A Rant on Greyhound Bus Travel in the American South

I am writing this on a comfortable and safe-feeling Kerrville Buss Company vehicle, in Texas just after US 84 crosses the state line with Louisiana. Greyhound bus travel in the South is as terrible as Eddie and Sonny predicted. For much of the journey I was jammed next to the toilet between a very fat woman and a very scary-looking man. Worse, Greyhound’s magical-mystery philosophy of bus scheduling — such as overbooking a bus by nearly 100% and sending on my checked luggage two buses late, meant much of the travel was mentally stressful, as well. Then there were the extra connections which contradicted earlier information, chronically late vehicles, the fact that Southerns can’t line up…

Oh, that brings me to another part of the rant. Part of my vacation reading is P.J. O’Rourke’s Peace Kills: America’s Fun New Imperialism, and in it he makes the point that one of the hallmarks of civilization is the ability to form a line. The context was the rowdy and riotous behavior of Iraqis during (unneeded) aid dispensation, but O’Rourke may well have been describing the behavior of Southerners in Tennessee. The most charitable position that I (as a supposed descendant of CSA General John “Swamp Fox” Mosby) could make of this is that the evolutionary biologist Steven Pinker was right to describe the south as possessing a noxious “culture of honor.” Physical aggressiveness almost matching the anarchic-but-non-violent behavior of Beijngers in the subway was the norm, and may be a way of indicating that one is not to be trifled with (even if one is old, fat, and theoretical female).

Part of my anger comes from seeing how those even less familiar with bus trave than I fared. Through much of the trip Mexican families, an Asian Indian couple, and a Chinese man were sharing the bus with me. Their stress rose visible through our hastles and indignities, and I shudder to think that many will see that slice of the South as “America.”

Yet perhaps my anger at the Land of the Lost Cause is misplaced. (Incidentally, I wonder if it is aggravated by constant displays of the Confederate National flags, the Confederate battle flag, the Confederate Naval Jack, etc. I don’t recall being upset by the iconography before, as part of my family was pro-Confederate West Virginian, and I generally favor the preservation of whatever images people love. But you lost, I kept wanting to say, get over it. I could continue, but back to bashing Greyhound…) Several of the riders I traveled with blamed Greyhound’s sorry state on lack of competition. Certainly my earlier positive Greyhound experiences were largely supported by the happy treatment I received before Indianapolis and after Texarkana.

(Hmm… this opens up whole new areas of exploration. A Barnettian economicist v. a Huntington culturalist view of bus services? Some cool Catholicgauze maps showing the overlap between Dixie, transportation competition, and shoddy services? An excellent reflection on bus quality and poetry from Phatic Communion.)

Well, theoretically we are approaching Nacogdoches by-and-by. I shall sign off, weary from my travels.

13 thoughts on “A Rant on Greyhound Bus Travel in the American South”

  1. Yes, no, kind of:

    Because the bus in Nashville was tripled booked, and they had already forced all passengers off, I was forced to switch buses on the trip trip to Memphis. At Memphis we once again switched buses, manually moving our check-in luggage from one to another.

    We get to Texarkana (I'm using plural because this happened to at least five of us), and the luggage isn't there. “It will be on the next bus” said the bitch attendant assuredly. The next bus from Mephis comes, and it's not there. The time for our next bus comes and goes, the KBR bus that should take us to Shreveport not arriving. Finally another Memphis bus comes, bringing our luggage.

    (It had been handed roughly, and was buried under many other bags. Mad props to the extremely hard working greyhound attendant outside who helped us search, and a fellow passenger who helped me find.)

    Eventually the bus to Shreveport comes — while tardy, KBR is much roomier and friendlier than Greyhound in the South, so it was a pleasant experience. We arrive in Nacogdoches a little less than an hour late.

  2. Actually, losing your luggage for good… they never found the luggage of a classmate going home to Atlanta from Meridian, he was one unhappy Marine with no uniforms, clothes or books.

  3. I see. Maybe I'll try KBR then if I must once again venture through the South on the ground. I'm dying to hear more about this “very scary looking man”, I also saw a few on my journey (not just the pedophile).

  4. KBR's problem is that they do not hook in well with other carriers. For instance, to get back home I need to take either a Greyhound or KBR north, and then switch to a Jefferson Lines bus. All three companies have a “buy 7 days in advance and get a big discount” program. If i purchase my ticket through Greyhound, they route me onto Jefferson lines and I get the discount fine. But if I book through KBR, there's no discount at all. It's like greyhound has a stable of neutered competitors who work only through it.

    Scary Guy wasn't that bad, all in all. He drank on the ride, but I could hardly blame him. For about a fifteen minute interval he discussed his life as a painter, but was otherwise completely silent.

