The weather sticks to my face and heat traps under my old black blazer. I wait at the Astor Street station until my subway comes, kicking a much needed hot breeze, sifting the air around like pancake flour. My leather bag weighs heavy on my left shoulder, filled with not enough clothes and a heavy laptop. I get on the train and sit across from an old woman and her daughter. The old woman wears black orthopedic sneakers and khaki polyester pants. A black Jansport backpack sits on the ground, propped in between her legs. “Agnes” is written on the front. It reminds me of when I was in second grade. I watch her enjoy quiet joke with her daughter. I stop staring because it’s probably impolite. Back to my own world.
Two stops before I have to get on the bus to Boston. First stop. Try on clothes. Take Polaroids. The woman calls me “sweetheart” and I think she thinks I am younger than I am. Second stop. Sit in a conference room with big glass windows overlooking the Upper West Side. Talk to woman about humidity. Get pictures taken of my hands. Don’t have time to have pictures taken of my feet. This is probably a good thing.
Twenty minutes before the Bolt bus departs. I run down to the subway and pray that I make my bus in time. I’ve missed transportation for jobs before. For the record, it makes you look like an asshole. The subway reaches 34th and I tear out the doors, briskly walking towards the PENN STATION sign. I am still underground when I realize that buses do not operate subterranean. Idiot. I reread my call sheet and sprint up the stairs to where it says the bus takes off.
I run. I scan. I find. I make it. I am standing in front of the Tick Tock Diner in the middle of an unorganized herd of people with cheap luggage when a woman comes up to me. The photographer. I will be riding with two other people. We stand in the mess until a male Bolt employee makes his best attempt at organization.
“If you are in Group A, stand here,” he waves an arm to a random slice of sidewalk closest to the street. “If you are in Group B, stand here,” he moves to a remote area probably fifteen feet away from us. This is what Southwest Airlines would look like during the Dark Ages. People shuffle around like confused emus, looking up and around with giant eyes. The entire two minutes makes me a diehard advocate for government and the generalized implementation of order. Anarchists live by the assumption that all humans are intelligent beings. They would be wrong in that assumption.
A bus arrives. We hand our tickets to a woman who only looks like she works for Bolt because she acts like she works for Bolt. She wears no distinguishing tag or other uniform accoutrement to indicate she is with the company. For all we know she could be a complete lunatic. She clears us and we board the bus.
I’ve never taken the bus to Boston before, but compared to the mass amount of people still waiting on the sidewalk, the inside of the bus is suspiciously empty. Perhaps Boston isn’t as popular as the other Bolt destinations. Washington DC is super pleasant this time of year, with the asphyxiating humidity and all. And Philadelphia is pretty sweet given their giant bronze cracked bell.
The bus pulls away from the sidewalk and we are on our way. Sweet. A row to myself. I sip on my water and exchange pleasantries with the photographer and her assistant. Two avenues and one block away from Tick Tock Diner and the driver gets on the PA system.
“Attention all passengers traveling to Philadelphia…”
Excuse me? The three of us look at each other with those WTF eyes that are equal parts panic, incredulity, and nausea. I walk up to the driver.
“Um…hey. We’re supposed to be on the 12:01 to Boston.”
The guy throws his head back and tells me he can’t take me to Boston. I think this is his poor idea of a joke. No shit, Sherlock. He opens the door and we grab our bags and we half-run back down 34th Street, watching closely to make sure that no fancy orange bus passes by, leaving us in the proverbial and literal dust.
I would like to be furious that the idiot who “read” our ticket let us board a bus we weren’t supposed to get on, but I am too busy sweating and balancing my thirty-pound bag over my shoulder. Mother f-er.
When we get back to the disorderly mess we just left, I approach the woman who let us board and tell her that she let us get on the wrong bus. She looks at our tickets again and tells us Boston hasn’t left yet and we should go wait over there in another “A Line.” There is no apology, no customer service salving of wounds. Just a pointed finger indicating we should go ahead and get over this whole thing.
It’s a good thing the bus is thirty minutes late, something that would ordinarily infuriate me. Had the bus been on time, we wouldn’t have had the extra fourteen minutes it required to board, ride, and flee from the other bus. Thank God for inefficiency and bad business.
I suppose this is what you get for being able to travel hundreds of miles for a mere $15.
Onwards to Boston.