I can’t say for sure how I had the premonition that something would go awry when trying a new intercity bus service, but I have a feeling it was from when Mom, excitedly, said she’d paid just $1 for the ticket.
And maybe it was also the whole “trying something new.” Bad omens need not be mutually exclusive.
Last week, I headed back from Austin to Mom’s house in Dallas, where my cousin and uncle were staying for the weekend. Normally when I make the Austin -> Dallas trip, I take the Megabus. Mom, this time, wanted to try out an up-and-coming bus company that was running a promotion.
Friend: *skeptically* Eight dollars for the round trip? That sounds sketchy.
Me: Yeah, honestly, it seems too good to be true. You get what you pay for.
Friend: You’ll get to the station, and the bus won’t be there. The bus doesn’t exist.
Me: Ha, the station doesn’t exist. There won’t even be a sign.
This conversation was a lot less funny a few hours later, when Apple Maps halted my 25-minute trek (from my apartment to the stop’s address, under light rain,) at an arbitrary point on the sidewalk. It was by a completely unmarked brown fence. There was no sign. I wasn’t even at a corner or intersection—the closest one was half a block further down.
My bus would depart at 5:45, and I’d tried to arrive 15 minutes early as recommended. Naturally, because I’d begun packing an hour before I left the apartment, I was now remembering all the items I’d neglected, like my toothbrush. But thank God I’d had the foresight to bring several hats and a gluestick.
I walked down to the corner, rounded it, and locked eyes with a girl. I saw the crazed look in her eyes and knew.
Me: Waiting for the bus?
Kindred spirit: This was a mistake.
Having realized the fence was to Waterloo Park, we began looking for an entrance. An Asian man who looked to be in his twenties or forties appeared. I felt like I was assembling a squad for an adventure movie, or a showcase of the lost & found.
Me: Waiting for the bus? We can’t find the stop.
Age-ambiguous man: Oh, I’ve taken it before. It dropped me off here. It only stops for five minutes.
KS sighed in relief.
KS began to fidget, asking AAS every couple of minutes if he was sure we were in the right spot. Every time, AAS would calmly nod.
We tried finding a phone number in the email confirmations. No luck. I looked on their website and was directed to fill out a contact form. I reluctantly downloaded the app, to no avail. Then I remembered Google was a thing, and KS called the number, only to reach voicemail.
KS and I tried calling again, a couple minutes apart. The line told KS our bus was on schedule.
Me: Hi, I’m standing with two other passengers at the Austin stop. We were supposed to leave at 5:45, but we don’t see any bus.
Operator: It says two passengers have already boarded the bus.
Me: But… where… is the bus?
Operator: Let me check… Okay. Actually, your bus is parked elsewhere. It should be coming soon.
I began to question. Hang on, what did “your bus is parked elsewhere” even mean? Why was it parked? Where was ‘elsewhere?’ Why had I just accepted that answer?
KS said her operator told her the bus was coming soon, too.
AAS informed us that the operator told him our bus was coming soon. He looked like he was trying to reassure us, but he didn’t look quite as calm. He seemed mildly concerned, the way you might be if you’d just been told that someone you respect prefers Domino’s to Pizza Hut.
Two more passengers joined our waiting squad.
Me, texting Friend: I’ve been standing here sweating in the rain for over half an hour now
Friend: Honestly the bus doesn’t even exist, I made it up to pocket 8 dollars from your mom
Me: How did I know this would happen
Friend: How can you sweat in the rain
Always asking the important questions. It was hot, I’d made the walk to the “stop” dragging my suitcase, and I was under an umbrella.
Me, complaining to TDM: I actually came early so I’ve been waiting even longer.
TDM: This is human trafficking.
To my relief and anger, a charter bus appeared down the street. I texted Friend “well, the bus exists,” and the exact moment the bus pulled up next to where we stood, I heard three dings of incoming texts. I read the notification banner.
Line XXXX to Dallas Love Field is approx.. 30-40 minutes late.
Postscript: Two hours in, I woke up to someone smoking weed on the bus.
Post-postscript: If you noticed I never mentioned the bus company, that’s intentional. I told Mom I’d write about the experience, and she said they were just starting so I had to give them another chance. I felt bad for not being good enough a person to think of that and then remembered Mom was the one who bought the ticket.
Me: I guess this is a blog contender
Friend: Slow week huh
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