    The worst passenger was actually on the Omaha to Chicago leg [1], up north where overall quality is very high. The women clearly needed psychiatric medicine regularly, had apparently taken (or been given it) immediately prior to boarding, and was experiencing the effects of it wearing off. She went from being very friendly and concerened to shouting about the government and throwing pop bottles at other passengers.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2006/07/13/from-omaha-to-chicago.html

  5. Dan,

    “theoretical female” That's great. At least the one sitting next to me was young and kind of cute…she only needed to shed about 70-80 pounds.

    You were forewarned. Travels in the South are usually fun…if you are driving yourself. I drive a big 4×4 pick-up truck so I usually fit in pretty good until I get out of the truck.

    On my two trips (San Angelo, TX to Dallas back and forth) other than the other military dudes in the bus all I saw were “scary men”. I suspect there was at least one pedophile on each bus. I don't look like a teenager (even back then) so I was not a primary target of their sick lasciviousness.

    Eddie,

    Unless you absolutely have to, I would recommend that you do not travel via Greyhound again. If you do, you have to blog extensively about it. If you get molested or touched innapropriately by scary men don't say I did not warn you. I think that by law Greyhound has to have at least one pedophile or pervert on board each bus.

  6. Growing up in Texas, I can attest to the fact that Greyhound is a miserable travel option. Long lines, smelly terminals, frightening drivers.

    On my last trip on a Greyhound bus from Austin to Houston, my driver was critically obese, had a lazy eye, and had a mild problem of swerving every so often. NOT a good experience.

    You also make a good point about Greyhound lacking competition. There are no other national bus carriers, period. Perhaps they'd straighten their act if they really did have competition.

    I've sort of started my own competition with a new service I just finished developing called Ridester.com. This site is like a intercity travel marketplace where feedback rated drivers can set a rite and give people rides. Users can filter travelers by gender, age, feedback, smoking preference, music preference – and unlike Greyhound, destinations are not limited to big cities. In fact, the place you can travel to on Ridester.com are as limitless as the destinations posts on the website. I also had the honor of having my new service featured on tv with ABC news affiliate KVUE News as seen here. Wish my service luck and spread the word, because people really could use an alternative to Greyhound!

  7. After a 4 day horrible experience, lost luggage, stolen wallet, and a week of frustrating dealings with Greyhound, I’m putting out a Call to Action against Greyhound. Please read below for more information:

    It’s time Greyhound was held accountable, so I’m putting this action together to get everyone who has ever had trouble with Greyhound’s bus system to call and complain about their operating procedures, lack of customer service, amount of lost baggage, and anything else you can think of that you, or anyone you may know, want to address with Greyhound Lines, Inc.

    Action Dates: June 23 through 27, 2008
    Action Time: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Central Standard Time (so adjust the times for your time zone.)

    I believe if you can post this information in your Blog, on Message Boards, on Forums, or email it to your friends. If everyone then calls, sends letters, creates picket lines outside your local Greyhound station, faxes Greyhound and Laidlaw on June 23 through the 27th, perhaps they will understand just how unhappy everyone is with their bus service. Also, please consider finding and taking another bus service. If you know of a bus service, please list it so others can learn about them. I’ve listed one below, after all the other information.

    Unpublished location of Greyhound’s Corporate Offices:
    Greyhound Lines, Inc.
    Criag Lentzsch, CEO
    15110 Dallas Pkwy
    Dallas, TX 75248-4635
    U.S.A.

    Do NOT call the listed phone numbers for Greyhound (214-849-8218 is given but only reaches a voice system and it’s almost impossible to reach a live person on the 800-231-2222 official Greyhound number.), instead reach a live person by calling any of these unpublished numbers:

    Operator with Executive Office: 214-849-8219
    Bryan: 214-849-8217
    Ursala: 214-849-8215
    Safety Dept: 214-849-8214
    Claudette: 214-849-8213
    Jennell: 214-849-8211

    These are the numbers that I was able to reach people, however, you can try to reach other live people by dialing 214-849-82XX (put any number in for the XX)

    The Parent Company (the company that owns Greyhound) for Greyhound is:
    Laidlaw Inc.
    55 Shulman Boulevard, Suite 400
    Naperville, IL 60563
    U.S.A.
    Phone: 630-848-3000
    Fax: 630-579-6438

    Other Bus Services:
    Trailways services some areas, so please see this website to see if they service the areas you are traveling: http://www.trailways.com/schedules.asp

    Another great website to find bus services: http://www.apta.com/links/transit_by_mode/bus.cfm

  8. i will never ride a greyhound ever never!!!!they say they sell tickets from the bus driver but they dont….if u call they will tell you that u can…greyhound bus lines are liars dont believe them….ive missed my familys funeral due to there lies so if u need a ride check for ride shares…ive found a ride for a third of the price in half the time….plus if they lie like this….how could i trust them with my life on the road……thank you an F#*k greyhound!!!!!!

  9. To use greyhound, you have to treat it like a game.
    I’m currently on a 2 month ameripass. First week. I sleep at
    night on the bus, then explore cities by day. Do not depend on
    greyhound to get you on time for something like funeral! Must
    be flexible and zen!!

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