A trip up to New York, to see the work of Olafur Eliasson at the MoMA before it closed, was overshadowed by a teeth-clenching, white-knuckle ride on the "Chinatown bus." Like many a friend and acquaintance before, I too was suckered in by the low price of the commute. Unlike my friends, I never heeded the warning of buses breaking down on the interstate, U-turns over the median, or the bus catching on fire. Fortunately, these specific events did not occur on the travel.
What did occur?
Bus hit something before leaving the parking lot in DC. Check
Bus nearly sideswiped a semi on I-95. Check
Bus cut off a semi. Check
Bus constantly changed lanes driving upwards of 75 MPH on the interstate. Check
Bus driver often driving with one hand while eating peanuts. Check
Or, talking on his cell phone. Check
Bus was late for the return. Check
Got yelled at in Chinese. Check
Bus broke down before leaving NYC. Check
Bus driver smoking while driving. Check
As a list, it doesn't look that bad. Most passengers seemed oblivious to the fact they were sitting in a death trap that weaved across three lanes of traffic like a novice learning to saddle stitch. But, whatever man! It's a $6 ticket! This price would explain the lack of toilet paper in both the DC Chinatown office, and the lack of toilet paper on the bus.
The AM bus departed from DC at 8:00 AM. The return was at 3:30 AM. Same bus driver. I hope he had a nap at some point.
The best part: an emergency stop at a NJ rest stop to swap commuters from one bus to another. Prior to the bus breaking down in NYC, there was some confusion if the bus was going to DC or Philly. Turns out it went to both. But, after an hour on the interstate, the bus I was on (let's call it Bus A) pulled over into the rest stop to tell commuters to DC to get on another bus (let's call it Bus B). Those en route to Philly on Bus B disembarked for Bus A , and those of us on Bus A headed to Balt/DC disembarked for Bus B. The goal was apparently some sort of time saving strategy.
Once settled on Bus B, Driver A and Driver B held a little conference in Bus B about something. It was at this time that Driver A decided to yell at a passenger seated behind Driver B, complete with pantomimed kicking and vulgarity. The lady was confused. Passengers were becoming unsettled. And, the look of utter shock and horror saturated the face of Driver B as he tried to stop the unsolicited assault of verbal abuse spewing from Driver A.
The Eliasson show? Enlightening. And Buckminster Fuller at The Whitney made me feel smarter. But, all of this got left behind on East Broadway, sometime between 9:45 and 11:00 PM.