Next Time I'll Fly!

I hope all of you had a great summer with lots of memorable experiences to reflect on. As I reflect on my summer, one experience really stands out as a memorable experience...or should I say; one I would like to forget!
It all began last Spring when my wife decided she wanted to go see some friends in the Midwest during August. As summer approached she managed to get three weeks off from work. Now she had to decide how to get there. My wife loves to drive so she decided to take the kids and drive there...without me of course. I couldn't get all three weeks off so the plan called for me to somehow get to Michigan on my own. Three quick alternatives popped into my mind; I could fly there in the Cessna Cardinal which I own, I could fly commercially or I could drive there in my car.
Choice one brought a big smile to my face. I am an instrument rated Commercial Pilot so flying there would be no problem at all. After all, I had flown to Michigan and Oshkosh several times before in Howie (the Cardinal's name). I love flying and was just itching to get another long cross country in. I knew I could make it in 4.5 hours so I would be there in no time.
Choice two was unacceptable. You know there are three types of passengers on airliners. One kind is constantly looking out the window at everything. That person is a first time flyer. Another kind just sits there reading a newspaper. Now that person is a seasoned air traveler. The third type is sitting in the seat sweating and biting their nails. Now that is another pilot and that is just how I am on an airliner. If I'm not in control, I get very nervous. The other reason for not flying commercially is because of the high cost of a one way ticket and the fact it would still take about 4.5 hours to get there.
Choice three had the advantage of me having my own wheels while I was in Michigan but then we would have to drive two cars back and that wasn't too practical.
After giving the matter some thought, I decided that driving made the most sense. Money is a little tight these days and it would by far cost the least to drive. Those nightly tie-down fees are killer if you are staying two weeks.
Well the time flew by (no pun intended) and in no time it was three weeks before I was to leave on the trip. About that time my wife came up to me and suggested that I consider taking the bus to Michigan instead of driving. The cost was considerably less than the other three alternatives and after weighing the pro's and con's, I decided to give it a try. Why not? I asked myself. A bus trip might actually be fun! Think of all the interesting people I might meet.
Hmmmm, let's ask ourselves some important questions. How long would it take to fly? 4.5 Hours! How long to drive? 14 hours. How long to go on the bus? 24 hours minimum. What do you do on the bus? Sit! Are buses on time? I could only guess that they were most of the time. Now there's something that would prove to be wrong. Well, let's let the adventure begin and I'll tell you the rest of the story...
It all began on a rainy afternoon. A friend dropped me off at the Nashua bus station, or should I say, trailer! Route of ride would take me to Boston, then on to Cleveland. From there I would catch a bus to Detroit and then another bus to my final destination.
Now let's take a moment to think about what happens when you fly somewhere. They take your ticket and you get on the plane. Now they know who is on the plane. Right? Right! Your name is on the ticket. Same thing happens when you take the bus. They take your ticket and you get on the bus. Now they know who is on the bus. Right? Wrong! Your name is NOT on the ticket.
Now think about the destination. People come to pick you up at the airport and they look at a TV to see if the plane is on time. When people come to pick you up at the bus station, they look at the TV monitor to see if the bus is on time...Wrong! There are no TV's except for the pay TV's on the uncomfortable chairs in the waiting area! So they go up to the employees at the counter and ask where the bus from Cleveland is and if you are on it...they laugh! They don't know where the bus is! To make matters worse, there is no way for them to know who is even on the bus!
Now think about the terminals themselves. How easy is it for homeless people to get to an airline terminal? Not very...the terminals are usually out of town but bus stations are in town. Easy for anyone who comes along to enter and plop themselves down wherever they please. Now think about the rest rooms. Have you ever seen a pay toilet at an airport? Well I saw plenty at the bus stations. I even saw some rest rooms I had to pay to get through the main door!!
I think you now are getting an idea of the difference between air travel and bus travel. And now...on with the story...
As you already know I made it to the Nashua bus station. A bus showed up a bit late and we all piled on. The bus driver then proceeded to drive to Boston during the evening rush hour. That trip was rather uneventful except for the stop and go driving. After arriving in Boston, I expected to get right on the next bus and take off. Wrong! I was told by the third employee I asked that the bus to Cleveland would depart at 8:30 PM. It was now...6:15. Hmmmm, now what do I do? I proceeded to guard my bag and watch the people.
Finally the time arrived to board the next bus so I got in line. Behind me was a rather stately gentleman with rather unstately hair, bad breath and a heck of an accent. With broken English he asked me if I was in the line for the bus to Buffalo. Buffalo? I was going to Cleveland. How did I know? I reasoned for a few seconds and figured out that Cleveland was after Buffalo so the bus must be going to Buffalo. We boarded the bus and I decided to sit next to him. Turns out he was from Estonia which is near the Soviet Union and he was a professor of Economics at the local University. During the trip we had some interesting conversations about life in Estonia vs. life here. He told me he was visiting Boston for a short time before returning and was on his way for a day of sight-seeing in Buffalo.
After the bus driver got on the bus at the Boston bus station, he made an announcement in a Jamaican accent: "There will be stops in Albany and Syracuse with a driver change in Albany. There will be no loud talking, fighting and no beating the bus driver!" Everyone got a chuckle out of that. I looked at my watch and thought to myself, I could have been in Michigan already if I had flown my own plane.
