finding out about the lives of many, many estadounidenses should take a ride sometime. Many riders I've encountered are embarrassed to be on the bus, let's not make it worse for all of us by perpetuating this ridiculous bias.