Some time ago, a good friend of mine informed me of a very important bus she favored to go from Chicago to rural Pennsylvania. The name of said mode of travel… is the Megabus.
“Tickets are only $1 if you get them soon enough.”
“That sounds crazy.”
“No, it’s great.”
For those that don’t know, the Megabus was designed with the pitch of the most inexpensive travel option that connects over 100 cities, while also carrying out the utmost in safety procedures. In theory, you can get a trip booked for $1 plus tax and whatever travel expenses amount to. While I’ve never witnessed anyone that has achieved that deal, it is allegedly possible. Plant that seed.
I have now been on this bus to make the trip from Boston to New York several times, and each trip has some kind of inciting incident as we’ll call it. After this last trip, one I would like to call a defining moment of my life (DML), I realized that perhaps this wasn’t the best way to travel. Fortunately for my state of mind on the bus, I didn’t google other peoples’ horror stories like THIS ONE or THIS ONE ; I didn’t look at really any of the bevy of tweets on twitter such as this small sample:
And most importantly, I hadn’t looked at pictures like this:
OR OH MY GOD THIS:
…until after deciding to write this post.
Now omens come in many shapes, sizes and colors. And the particular omen for this trip occurred when I went up to get in line for my 5:30pm bus, and was told that no one knew where it was.
To prevent any kind of mishap (what did that mean?) I should get on the 5:00pm. Knowing I had about 5 seconds to decide if I wanted to snag one of the remaining seats left on this bus, I decided to take action. I swung my stuff in and realized very quickly I had settled in an unfortunate Bermuda Triangle of illness. I couldn’t lean forward without someone coughing, I couldn’t lean backwards without someone sneezing, and the woman next to me I’m pretty sure had eaten something before it was dead.
The bus started, and despite the initial warning, I was admittedly surprised when after about 20 minutes we pulled over to the side of the road at a rest stop that had no gas to offer. I was further surprised when we continued to just sit there in prolonged silence, wondering if in fact we’d been taken. All 65 or so of us. But eventually and without warning the bus launched forward. Not, however, before another terrible little something was noticed…
Every now and then, I get a little warm. I feel like this happens to most people, except those people who are like “I’m cold” literally all the time. You know who I’m talking about, there’s one in every group. But suffice it to say, I was starting to feel a little bit hot and I don’t mean I was traveling sexy. Maybe though, it was all in my head. There’s lots of weird stuff in there, so it was entirely possible. So I let it go for a bit, and tried to close my eyes and relax. As time passed though, I couldn’t shake the notion that I was really quite warm. So I did what any other person would do. I looked for confirmation of my own discomfort by looking around to see if anyone was sweating.
So I thought long and hard about how to lead this one off with my neighbor. Perhaps-
“Is it hot in here or is it me?”
I’d have to be careful with that one since it was simply one word away from the oft-used but universally poorly received “Is it hot in here or is it you?”
As I pondered my options, I realized that I had one more thing I could check before I decided that it was time to get verbal. Fortunately or unfortunately, I had brought with me a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels. If you’re ever concerned about whether or not you are overheating and no one else is, you can bring a fat with you to help gauge the room temperature. This isn’t normal practice for me, but in this case it would suffice. I looked down and realized that my entire bag of chocolate had melted. This was not a good situation. And it was getting worse. I turned to my neighbor-
“So, not to be weird, but are you… you know, warm?”
It had sounded much more deliberate in my head.
“Yeah, it is a little hot in here.”
A little? A LITTLE? Well at least that was something. I thought of what options we would have, since we were only 45 minutes into a 4 hour trip. I couldn’t open the window, but I did have some (now warm) water, so that was at least something. Hmmm… what would Jungle Squad Ingrid do?
“The Jungle Squad” is the group of people you would take with you into the Jungle should you have to go in there and come out the other side alive. Despite capitalizations it’s not a specific Jungle, but more so a state of mind. In my head it’s very Uncommon Valor, which as I’d find out would be a perfect film reference for what our trip was about to become. But the reality of my wilderness capabilities if we’re being real could be much closer to Tropic Thunder. And while I’d always appointed positions to various other people in my life, my own role as a survivalist remained unclear. I decided that Jungle Squad Ingrid (henceforth JSI) would try to go to sleep in order to lower her body temperature.
So for a little bit I tried that. And it almost worked, except for the fact that it was hot as hell and someone kept screaming “FUCK!” towards the front of the bus.
I picked up my phone and texted my friend the situation.
“Yo. It’s 85 degrees on my bus. People are going to riot. Soon.”
“Girl, no way.”
No sooner had the last WAY been sent then it happened. A self-appointed leader rose from her seat and was storming down the aisle of the bus holding her phone in the air like a riot sign, and chanting things to motivate the crowd:
“Who’s hot? I AM! WHO’S HOT? I AM!”