About midnight we pulled into Albany and the driver announced that we all had to get off the bus for refueling. About the same time another bus pulled in beside ours. It too was going to Cleveland.
We went inside and milled about. While inside I noticed a short and very portly woman who looked like a cross between Abbot and Costello blast into the station with two suitcases. I guess she thought she was going to miss the bus. Well we all finally got to get back on our bus and who should blast in after everyone was on but the woman I saw earlier. After walking to the back she blasted by me again and got off. Seems our bus was full. I watched her get on the other bus beside us and she must have found room. Meanwhile our Jamaican driver got back on and mumbled something about having to work on his day off and a double shift to boot. He told us the driver change would occur in Syracuse and off we went.
Good thing I brought my coat because the rather loud air conditioner came on shortly after departing. The temperature began to plummet and I was getting goose pimples. Someone yelled out "turn on the heat!" and on came the heat. Now it started to get comfortable but the bus started to swerve a bit. On came the air and down went the temperature. Another person yelled "turn up the heat!" and on went the heat. Then I noticed the bus driver kept hitting the brake and then the gas and then the brake. On went the air and down went the temperature. Again someone yelled "turn up the heat!". With that I heard the bus driver yell back "You want to live don't you? I gotta have the air on to stay awake!" After that we lived with the igloo like temperature. The driver also pulled off the road a couple of times in rest areas. I think it was to wake up. He would get off, go over to a pay phone and then return a couple of minutes later.
We pulled into Syracuse about 2:30 and the new bus driver came on. He must have been new because he did everything by the book including reciting the same words of caution about watching your step while departing the bus at every stop. Shortly after departing Syracuse for Buffalo, I began to smell something in the air. The smell began to really get much so that you couldn't take a deep breath! About that time the bus driver pulled off the road and walked to the back of the bus. He banged on the door of the bathroom a couple of times and then opened it, looked in and then came back and got back in his seat. Someone in the back yelled "that smell is pretty bad!".
We ended up having to put up with that smell for the rest of the way to Buffalo. After pulling into Buffalo, it was announced that we all had to get off the bus for refueling. As I got off, I told the driver he better have the toilet cleaned out and he assured me it would be taken care of.
Well they cleaned it and when we finally were allowed back on the bus, a cleaning guy was still inside holding a container of chemicals. We all proceeded to tell him how bad the stink had been and he said "Man...someone had some powwwwerful piss!" And those were his exact words. I had to laugh to my self. As I looked at my watch, I realized I could have flown my plane to Michigan and back already! Also, remember that woman I told you about know, the one that was rather portly? Well I saw her in Buffalo. She was still in the second bus that was also on its way to Cleveland.
After the bus got underway, I decided to take a look at the bathroom on the bus. I was amazed. I expected to see one like you would see on an airliner with a flush toilet. Instead, when I looked into the toilet, I could see the holding tank and everything in it sloshing around! No wonder the bus stunk! This thing was like an outhouse with chemicals.
The rest of the trip to Cleveland was uneventful but by now I was getting pretty hungry. I hadn't eaten a thing since the night before and now it was already morning. I figured when we got to Cleveland I would have time to eat. Wrong! We were late getting into Cleveland and there was only time enough to get a Coke and some chips from a vending machine. While I was putting money into the machine, a guy came up to me and asked me for money for a hamburger. I told him I wanted a hamburger but didn't have time to get one and with that I scrambled to catch the waiting bus.
When I got there I found the bus full and about ten people were standing in the isle. The driver told us to get off the bus. We would have to wait for the next bus. While the people were arguing with the driver outside the bus, I slipped onto the bus thinking I would hide in the bathroom if I had to. I HAD to get to Michigan. People were expecting me! As I scanned the seats I thought I saw one vacant seat near the back. As I approached the seat I noticed MOST of the entire seat was filled by...get this...the portly woman who looked like Abbot and Costello!!! I asked in a meek voice "is this seat taken?" and she smiled and said it wasn't. So I squeezed myself into what space remained, gritted my teeth and swore under my breath "never again will I take the bus when I can fly!"
Turns out someone goofed on the routing. Instead of finding a bus in Cleveland on its way to Detroit, I had to get off in Toledo, Ohio and get on another one to Detroit. Meanwhile it was 4 PM, already past the time I was supposed to be at my final destination! I got on the bus to Detroit and off we went.
We were cruising along when all of a sudden the bus swerved off the freeway onto the shoulder. There were two other buses already stopped. Seems as though one of them had developed engine problems so we had to pick up some of the passengers. Now the bus was crammed with people standing in the isle.
We pulled into Detroit about 5:30 PM and I had missed the next bus to my final destination. I went to a pay phone and called the friends that were supposed to meet me. They said "where are you?" I said I was in Detroit and could they pick me up. Thirty five minutes later I was picked up and as we were on our way to their home, I told them this story.
Let's see now...I left New Hampshire at 4 PM and arrived in Detroit at 5:30 PM the next day. I figure I could have flown two complete round trips in my plane in the time it took me to get there on the bus. I was exhausted. All I had to eat since leaving New Hampshire was one bag of chips, a soda and a cup of coffee. There just wasn't time to get anything during the trip because the bus was always late and the next one was leaving.
Next time...I'll fly!

Copyright © 1996-1997

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Last Updated March 29, 1997