How To Ride The Megabus
If you’re going on Spring Break around the Midwest or the East Coast and are poor or under the age of 28, you might be thinking about taking Megabus, the super cheap way to travel long distances. It’s a good way to go (fares as cheap as a dollar! How can you beat that?!), but there are some rules novices might be unaware of. Here’s how to ride in style:
Don’t be late. Be early in getting to the parking lot or mid-town intersection where you’re supposed to catch the bus. There will be multiple queues and some orange cones but no clear organizational system, and you’ll want to ask two or three people to make sure you’re standing in the right place. Then keep your wits about you; the Megabus moves quickly, and if you’re fiddling around on your phone or grabbing a snack for the road, you could easily miss it when your bus boards. Then you’ll be stuck at home in the rain instead of on your way to a fabulous city of medium-to-large size. The only time the Megabus leaves on time is when you’re not paying attention. The drivers have a strict policy against letting you on once they’ve started pulling away, and yelling at the window of a departing bus is no way to start your vacation.
Pack food before you go. Think about this the night or morning before, or on your way to the bus stop after work. In all likelihood you don’t really have any food at home because you’re poor and you knew you were going out of town for a week, so you figured why buy stuff just to let it spoil or be eaten by your roommates? If all you have in your cupboard is a half empty package of Swedish Fish, suck it up and buy something on the way to the stop. There aren’t usually any places to buy food at the Megabus stops in most cities, but if you can grab a bagel or a pre-made sandwich from a coffee shop on your walk over, do it. If not you’ll regret it later, when all you have are Swedish Fish and a belly ache from all that sugar. Just don’t get tuna or everyone onboard will hate you.
Bring a bottle of water. No matter how empty your pantry is, you can go to the tap and fill up that bottle that you thought you would use at the gym even though you haven’t been in six months. If your bus ride is during rush hour or will last longer than four hours, fill up another one, half with the booze of your choice and half with cranberry juice. For the antioxidants. And don’t worry, if airport bars have taught me anything it’s that it doesn’t count as drinking alone if you’re doing it to suffer the unpleasantness of traveling. It’ll help you sleep, and there’s no better way to be around strangers than slightly intoxicated.
Pick your seat strategically when you board. Hopefully you got there early enough to have the pick of the litter, but most Megabus vehicles have two stories, so there are a wealth of options. Assess the situation carefully. Does the bus look like it will be full? Will you be making any stops? If you feel the odds are in your favor, sit up top. The view is better, and you’ll be able to avoid any altercations between the driver and passengers. No matter how much you think you might use it, don’t sit near the bathroom. It will smell and strangers will be wandering past you all trip long.
When you get up there, wander midway to the back of the bus and grab an empty double. Don’t go too far to the rear, or else you’ll be stuck with other passengers who come up and look for seats. They’ll walk the aisle, realize there are no open doubles, look down and there you’ll be. Avoid them by blocking the other seat with your bag and pretending to be asleep. As long as you didn’t bring a tuna sandwich, pick this time to be an asshole. It’s okay.
If the bus is going to be full and there aren’t any doubles left, sit next to the first person you see pretending to be asleep, reading or listening to their headphones. It’s a good sign that they have already expressed their lack of interest, and will want to avoid speaking to you throughout the bus ride. Stay away from anyone who is talking to their neighbor, on a cellphone or tenderly making out with their partner.
If your seat is reclined, bring it to the upright position. If it’s stuck, make a real show of trying to fix it and apologize to the person behind you. If the chair in front of you is reclined, expect the passenger to do the same. If they don’t, you have full license to put your feet and knees on their armrest.
The wireless Internet promised to travelers won’t work. It never does. Occasionally, perhaps, you might be able to check your email, but this is really the exception more than the rule. Download any “work you need to do” beforehand. Anyway, if your job were really important, you wouldn’t be riding Megabus.
No matter what, do not interact with the other passengers. Other than polite sentences, it is not appropriate to (1) talk to your seat partner (2) flirt with your seat partner (3) sleep on your seat partner.
The bus is going to be delayed getting out of the parking lot or intersection. And it’s going to hit traffic along the way. And if it makes any stops along the route, those are going to take longer than expected, too. The driver always goes slower than they should and often makes wrong turns. Sometimes they’re even drunk, so there is going to be no way that you make it to your destination on time. If you’re meeting people, give them a rough estimate of your arrival time but be prepared to text when you’re still an hour or two away to let them know that it’s somehow snowing and you have no idea where you are. But you’ll get there eventually.
- Julian Hattem