“Miles on the MBTA.” That was the clever (but unobtrusive) title of Miles Taylor’s original blog, written for years while he was a high-school student in Cambridge. His goal was to visit and review every station on the Red, Blue, Green, Orange, and commuter-rail lines. Now that he’s a college student at Drexel, he has expanded to “Miles in Transit,” covering both the MBTA and SEPTA (and some systems in between). The blog is lively and well-informed; I highly recommend it.
Recently Miles decided to take a cross-country bus trip on Greyhound. Of course. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do something like that? A bus ride, mind you, not a train trip. (I’m not sure I would want to do it even by train, though I do want to take the train across Canada some day.) Fortunately he took his friend Nathan along, so don’t worry he was all alone for the “longest bus ride in America.” Being a blogger, he documented the entire journey in words and photos. The result is part travelogue, part transit review, and part political commentary. On the one hand, we get comments like this:
Crossing the Mississippi with the Arch in view was magical. We used our 70-minute layover to walk to the Arch. It’s amazing, it’s so big from up close!
On the other hand, after Greyhound had removed everyone’s luggage from the bus in Denver:
“Can I just see it to make sure it’s there?” Nathan asked.
“YOU NEED TO CALM DOWN. YOU’RE GIVING ME ANXIETY,” the security guy said in all sincerity. Oh yeah, because your “anxiety” definitely matters more than the anxiety of those who had their valuables stolen by Greyhound.
Thank goodness all of the bags were there. So we boarded the bus and left 5 hours and 22 minutes late. At least we have our bags and we’re heading toward LA now.
And, from another layover:
OH MY GOD WE LEFT A MINUTE EARLY AND LEFT SOMEONE BEHIND. THIS DRIVER IS INSANE.
Read the entire piece, but — to make a long story short — after several other mishaps they arrive safely in California, somewhat ameliorated by the beauties of Utah. The concluding observations are the most interesting:
Not one apology for a delay. Taking our bags and blaming us for it. Leaving a minute early and leaving someone behind in the actual middle of nowhere…. There is no concept of customer service at Greyhound.
They know they’re the last resort. They know that people can complain, but they have no power to do anything about it. When a high-profile businessperson experiences a problem with an airline, the airline listens; not so for the immigrant trying to take Greyhound to a new life.
Even small things like drivers and terminal staff… yelling at people about reboarding tickets or waking passengers up at the terminal just to make sure they have a ticket. “But why should we care? These bums will still have to use our awful service. We don’t have to make an effort, AND we still make money!”
It’s disgusting. So many of Greyhound’s riders, especially outside of busy corridors, have fallen on hard times. They’re treated so horribly.
At the end of the day, this was still an amazing experience. We got to see parts of America that we had never seen before and may well never see again. We got to meet lots of people, some wonderful and some not. And we got a great story to share.
I still don’t want to repeat their experience.
(Actually, I did once take a cross-country bus trip — both ways! — but it was an entirely different sort of endeavor. When I was 14, I spent the entire summer in a program run by the YMCA of all things, in which we took a chartered Trailways bus across the country and back, by two different routes, emphasizing national parks. That was a fantastic experience, and the focus was definitely on the parks, not the bus.)