Greyhound Buses and I started off on the wrong foot – and we’ve never put it right. The first time I took the bus, they moved the station. On the up side, they moved it closer to my home. On the downside, they moved it into the jail’s parking lot. The temporary station had no seating, questionable plumbing, and nonexistent ventilation. Thankfully I only arrived an hour before my bus, so I didn’t have to spend much time there. Rather, I wouldn’t have had to spend much time there if the bus had left with me on it.
However, as I learned that day, Greyhound doesn’t guarantee you a seat in return for your bus ticket. They instead offer you the chance to get on a bus. The day I traveled more people, nearly three times as many people, had purchased tickets than there were seats. The company, as a kindness to the rest of us, sent another two buses. But those buses were coming from Columbus, and weren’t ready to go.
I’d like to think that Greyhound was committed to customer service and would do what it took to get us to where we needed to go as soon as possible. However, no one who worked there indicated that that was in any way true. They didn’t apologize the overbooking or their unpreparedness. In fact, they didn’t bother informing us that there would be more buses until over an hour after the first one had left. They didn’t offer any explanation or accommodations, or even an update as the next five hours ticked by. They did announce the buses when they arrived, a somewhat superfluous kindness since the drivers repeated those announcements as well.
Given my finances and destination, for years I had no choice but to ride Greyhound frequently. For all the hours I’ve spent riding Greyhound, I’ve spent nearly as many waiting for it. During those hours, we abandoned passengers talked among ourselves about life, love, and travel. We were united in our travels, but my lack of ain’ts, agreeing tenses, and dearth of contraband marked me as different from other passengers. Even my shirts – left behind by wealthier classmates in the dorm’s laundry room – and skirts from Goodwill, were generally a step up from the outfits worn by everyone else hoping to soon climb those sticky steps and sit in those worn out Greyhound seats.
We may have come from different backgrounds, but we were equal in accepting our mistreatment without complaint. But in the years that I’ve been riding Greyhound, the economy of inter-city busing has changed. Competition has entered the market. Internet booking has become the norm. Social media made it easy to air grievances and receive better service. The world has changed and we’ve all changed with it. We’ve changed so much that when Greyhound left sixty of us stranded at 11pm in New York’s Port Authority this year, the riders rose as one in protest.
The bus had been scheduled to depart fifteen minutes prior when the uprising started. I was sitting on the floor because Greyhound stations don’t provide seats, and I’m not inclined to stand for undetermined periods of time. I had just pulled out my snacks, because with no indication of when the bus would come it was imperative to keep my strength up so I didn’t fall asleep while waiting and miss the bus that way. There was no bus was parked at the door, no driver had ordered us to get our tickets out, and no staff had told us there was a delay. The woman standing next to me, with a sharp haircut and an outfit so nice the thought wouldn’t have occurred to her that floors were made for sitting, asked if I knew what was going on. I didn’t. She asked the next person. He didn’t either, but they struck up a conversation about it. Startled by the expectations that a bus would arrive or depart as scheduled, I perked up – and noticed a distinct buzz. My fellow passengers were talking about the delay, not just with one another, but together.
Together, they sent someone to find a staffer. The representative returned and reported that the staff had just started their shift and didn’t know know that we hadn’t departed. Aghast, the woman in the sharp haircut pulled out her phone to call customer service – and that’s when we all hit the phones, calling up every Greyhound service line we could find. Five minutes later a Greyhound staffer came over to repeat what our own representative had already told us – she didn’t know anything, including whether we even were scheduled for a bus. I, already on the phone with my customer service representative Kevin, cut off his explanation that I really needed to speak with the on-site staff but repeating verbatim the on-site staff’s denial of responsibility of knowledge.
Next time: Talk To Me At Midnight