The Chinatown bus: $15 and the self-realizations are free

I got into town early Friday night after a horrifyingly long and uncomfortable bus ride. I’m a big fan of the Chinatown bus, generally speaking. It’s about a four and a half hour trip from Boston to New York, it’s only fifteen bucks, and my boyfriend is at the other end. I can deal with the cramped seats and the masses of unwashed humanity. I’m not nearly as OCD as I used to be. I will not use the bathroom, however, but that’s just smart: the bathroom on the Chinatown bus resembles the toilet in Trainspotting.

This time, however, I was really starting to wonder if maybe I’d gotten on the wrong coach. It was dirtier than usual, and more full of folks, and the woman who was sitting in front of me definitely looked like she’d just escaped from somewhere with hinges on the wrong side of the door.

I had chosen the seat in the first place because I was avoiding a guy who’d started chatting me up in the line. I’d thought he was gay at first, but then realized fairly quickly that he was just sort of fashionable. And while I’m not so vain that I think every guy in the world wants to sleep with me, I don’t care to test out the boundaries of someone’s interest on a four hour bus ride.

Make that five and a half hours, because with traffic, that’s how long it took. Meanwhile, in my efforts to dodge the not-gay-maybe-hot-for-me guy, I’d squished myself in behind the giant ex-convict lady, who was tapping out messages on her cell phone and looking surly and hard. Needless to say, I didn’t feel all right about asking her to return her seat to its full and upright position.

It would have been fine, except for the fact that a tiny Japanese girl politely squished herself in next to me — with her enormous luggage. She asked me if she could sit next to me, and instead of saying, “No, I hate people” or “No, I have fleas” or pulling a horn out of my pocket and tooting on it, I said yes, because I’m a pussy. I passive-aggressively compensated, however, by talking on my cell phone the whole time. Because I’m a bad person.

Anyway, by the time we got to New York, the Japanese girl, the ex-con, and the gang of obviously middle class wanna be gang members in the, I kid you not, turbans in the front probably all wanted to kill me. But not the not-gay guy. He wanted to know what I was up to for the weekend, and how to get to the 6. Just then, however, the Moozle rounded the corner and fixed him with his best Get Away From My Woman stare, and he skittered off.

Which means that this bus ride taught me that, in addition to being passive-aggressive, I am probably both prejudiced and anti-feminist. That’s a lot of self-realization for only fifteen bucks.


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