This past Monday, I took my first unchaperoned bus ride across state lines. The experience was much more trying as an adult than it was, say, on field trips as a teenager. I decided to make y’all a helpful step-by-step guide on how to handle your journey.
LEE’S EASY 25-STEP GUIDE TO RIDING A BUS
1. Go to buy a train ticket. They cost $300. Panic.
2. Call your best friend during her lunch break and ask, “So, do I just get on a bus or what. How does anything work? Are there seat belts?” Your best friend replies with a cutting remark about your inefficacy as a human being. Your feelings are not hurt, as you aren’t even listening due to being in the middle of a high-intensity search for pictures of Zac Efron. Your priorities are sound.
3. Buy a ticket for a bus leaving at 1:45pm from a station 40 minutes away. It is currently 1:08pm.
4. Grab the bag that you packed the night before in a naive attempt to plan ahead. You do not remember what is in the bag; you were on the phone when you packed it.
5. Walk — but not with any particular speed — to the Metro stop. Pause to greet your elderly neighbor because you were raised well.
6. Board the Metro and successfully change lines. Feel in control until you realize with horrifying clarity that you do not actually know where the bus depot is located.
7. Consult your confirmation ticket. It indicates the depot is across from a Dunkin’ Donuts. Ponder for a beautiful foolish second if you’ll have time to grab a donut. It is 1:39pm.
8. Finally arrive at your Metro stop and exit. Stand at the corner of the street for two minutes before approaching a bus whose doors are closing and is clearly about to start pulling away. Do not hurry to the bus because you are wearing shoes that you cannot run in. Doubt your decision-making abilities.
9. Approach a random man and say, “I am here to check in for this bus.” Be pleasantly surprised to realize that you approached the proper stranger. He gets you on the bus and you nearly kiss him. It is 1:49pm.
10. Recognize that you do not know proper bus etiquette. Are you allowed to smile at people? Are you allowed to answer incoming phone calls? Can you take a whole two-seater to yourself, or does that make you seem unsociable? Smile at everyone, particularly the hottie in aisle 3 who avoids eye contact; do not answer any incoming phone calls (sorry, Jordie!); take up a whole two-seater; your shirt is unbuttoned.
11. Sit down, the bus departs, and you immediately fall asleep because you have an impressive talent for napping in public spaces.
12. Wake up 30 minutes later with nary a clue where you are. Feel chilly but be unsure how to turn off your air vent. Your reading light doesn’t work and you hold your book up dangerously close to your eyeballs. Make a note to call your optometrist.
13. Somewhere in New Jersey, the bus pulls over into the James Cooper Travel Plaza. Mistakenly assume that the bus driver is filling up the gas tank. The bus driver announces that passengers have 20 minutes to walk around.
14. Text your best friend to ask why you are at the James Cooper Travel Plaza. Your best friend responds, “When you first board, they take a vote about whether or not you want to stop. Did you miss the vote? I assume yes.”
15. You missed the vote. As such, decide that you don’t deserve to get off the bus. Also recognize that you are incapable of making this bus twice in one day; stay firmly in your seat.
16. Everyone else gets off the bus. You are all alone. 30 strangers trusted you with all of their personal belongings. Feel very responsible and trustworthy; your heart swells with veritable affection for these 30 strangers.
17. Take this opportunity to see what in fact you packed. Contents of duffel bag: 2 mini pouches of baby carrots, a SodaStream bottle filled with water, a pair of pajamas, 4 dresses, and a leather American flag fanny pack filled with ChapStick. Feel shame and inadequacy.
18. Everyone reboards the bus; they all have good-smelling food. With a newly-realized intensity, discover you are hungry. Eat one of your bags of carrots, fearing that you are crunching too loudly and disruptively. Suddenly and passionately hate these 30 strangers and, despite not even being a meat-eater, sincerely covet your neighbor’s chicken nuggets.
19. The bus driver walks through the bus and counts everyone, much like your high school chaperones in days of field trips past. Laugh aloud heartily because this strikes you as very funny. Draw a strange look from the handsome man across the aisle.
20. After four hours of not speaking aloud, feel lonesome and decide to strike up a conversation with the handsome man across the aisle. He tells you, “I am trying to do work.” You apologize and then laugh again. He is not amused.
21. Realize with great alarm that your phone battery is at 17%. As someone who is prone to getting lost and wandering in cities, despite frequent admonitions from your friends of, “Stay exactly where you are. I will find you. Do not move. Stay exactly where you are,” this strikes profound fear in your heart.
22. Text your best friend to ask where the outlets are on the bus. Your best friend tells you the specific location of the outlets. You are unable to find them. The next day, on the trip home, you do. They are precisely where your best friend said they were.
23. Finally arrive at your destination, and immediately begin wandering despite your best friend’s calling and saying, “Stay exactly where you are. I will find you. Do not move. Stay exactly where you are.” Never obey your friends because you and you alone are in control of your own destiny.
24. Be found seven blocks away from where you were supposed to be. Make your best friend carry your luggage. Later, make your best friend’s roommate carry your luggage. Derive pleasure from how powerful you are.
25. The next day, repeat this exact same process with the smug self-satisfaction that only comes with being the type of person who makes all the wrong decisions and yet still gets everything right.