This ranks about 139, in terms of Things I Shall Never Do Again.
Guys: my flight is at 8:50. I know the American bus system, and I know that there's a storm coming in, and that it's going to hit upstate New York before it hits Manhattan, which would stop the buses.
So I thought, okay, 8:50 pm. No stress. I shall wake up early, do the last minute tea dishes, grab my bags, and catch the 7:20 bus! It is supposed to get to New York at 12:00! And that way I have lots of leeway built in in case of stupid American bus system, or the Lincoln Tunnel, or whatever. Or maybe to switch flights at the airport.
And indeed, this I did. I suspect that 90% of the people awake and out and about at 7:20 am made the same choice, incidentally: in my mile-plus walk to the bus station (in 17 degree weather! with wind! and with ice! and dark!), I saw... three pedestrians, five police cars (or maybe the same police car five times), twelve cars, two Ithaca Bakery delivery trucks (this is why they never have the good bread at the Collegetown store before 7:00, even though they technically open at 6:30), and the staff at Green Star and Gimme! Coffee, neither of which was open.
At the bus station, however, I saw ... one hundred college students. Most with bags the size of, give or take, a Holstein. Now, I was one of the first twenty there, but that means nothing at Greyhound stations, which like to avoid the issue of forming lines or cordoning off space in favor of great rushing mobs.
And then the bus showed up. It already had forty-some people on it. It was late arriving, and the forty-some people all had to get out and buy tickets before they'd let new people on -- this is, seriously, the worst thought out system ever; they pick up on campus, but they don't sell tickets there, so. They could require people to buy tickets in advance at the student services place on College Avenue, but they do not. And then they let ten of the milling people on, but only ones with no luggage, because they'd filled every rack. (They'd known the bus was full since the driver radioed down, but that was the first point at which they radioed for another bus.) The 8:00 to Syracuse departed before the 7:20 bus did.
And I was like, hey, no problem, they radioed for another bus, they've promised us it'll be an express, I have, like, a bazillion hours built in, whatevs. And the second bus wouldn't be full, which would be nice. (Some of the hundred people were going to Syracuse.)
So we waited for the other bus... and waited... and waited... and it was fifteen minutes away. And it was fifteen minutes away. And it was fifteen minutes away.
When it finally arrived, we discovered that in fact it would not
be an express bus because a) one of the women who'd been bumped was going to the Ridgewood Park and Ride, NJ and b) the bus driver was on the ninth hour of his shift, and could legally drive us only as far as Binghamton.
So we get to Binghamton, and the bus driver heads off to find out what's up (telling us all about his wife's dialysis as he went), shutting the door on us. And we sit. And we sit. He comes out of the terminal, talks to people, heads off in another direction, goes back in the terminal. We get antsy, and anyway we want to use the restroom. (One of the women eventually just goes "fuck it," figures out which level opens the door, and heads in. She is then roundly scolded by the counter staff: why aren't you waiting on the bus? Her: Because it's been fifteen minutes and I have to go to the bathroom? Them: Why must you make trouble? Fifteen minutes isn't that long! Her: Yeah, except I was supposed to get here two hours ago.)
The bus driver finally returns. Well, sort of. He walks past the bus, doing the shrug-and-two-palms-out of "I dunno, but it's not my problem."
?" we all say. Several more people get off the bus, off to investigate. One of them returns and reports back to everyone, because the counter staff clearly aren't going to do it: "They're looking for a driver. They don't have a driver. And they say we should stay on the bus and wait for them to tell us more."
The bus turns cold: they've had hours to find a driver. Most people on it are on flights at 4 or 5 pm. And we've waited for twenty minutes already without even a report.
Finally a woman from the counter shows up. Rejoicing! Perhaps an official briefing! Perhaps a driver! Oh, no, she's just here to find out where we're all going. "We're working on it," she says. I nap for a while, occasionally surfacing to complain with the linguist I met in the original terminal. (Adversity brings people together! We all watched each other's bags as people ran for Green Star or 7-11 or whatever. A nice physics grad student bought me a scone in exchange for watching her bags. The linguist was a Cornell grad, now a UCSC student, with Jim McCloskey. We shared stories of being cornered by Geoff Pullum at parties.) Said linguist has a flight at 4:30, and we're all getting steadily more ... and more ... and more ... pissed off.
Another dude shows up. He can't be our driver, because we've seen him wandering around the terminal for twenty minutes now.
Oh. He is our driver. And he doesn't apologize or anything for the delay, just "okay, New York." And off we go. We have to stop a couple of times (for him to use the restroom). And then we get to the Lincoln Tunnel. UCSC grad student dude is already sitting there all tense and ready to spring off at the drop of a hat.
And then there's a stall in the Tunnel. In our lane. Takes half an hour to clear. The bus is working on three hours late. We get to Port Authority, finally, and everyone scatters at the speed of light to their various transit choices to the airport.
So I finally got to the airport, and ... I can't switch to the earlier flight (too late), so I do have to wait for the 8:50. But I can't check in until 4:50. And all the amenities? Including wifi? And chairs? And electrical outlets? And food that isn't ice cream? Is on the other side of security.
I mean, the whole time it was happening I was like "eruthros
! you've got seven hours built in! this is no big!" but I got sympathetic nerves from all the people with five pm flights. Blargh. *shakes self* It was exhausting
: nobody telling you anything, ever, and having no faith in the system to remember your bus, and altogether ick. I'm exhausted and I haven't even done the flying yet! AND they're playing Christmas carols. *facepalm*
Rochester is equidistant, and equivalently priced, but the airport only runs little bitty planes, and it gets more snow, so I've opted out. But on the other hand, guys, the bus to Rochester? Doesn't have this mob scene.
Now through security! Fed a reasonably-priced freshly-made burrito! Sitting at my gate on JetBlue's wifi! Suddenly, the world is much better.
Well, except I'm still exhausted and my eyes are already dry and itchy, and I haven't even flown yet. But still! Better!