To save money on my regular trips north to visit Amy, I am increasingly relying on discount Chinatown bus lines to get me from DC to New York. Last Friday I decided to try the Washington Deluxe bus that leaves from right by my apartment: a mistake I probably will not be repeating.
The bus leaves at 3pm, and encourages pre-reserved ticket holders to be there fifteen minutes early. I left work early to bathe and pack and snack, then dashed across the street to join the line of about 15 people already there at 2:50PM. The bus arrived about thirty minutes late, having come round first from another pickup location, and worse, had only one seat available for 15 people — some of whom were pre-reserved and even prepaid. There was a bit of an argument, which ended with one girl getting on the bus, and the conductor assuring the remaining passengers that there would be 14 seats on the next bus coming in a few minutes.
The bus left. An hour and half passed. In that time, the guy beside me in line, a young, slightly unkempt black man carring a US Postal Service tote bag, began to mutter something. I commented to him that Washington Deluxe sure had sucky service, but was probably still worth the $20, when he suddenly left the line and began walking up and down the sidewalk, cursing at the “rich, Harvard-going white folks” for holding the black man down.” (He used “white” to cover whites, Asians, Hispanics, and blacks who did not look ethnically black.) Uncomfortable shifting and giggles ensued, from all races, as they were pinned with responsibility for just about everything that the black man has suffered through history and the present day. Someone wondered whether the police should be called — or if the guy just wanted spare change.
Finally, another person in line tried calling the bus company to complain, and after a long wait on hold, was told by the representative that there was no other bus and she had no idea why the conductor would say another bus would be coming. She offered the option of free ride vouchers or discounted Greyhound tickets, but really, who wants to ride a bus like that for free — or on Greyhound?
It got funnier: scarce minutes after this call was ended and the passengers were wondering what to do, another bus did arrive — and had only three seats for fourteen pre-reserved passengers. As angry passengers surrounded the conductor at the door, the black racist had begun yelling again, blaming the white man for oppression, slavery, police brutality, and the lack of seats on the bus. As the scene disintegrated into a shouting match, I decided that this was a circus, and that it was time to leave the circus.
So I took the subway over to Chinatown, browsed the various discount DC-NY bus companies there, and got on the earliest possible bus leaving for New York Penn Station: Eastern Shuttle. The ride was fine, and I think they’ll be my regular bus ride north from now on. Washington Deluxe can rot for all I care.