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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, May 26, 2022

Detours, sideswipes and mega-bad bus rides

As many college students know, when you’re living the university life and rocking it in a city that treats parking like the Hunger Games of asphalt and broken dreams, transportation is a scarce and valuable commodity. College may be portrayed in the movies as a time for young people to fly free, but for the unlucky majority of us who are without cars in this city, that freedom only extends as far as your feet can take you. Your wings can end up feeling decidedly clipped.

 That is why, car-less and without options, when I was hit by wanderlust and an invitation to party with friends in Minneapolis a few weeks ago, I was forced to swallow my pride and turn to that disastrous fallback propping up the college student’s travel dreams: the Megabus. 

For those of you who don’t know about the Megabus, stop reading, because trust me, you don’t want to. But if you’re feeling masochistic, here’s the skinny: The Megabus is a coach-bus system that travels through several major U.S. cities and advertises that it’s possible to book a ticket for just $1 if you plan far enough in advance (although as a regular Megabus rider I can tell you this claim feels like malarkey to me because I’ve never paid under $5). But more importantly, it’s hell on wheels, and not in a good way.

Without fail, every Megabus experience I’ve had has been alarmingly bad. Like, Will Ferrell-movie bad. I’ve experienced buses booked over capacity, broken window seals that caused me to get soaked in rain in my seat, unexpected detours to unknown parts of the Midwest, and one driver who sideswiped a car parked on the shoulder and ended up getting pulled over by the police. Megabus doesn’t seem to care. 

The Megabus mascot, a leering, rotund little pink fellow in a driver’s uniform, adorns the side of the blue and yellow buses and gazes at passersby with something like vindictive glee in his eyes. He knows you’re going to have a bad time. He loves it. 

My most recent journey began like any other. My pickup location was changed the day-of from Memorial Union to the Chazen Museum because of construction. Not the best customer service to give four hours notice, but not the worst I’ve seen from them. I thought maybe that would be the one bump in the proceedings and all would go smoothly. I was wrong.  

After waiting 45 minutes for a bus that wouldn’t come, the rest of the Minneapolis-bound passengers and I finally got through to customer service. The bus would be delayed up to four hours, they told us. Reason unknown. Oh, and don’t go anywhere; the bus could arrive at any time, and it would not be waiting. 

Pissed off and grouchy but not surprised, we, the weary would-be travelers, set up shop in Coffee Bytes across the street to gaze out the glass for a hopeful glance of that pink devil in his yellow hat to herald the start of our journey. I made my way through two pastries (and accompanying two-hour bouts of WiFi each) before the bus finally arrived. I barely made it onboard before it sped away, leaving at least three passengers behind when they couldn’t gather their bags fast enough. For the record, we would not be going back for them. Every battle has collateral damage.

Eventually, I made it to Minneapolis, four hours late, cramped and weakened by an overcrowded bus, dropped off 10 blocks from the location printed on my ticket. When we arrived, the driver came on the loudspeaker with his company’s trademark audacity: “I hope you’ve enjoyed your journey. Thank you for choosing Megabus.” 

Trust me, sir, it was no choice of mine. I got off the bus unsure what was worse: the nightmare of the journey, or the knowledge that I’d be doing it again two days later.  

Megabus treats me wrong, but I keep coming back. The things we do for transportation.

Where have you ended up on your Megabus trips? Tell Shannon at sekelly2@wisc.edu.

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