Up until this year, I had never used public transportation. In fact, the thought had never even crossed my mind. I’m from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which most people would consider a small to average sized midwestern town, and just about anywhere I needed to go was within short driving distance. Once I was old enough to drive, I always had the luxury of using my parents cars. My dad never wanted to get me my own because he always said I’d treat it like shit if I didn’t pay for it myself. At the time, this made me livid but in retrospect it was probably true.
When I moved off to college, I bought a beat up old Chevy Malibu for a grand from one of my moms coworkers. It was by no means my dream car, but it ran pretty well and the heat and air worked which was more than I could say about my previous attempt to buy a car. My first go at buying a car was my grandmas old 2000 saturn, which was a baby blue glorified go-kart with decade old stains from a box of melted crayons generously covering the back seats. Neither the heat or the air conditioning worked, so the temperature in the car would kick your ass no matter what season it was.
During the summers when the car became a sauna on wheels, I would roll the windows down daily as it was my only chance to cool off. It was only a short time however, that I had this luxury before my typical luck caught up with me. One of the back windows broke just as fall was rolling around, and became stuck in the rolled down position. This led to me driving all winter with frigid air shooting into my car and blasting the back of my neck. Each time I drove it, I just reminded myself that paying $100 for a car and expecting anything more than a crackerbox on wheels is asinine.
Shortly after I began my junior year at the University of Iowa this past fall, I started dating my girlfriend who goes to school in Chicago. I figured that I might have to become familiar with public transportation, given that my car is one step away from the ones they use to demolish in monster truck competitions. After doing some research I settled on the Megabus, whose website boasts low prices, semi-luxurious buses equipped with wifi, and even a bathroom. I was sold.
Over the course of the past six months, I have taken over a dozen Megabus rides. Let me begin with saying that the wifi is nothing to brag about, and in fact it’s basically complete shit. A number of other pissed off customer reviews mirror my sentiment online. “Due to my work, it was very important to be able to work on the bus during my travel. However, when I got in the bus, I realized that there was NEITHER wifi NOR outlet to be able to work with my laptop,” stated one customer. If you’re looking for the speed of a dial-up internet connection in 2018 then you will be pleased to know that it still exists happily within a Megabus. The buses also have about 10 different tv screens on them, intended to show movies, that remain completely unused throughout every ride. I suppose it’s the thought that counts.
Secondly, I’d like to address the comfortability of a Megabus ride. Most of us have taken car rides, some being long ones or road trips. I’ve never been enticed by the idea of a lack of personal space, sitting shoulder to shoulder with people in the back of a car. I know a lot of people romanticize road trips, and sure, every once in a while they can be a good time, but unless I’m riding shotgun chances are I’m spending majority of the ride fantasizing about rolling out onto I-80. Enjoyable car rides are practically an urban legend to me. My mother and my girlfriend say I’m a curmudgeon for that and maybe they’re right, but if my dissatisfaction with long cramped car rides makes me a grump, then consider me Oscar the goddamn grouch.
You’d imagine that a fairly sizable charter bus would be much better than a little car where you and the other riders are prisoners to breathing each other’s air. In the aspects of comfortability and personal space, this rings true. Often times, the bus has plenty of room and you can typically even get a seat to yourself. Having your own seat makes for a pretty decent ride, unless somebody chooses the seat directly in front of you and shoots it back into reclining position, nearly lying on you.
Other times, the bus is packed to the brim with the strangest assortment of people that you’ll ever see in your life. If you’re lucky, you might be sitting next to somebody who listens to their music in headphones, owns a toothbrush, and bathes regularly. Usually though, it’s the opposite. I’m typically one of the youngest people on the bus excluding at least one screaming child, so maybe I’m overreacting since I haven’t seen much outside of a college campus for the last three years. Nonetheless, the Megabus offers a colorful assortment.
If I could make a suggestion to the Megabus, it would actually have nothing to do with the buses themselves. It would be to make a partnership with Frito Lay and or Pepsi Co. The reason I say this is that you’ll never see as many people eating Fritos, Doritos, and Funyuns in your life as you will on a Megabus ride. I shit you not, it’s like the passengers raided a gas station. The stench that is produced by the combination of these three specific chips is of course, repulsive. Fritos and Funyuns have an alarming sulfiric smell in their natural state, but when they’re paired with Doritos to create a bad breath trifecta of stench, there is no escaping. You are trapped, and the fumes will mercilessly pummel your nostrils. Megabus may as well capitalize on the trend of their passengers traveling with an abundance of Frito Lay chips, though, as it may lead to an upgrade of their prehistoric shit-box wifi.
I typically avoid eating when I’m on the bus, as my options are limited to sketchy, right off of the highway gas station food, or various vending machine options in the Moline airport where we stop to drop off a few straggling passengers. Nothing says ‘eat me’ like a random assortment of fried food in a greasy case inside a gas station. A rule of thumb for me is that if the gas station has a little ‘casino’ inside of it, it’s safe to assume that any hot food I may eat there will have me befriending the nearest toilet for the foreseeable future. On that note, my best advice is to avoid sitting in the seats directly next to the bathroom as you will have a VIP pass to every smell that comes out of it.
Riding the Megabus builds character. You’ll see just about every demographic during your trips, and you will most certainly learn to appreciate driving yourself to your destinations. There are few things that you are almost certain to encounter each time that you ride a Megabus. First is a plethora of chips being eaten around you. Second is at least one person using a bluetooth headset like it’s 2002. And finally, somebody wearing a shower cap. I’m not sure what it is about the Megabus, but something about it makes its passengers so inclined to carry out their most obscure habits while riding the bus.
I sit on the Megabus as I type this, and my ass is asleep. The window next to me is rattling, and somebody is playing their music out loud which is a running theme during rides. There are two different phone calls going on around me, both of which have lasted nearly half an hour. After spending plenty of time taking public transportation, I think I would suggest everyone trying it at least once. Not only does it allow you to count your blessings every time you get to drive yourself somewhere, it humbles you and gives you a chance to be amongst all walks of life. Different people from different places, all with different reasons for using the bus. Ultimately, we’re all just trying to get from point A to point B, and the Megabus gets you where you need to go. Would I suggest it if you have other options? Probably not. For me, however, it is the year of the Megabus.