Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Bus Ride from Hell.

Yesterday, after finishing up some last-minute classwork and errands, I was finally officially on winter break. Since I now was a) without any class for almost an entire month and b) officially done with my physics major, I decided to celebrate by taking a nice long bus trip back to Minnesota.

I've used Megabus several times in the past, and for the most part haven't had any complaints. Indeed, the cost of the trip I took yesterday was a whopping $10, plus a 50 cent booking fee. Unfortunately, in this case, it appears I got what I paid for.

I left my room at approximately 1pm, and made it to the downtown Chicago megabus stop by 2:30. Since the bus was scheduled to leave at 3, and there was a bus labelled "Minneapolis" I figured I'd line up next to it and hopefully be one of the first people on. Unfortunately, at 2:45, this bus left without any people on it. Figuring that another bus would show up soon, and not realizing quite how cold it was yet, I waited around on the sidewalk and didn't take advantage of the "warming bus", which sat idling with the heat on for people to wait in (this struck me as a huge waste of gas and source of pollution and carbon emissions, but I'm not going to get into that).

About 3:10, I started wondering where the bus was, and getting a bit cold. Another important detail I've left out till now is that it was raining and I was wet. So yeah, not that pleasant. About 3:15, buses headed for Cleveland and Cincinnati showed up, but nothing for Minneapolis. My bus didn't show up until 3:25, once these two buses had loaded and left. I was among the first on the bus and lucky enough to snag two seats to myself, which made things a lot more comfortable. The bus driver put in a crappy Sandra Bullock movie and I settled in for what I thought would be a long but not too difficult trip.

At this point it's worth noting that the trip on the route we took should take about 7 hours and 15 minutes; the bus company allotted 8:15, allowing for stops and traffic and nonsuch.

About midway through the movie, I notice that we're on side streets instead of the interstate. In short order, though, we pass over the freeway, which is backed up with traffic. I figure that we're just trying to make decent time and avoid the traffic. Then we stop at a gas station for a few minutes before continuing on.

As the movie finishes, we pull into another gas station what seems like a small to medium sized town. Since we've been on the road for about 2 hours at this point, I figure we're somewhere in southern Wisconsin on the outskirts of Milwaukee. The bus driver announces that his windshield keeps fogging up and he can't see, so we'll have to wait here for another bus, which will arrive in 'a few minutes'. At this point, the Finding Nemo dvd is popped into the dvd player.

After sitting around listening to the annoying audio on the Nemo menu a few times through, I decide to go into the gas station to get a snack. The gas station maybe 100 square feet; we can barely fit 6 people in there. At that point I notice that the ATM says we're located in Northfield, IL. I assume at this point that we're in extremely northern Illinois, probably just south of the Wisconsin border.

That's not true, though. Northfield, IL, is located basically as far north as Winnetka, and is a whopping 8 miles from where I started my journey.

I get back on the bus to find the Finding Nemo dvd menu audio still playing over and over again; after another 5 minutes of this, somebody mercifully replaces Finding Nemo with An American Tail, which is the heartwarming story of a mouse named Fievel Mouskewitz, who would later go on to star in Fievel Goes West. Fievel's family, a group of inexplicably Jewish Russian mice, decides to emigrate to America, where (and this point was driven home my a very repetitive song) a) there are no cats and b) the streets are paved with cheese. Unfortunately, Fievel gets separated from his parents and searches the streets of New York City for them, getting into all kinds of mischief.

Because it's a Disney movie, I assume Fievel finds his family in the end. I don't know for sure (it's been about 15 years since I last watched the movie) because our second bus finally showed up before the movie ended. After moving all of my stuff over to the new bus, I was ready for the rest of the trip, and pretty sure that we could make decent time. At this point, it was about 7:30.

At 9pm, when pulled into Milwaukee (for those keeping score at home, that's 6 hours after we were scheduled to leave Chicago), I was ready to give up on the idea of getting home anytime before Christmas. Between getting on the new bus and arriving in Milwaukee, we watched a crappy Owen Wilson movie in its entirety.

After Milwaukee, we finally started making decent time. We ended up making only one more stop, theoretically for dinner, but the place we stopped had all of its restaurants closed down and I basically just ate candy. For the rest of the way, we watched Mighty Ducks, Superman and the first half of An American Tail (again!).

At 3am, we finally arrived in Minneapolis. And, naturally, the door to the luggage compartment was locked, the driver didn't have the key and someone had to climb in a smaller door and throw bags out one by one.

So that's the story of what I did yesterday. It was tons of fun. And I'm done complaining now.

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