Monday, May 17, 2010

Cluck You Very Much: A Chicken Bus Travelogue

Everyone knows the routes from D.C. to New York. Planes are for the people who haven't figured out that flying is an overpriced time suck, Amtrak is for the people who are willing to pay the "Dahling, I don't do buses," surcharge, Bolt and Megabus are the province of the hipsters, and the Chinatown bus is for, well, the sort of humanity generally only experienced via film and television. Me? I like a good freakshow, and I love the Chinatown Chicken Bus.

Why do I call it the Chicken Bus? Because all that was missing from last weekend's ride was a live chicken, and perhaps a dice game in the aisle and an albino banjo player.

The ride began with various bus company employees gesticulating wildly, trampling one another in their haste, sorting us into a line, and hurling luggage into the bowels of the bus with resentful venom. The driver had a trendy mullet and a phone that blared snippets of dreadful pop music as we lurched our way through a hailstorm.

The women behind me yapped their way across the miles, question talkers both, with nary an oxygen break. One complained bitterly to the other about being pushed out of her family's business. Of course, the fact that she was the sort of person who would loudly air private family information on a crowded bus might have branded her as unprofessional, but I'm not one to offer free career advice. (If I was, I would have told the intern I shamelessly eavesdropped upon during a previous Chicken Bus journey that yes, interns do answer phones, and no, that did not mean their work was "unfulfilling.")

After the first few hours, I thought to myself, "Oh, well, at least it can't get worse." A moment later, both women popped in some globs of chewing gum so they could slurp and smack their way across New Jersey.

The best part was the journey home. The two Question Talkers were in our bus line! I turned to my travel companion and, between clenched teeth, stated that I would lose. my. MIND if those women sat anywhere near us. I said a little prayer to Getoff Mylawn, the Patron Saint of Curmudgeons. My prayers were answered and the yappers moved to the back of the bus.

The victory was fleeting, however, as my new neighbor turned out to be a woman who ranted in sub-Saharan French, while shoveling noxious-smelling kebab into her mouth with nary a break to chew.

In the comments, tell me if you've ever ridden a Chicken Bus.


Jenny said...

Yeah... You can count me firmly in the "dahhhling, I don't DO buses" camp.

I tried riding the BoltBus once.


Jamie said...

I can't believe you're complaining about a $20 bus feeling like a third world country! That's part of the charm. And the low price tag :)

You could also try the Green Tortoise, which I believe features communal sleeping quarters and complimentary bongs.

For the record, I've been on a bus that had a pig before, but that was actually in a third-world country...

Shannon said...

Jenny - I hear the BoltBus isn't so bad, but it's not as, er, COLORFUL as a Chinatown bus.

Jamie - The charm is the low price tag - plus, I enjoyed the window into a very different slice of DC.

Does the Green Tortoise have a nacho distribution for when the munchies kick in?

FoggyDew said...

Yeah, count me as another "dahhhling, I don't do buses" camp. Spent way too many trips on buses in Eastern NC to ever willingly get on one again. After taking the Acela to NYC for business last month, that is now my perferred mode of transportation along the NE Corridor.

This tale reminds me of your description of flying out of Bogota.

One last thought: two words to quiet the neighbors: i Pod.

Lusty Reader said...

your post actually just reminded me i need to book my ticket on the province of hipsters for next weekend! ive never gotten a $1 ticket from Bolt, but i have used the wi-fi and it's fab.

Brando said...

The Chicken Bus is the most pure way of travel--in a way it's a part of the experience.

marissa said...

Hipsters don't travel by bus. They travel by fixed gear bicycle.

A Daring Adventure said...

I just wanted you to know how very grateful I was that you wrote that post long about about the State Department and what your experience was like with your blog at your post.

Thank you for being so candid, and thank you for sharing so much.

alex said...

Daahling, I don't do buses. That, and asking your friends to help you move, are things one shouldn't do after 30. Life's too short!

Alas, there are plenty of cell phone yappers aboard Amtrak as well. But at least the torture is about an hour shorter.

Shannon said...

Foggy - iPod? No thanks, I'd spend the whole trip trying to figure out how the dang thing worked.

Lusty - I am convinced the $1 ticket is some sort of urban myth.

marissa - Hipsters can bicycle all the way to NY? If so, color me impressed.

Alex - I'm not supposed to have my friends help me move? Crap! Then how am I supposed to amuse myself?
ADA - THanks! It's funny that an old post keeps cropping up.

Kristen S. said...

The Greyhound from DC to Panama City Beach. There WAS a live bird on our bus, although it was a parrot and he sat on the shoulders of an enormous man wearing overalls with no shirt underneath. On the same bus were the young man and young woman who had just met (on the bus) who sucked face for HOURS on their way to spring break in Miami. Oh, and the bus driver's name was Elvis who, surprisingly enough, want to blast Elvis music to all of the passengers. When we were less than enthusiastic, he told us no one else could play any music, either. We had to keep the volume on our Walkmen low so he couldn't hear our tunes through our cheapy headphones. And he missed the exit for Shirlington and slammed it in reverse right there on I-395.