“This one’s pregnant, SHE NEEDS AIR!”
I consider myself a reasonable go-getter, but I noticed that I didn’t even need to go talk to the bus driver because at least 3 people had already gone down the stairs and done so, and come back with the very odd but damning phrase:
“He says he can’t turn the heat off.”
I don’t drive buses. I definitely don’t drive Megabuses. So I was willing to cut the driver a little bit of slack in some areas. This was not one of them. How can the heat just permanently be on in one floor of a double-decker bus? And not just on but set to “kill“? Everyone was just chillin downstairs, and we were about 5 degrees away from cabobbing ourselves back to Boston. It was time to take action, and since Megabus Customer Service had hung up on our newly self-appointed leader, she went down the stairs next to more assertively reason with our driver. In the meantime, things were getting serious. And so I did something that really I don’t do that often on public buses. I had to take my shirt off. I couldn’t take it anymore.
Before this gets weird I did have a tank top on underneath so it wasn’t a complete scandal. But it was a total domino effect. One by one all the way down the aisle shirts started coming off. I think I even saw a pair of khakis thrown by the way side. It was getting real in the top of that bus and there was no turning back. I didn’t think things could get much stranger (I don’t know why) when the bus driver came over the intercom:
“Ladies and gentlemen. I’m aware that it is a little bit warm on the upper floor of the bus. However, I am unable to adjust the heat settings of this vehicle. I am looking into temporary solutions. Please be patient.”
This was the moment when our leader also came back up the stairs…
“Customer service hung up on me, you all, and he can’t turn down the heat. Open the emergency door!”
…and opened the emergency door as our driver continued-
“Please do no unlatch the emergency door, we are trying to come up with solutions to this situation.”
The Emergency Door, of course, was essentially directly above the seat of yours truly and when I say above it was a massive latched door in the ceiling of the vehicle that wasn’t supposed to be opened except in extreme situations. Ergo, after it opened, I was not at all surprised at what I noticed next- we were headed off of the highway.
This was the second time we had gone off course, so to say I was up for anything would be an understatement. Having said that, I admittedly did not know what state we were in (literally and figuratively) or how much longer we had left in our journey based on the time lost in heated delirium. Eventually the bus slowed down and began to wind its way through what can best be described as the land that time forgot. We eventually came to the most deserted Burger King I had ever seen, and after circling the entirety of the building, settled in a far region of the parking lot.
This, I thought, is how murders happen. What if the Burger King had no food left? I had seen Alive and knew what kinds of people to look out for. I started giving other passengers my best “Don’t mess with JSI, she handles it” look. In my head it was serious. In real life it was probably like this:
Before we could go from the frying pan into the fire, our driver came on the intercom again:
“Ladies and gentlemen. We cannot turn the heat off. It is broken. I am not in control of the heat of this bus. And so in the meantime, we will be taking water breaks. This is your first water break, and we will proceed into Boston taking as many water breaks as is necessary. Please take 15 minutes and get some fresh air and water. We will be leaving in 15 minutes promptly.”
So where are we at this point? Well, I’m still covered in chocolate, more naked than usual, and sitting in the parking lot of a Burger King in the middle of the badlands of a state I’d hoped was at least on the Northeastern grid. That’s where we’re at, ladies and gentleman.
After fifteen minutes we were rounded up and got back onboard the sauna to continue our travels into New England. I continued to ration my water as we were still not allowed to leave the Emergency Door (which I don’t know why I keep capitalizing) open during travel. Then something happened, and if I knew what it was I would tell you because I’m sure it’s relevant to this story. But our leader had some kind of discussion with the bus driver and eventually he stopped the bus.
However! He then came upstairs and finally opened up the emergency door and let it remain open. People were literally cheering. Sweating, cheering, crying- we were all in this together! This went on for- wait for it- 7 hours. Seven hours instead of the 4 that it usually takes to get to Boston. I ate the melted chocolate out of the bag and drank the last of my water with next to no time to spare. I kept getting that line from The Last of the Mohicans in my head where Hawkeye is like “Stay alive! No matter what occurs!”
That was my new motto. I knew I needed to be careful or would potentially have to drink my own urine as we learned about in 4th grade Social Studies when the Conquistadors got lost in the wilderness. I know what I’m talking about.
But after 7+ arduous hours and a potentially 5lbs loss of water weight (not taking into consideration chocolate intake), we rolled into Boston feeling simultaneously unified and undignified.
So will I be taking the Megabus more? You know, had this been the only incident I have to honestly say I actually might take my chances. As we’ve learned from this post, I am a survivor who fears neither nudity nor almost total disorientation. However, having taken a look at THESE statistics, I may be looking elsewhere. Greyhound is looking pretty good these days, as chocolate-covered pretzels will only take you so far.