Monday, April 03, 2006

Chinatown Bus = My Personal Hell

It's no big secret that the Chinatown bus is supposed to be cheap ($35 round-trip), and, for that, passengers are supposed to be willing to give up a few luxuries: air conditioning, room to move, traveling in quiet conditions, etc. And I'm no prima donna: I'll cut corners to save a buck. But my experience traveling to Baltimore was about a one on a scale of zero to 10, 10 being "riding in a heaven-sent cloud," and zero being "I'd rather have hitchiked."

Chinatown Bus #1:
I have to give Bus #1 props for leaving NYC's Chinatown on time and getting us to Baltimore in three and a half hours -- 30 minutes earlier than I had planned. And for that convenience, we sacrificed the following:

1. Normal stomach functioning: We had to sit in the back. By the bathroom. And trust me, the smell of urinal cakes and human bodily functions doesn't exactly make one feel relaxed the whole way.

2. Air: There was no air conditioning, as expected, but there were tiny overhead vents that blew out air that can only be described as rancid. I'm pretty sure a small rodent of some sort had crawled into the ducts and soon afterward headed to that big mousetrap in the sky. Halfway through the trip, though, the driver opened that escape hatch in the top of the bus, and, praise Jesus, fresh air flowed into through the car. Well, half of the hatch collapsed about 10 minutes later, leaving it only half open, and then an enterprising young gentleman across the aisle from the Boyf and me tried to stuff a Champion-brand tube sock between the hatch and the roof to wedge it open, but it didn't stay put. So, as I emerged from the bus, drenched in rat sweat and gasping for air, I had a thought: I think our ride defined the concept of "you get what you pay for."

Chinatown Bus #2
Well, I wish I could describe Chinatown Bus #2. But can't. Because it never came to pick us up from Baltimore. I bought my tickets on the Internet, showed up a half an hour early and everything, but each bus that came was either going to Philly, going to Boston, or full. About 15 of us were left stranded on a grassy knoll at the Baltimore Travel Plaza for two hours while we waited in vain for our ride. Finally, the Boyf and I decided to go across the street and shell out $37 for a one-way ticket to New York via Greyhound (which, might I add, was on time and even showed the movie Starsky and Hutch). The other hopeful passengers who had called the Chinatown bus station said that they gave them the runaround: "Buses came by, but passengers refused to get on." Liars. I'm going to try to call them and demand my money back, but I'm not holding my breath for results, seeing as how "no refunds" is printed on the Internet tickets about 14 times. So for now, at risk of sounding like a crazy Craigslist ad, the best I can do is this:


Dismounting soapbox.


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