Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble Gobble Hey

Ugh, holidays. I have long held that they should be staggered, so that we are not all traveling on the same days.

Nevertheless, I am thankful this Thanksgiving that I don't have to fly anywhere, because I've been scanned before and seen the results which are *horrifying* and not necessarily for the reasons everyone is chattering about.

Remember, the scanner adds ten pounds.

So, I had to get to the Shenandoah Valley and back. Last year, I caught Amtrak there and back via Staunton. That worked out great, but I realized I could save a lot if I could stand the BoltBus in one direction.

Buses are great when you get two seats to yourself. You can nap. You can spread out your paperwork and get stuff done. You can go on the bus wi-fi and update Facebook every two minutes for the four-hour journey.

But when you share with a stranger, there's never quite enough room. Invariably, the stranger naps-and-sprawls into your limited space. The train seats are bigger, easier, more private. The only thing worse than a bus is a coach seat on a plane.

(Never mind that I spend a great deal of my travel time around the world on buses. Let's just chalk that up to contrariness.)

I'm a member of the BoltBus loyalty club, even though I hate it and all buses, so I strolled up to the stop near my office on the late side and still got on first.

As if getting on first to a bus matters. Hmmm, which small seat should I choose?

I chose a seat in the middle and puffed myself up, thinking large thoughts. "I'm huge! I'm giant! Look how big I am! Don't sit next to me!"

I'm not asshole enough to do what several other small women did, which is throw their carry-on bags across the seat next to them and immediately close their eyes as if asleep. I'm pretty sure you can get BoltBus jail time for that.

The bus still had about 20 empty aisle seats when they let standby passengers on-board.

"Pleasedon'tsitnexttome pleasedon'tsitnexttome ... shit."

At least the man who eyeballed the available seats and decided I was...what? Thinnest? Least hostile? Not pretending to be asleep across two seats? At least he was a thin man.

He hadn't brought anything to read, unfortunately, so when he wasn't staring straight ahead, he was sprawled out. His knee knocked my a/c adapter out of the outlet twice. I briefly felt guilty for tap-tap-tapping on my laptop keyboard while he was trying to sleep, but transportation time is work time for me. I get a lot done on buses and trains.

Though Thanksgiving eve on the BoltBus from New York to DC isn't the best time to realize you have an Illustrator CS4 compatibility issue with Kuwait, but it's not the worst time either. At least the bus has internet access. The train doesn't.

We were lucky with traffic. I'd gotten on the 8:30 bus (somehow--I struggle with alarm clocks) and the big traffic back-ups start later in the day. We pulled into Union Station, Washington DC, before 1 p.m., and I headed down to the little snack stand across from Barnes and Noble. IMHO, it's got the best quick lunch food in the train station. And you can usually find a table.

But before I ate, I made a quick phone call. My travel scheme was to take the commuter bus to the Shenandoah Valley, an area not served by Greyhound. The only trains go north to Harper's Ferry and south to Staunton. The Greyhound to Winchester was discontinued years ago, but my mother had found a commuter bus online, and I could get to Strasburg, which was equidistant between Mom and my Aunt Peggy.

But I'd checked the buses Twitter feed, and I knew there was a schedule change. I'd been planning on getting the 4:05 bus from Rosslyn, Virginia. Somewhere. There was no bus stop or sign, just vague directions. Twenty bucks from an unmarked street corner to a park-and-ride lot in Strasburg. If only I could find the stop.

So I checked the schedule the old-fashioned way.

I called.

"The bus has been changed to 3 because the government let out early today."

"I haven't taken this bus before. Will there be room for me?"


Then, a little titter.


I gobbled my panini and got on the Metro, using all my New York 'tude to shove my way onto the crowded trains. Washington subway trains are smaller and more cramped than New York trains. There is only a tiny aisle in the middle for standers, not like in New York where the cars are aimed at standers.

Somehow, I forced my way on and off the packed cars, and disembarked at Rosslyn, going up one of the longest escalators in the system.

I canvassed the blocks outside the station, looking for a sign.

No sign.

How then, was I going to find the bus stop?

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