Monday, August 18, 2008

Transporting Yourself To Another Place

Imagining myself somewhere else is easy. I do it quite a bit.
Getting myself to some distant place in the real world is sometimes difficult and unpleasant. Not as bad as the guy in the Odyssey or Captain Queeg or those wonderful folks about whom Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote. We aren't in the dust bowl or the depression or the Long March. But getting from Minneapolis to Indianapolis is still a challenge. My advice: Don't take the Megabus. Or if you do, preparation is the key, and that includes adopting the right mind-set.

First, the good things about Megabus:

It's cheap.
It's easy to book reservations.
It's very inexpensive.
It's fairly quick -- not quicker than flying of course, but not much slower than driving.
It's less expensive than any conventional alternative (hitchhiking might be cheaper but too risky and walking or riding a bicycle too slow).
It's pretty cheap.
The drivers were nice. (One driver's choice of radio stations differed significantly from my own, which was only a problem for us because we happened to be sitting in the front row, directly behind the driver).

But...

The schedules may be just an approximation or an average. By the time we reached our destination (admittedly a long trip), we were an hour late. Given the performance of airlines and railroads, that ain't bad. It ain't good, either, so it belongs on the minus side of the ledger.
No cancellations, no refunds, and they mean it.
No air conditioning. (On one bus, the driver announced that the AC wasn't working very well. He explained by saying "It's an old bus.")
No stations. Changing buses in Chicago, passengers stand outside Union Station. It was a beautiful day. I wouldn't want to be stuck there in a thunderstorm or snowstorm. Of course, not having stations is a very good way to keep costs down, and low cost is precisely the appeal of Megabus service. Just be prepared to stand outside in any weather.

Overall: Very good for short hauls (for example: Minneapolis to Madison; Madison to Chicago; Indy to Cincy). Not great for long hauls.

Here's a poem by Franz Wright that features bus travel. The last line "I don't have to be anywhere" could become the marketing slogan for Megabus.


Alcohol
Franz Wright
You do look a little ill.

But we can do something about that, now.

Can’t we.

The fact is you’re a shocking wreck.

Do you hear me.

You aren’t all alone.

And you could use some help today, packing in the
dark, boarding buses north, putting the seat back and
grinning with terror flowing over your legs through
your fingers and hair . . .

I was always waiting, always here.

Know anyone else who can say that.

My advice to you is think of her for what she is:
one more name cut in the scar of your tongue.

What was it you said, “To rather be harmed than
harm, is not abject.”

Please.

Can we be leaving now.

We like bus trips, remember. Together

we could watch these winter fields slip past, and
never care again,

think of it.

I don’t have to be anywhere.


Franz Wright, “Alcohol” from Ill Lit: Selected and New Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Franz Wright. Reprinted with the permission of Oberlin College Press.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, at least get the stanzas right in "Alcohol".

Greg said...

That's an incredible poem! Thanks so much for posting it.

Jim H. said...

Dear Anonymous:

Yeah, that bothers me, too. The line spacing is important and I do plan to fix it. I have lots of trouble with spacing in Blogger and have never been able to make it do exactly what I want it to do all the time. This poem is an unfortunate example.

So your suggestion is a good one, though I'd rather you didn't comment anonymously.

Jim H. said...

Dear Greg (AKA Enchilada):

Yes, especially that last line. Thanks for tuning in!

I now begin another joust with HTML to satisfy an anonymous commenter.

Jim H. said...

Fixed!

Except for the extra space between the author and the first line.

Sigh.