Monday, September 11, 2006

Test Drive: DC Chinatown bus trip to Philadelphia

Sunday 8/27/06

As I stood in line to board the Chinatown bus, I asked the fellow in front, “Is this the Philadelphia bus?”

He shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know.”

“You’re late!” the ticket collector bellowed.

“There’s still 10 minutes before you leave,” I replied. “Yes, but you’re supposed to be here 30 minutes before departure,” he reprimanded me as he took my ticket. As we were about to leave, two more passengers knocked on the door. The bus driver told them, “We’re full.”

“I have a ticket,” he responded.

“You’re late! We’re leaving now,” our bus driver barked, a bit upset.

“But my bags are already on the bus. I walked away for a few minutes to get something,” the late passenger tried to explain.

At this point, he and the bus driver raised their voices. Expletives were exchanged. Passengers craned their necks or stood up to see the commotion. It was unclear exactly, but I suspect the bus driver removed the late passenger’s bags. We took off—5 minutes early.

When we arrived at Baltimore, we picked up a few more passengers. Another man relieved our bus driver. I recognized him as the fellow in front of me in line. However, he sat there for a brief moment before the first driver told him--in Chinese--to release the emergency brakes. The first driver stood on the steps by the door for a few minutes, monitoring his replacement’s progress.

“Don’t follow the other car so closely,” he warned his friend. Soon, he sat down to read his newspapers.

The bus proceeded quite smoothly for another hour or so. Shortly before we arrived in Philadelphia, the driver pulled the bus onto the shoulder and exchanged positions again with the first driver. We arrived in Philadelphia at 2:15pm--exactly as scheduled.

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