A few weeks ago, I had to get from Northern Virginia to Fredericksburg. Lacking access to my car and not wanting to trouble anyone, I turned to . . . wait for it: The bus, or specifically, the old gray dog.
You do know that Greyhound is still in business, right? That it runs buses all over the country? That those big blue-and-gray buses will actually carry paying humans from point A to point Z? And that they serve many towns otherwise lacking rail or air transportation?
Now, lest you think this is an advertorial for Greyhound Lines, think again.
I think, read and write about transportation. A lot. Transportation in all its guises and in as many locations as you can find it. Funny thing, though, in these United States, we have so focused on transportation by car or airplane that the other modes have been left to fend for themselves.
Oh, well, before I go off on my “Why do we neglect our train and bus transportation systems” rant, let’s just get on the bus and head down the road.
Friends had dropped me off at the bus station behind the Metro parking deck in Springfield. This was after I called Greyhound to make sure the bus station I had seen in Springfield was really an active station. It was, and the man assured me the southbound bus would stop there at a certain time.
I bought a ticket, waited at the stop, wondering why the little station was closed, the door locked. Of course, I know the answer. It’s the same answer for everything else that might involve hiring someone, and the same reason there’s nobody in the Amtrak station in Fredericksburg. The fare set me back $37, which I suppose isn’t too bad, although Amtrak only charged me $33 to get from Fredericksburg to BWI Airport in Baltimore. Odd, but no big deal.
Oh, the answer? We prefer to save money by eliminating a low-wage salary. We also then prefer to complain that there are so many people on food stamps and public assistance.
Right on time, the bus arrived, and half a dozen of us boarded.
The ride was uneventful. The driver was a quite competent middle-age woman, obviously experienced and very good at her job, which involved considerably more than driving the bus. I was impressed.
An hour after leaving Springfield, she wove that big machine through the parked vehicles into the all-purpose Fredericksburg bus stop. I have to say, the city has one of the nicer facilities of its kind for a community the size of Fredericksburg. Another plus.
A friend picked me up and drove me a couple of miles to my car.
It was only one ride, for a short distance, and I’m being careful not to make too many sweeping generalizations about riding the bus.
A number of years ago, I put one of my sons on a westbound Greyhound bus in Fredericksburg, and he said the multiday trip to New Mexico was definitely not fun. Too many misbehaving dudes made life hard on the driver and the rest of the passengers. There you have it. Sounds like a few airline flights I’ve taken.
I suppose if you want a guaranteed positive experience with no rowdy folks on board, you’d best stick with something like those Carnival Cruise Lines trips down the Rhine River, where all the skies are sunny and all the smiles are warm.
Meanwhile, I have to get somewhere, and I’ll find the most convenient, safe and reasonably affordable means of doing it. Like most of us.
Paul Sullivan of Spotsylvania County, a former Free Lance–Star reporter, is a freelance writer. Email him at email@example.com.