12 November 2009
Overnight Buses Are Awesome. Or Not.
It seems like such a brilliant idea at the time. An overnight bus means you don’t have to spend quality daylight hours traveling from one city to the next. An overnight bus means you don’t have to spend quality dollars and cents on lodging. An overnight bus means you’ll arrive to your destination incredibly groggy, irritable and a little bit smelly. Fortunately, you usually forget about all the bad things before booking the next overnight bus so it’s easy to convince yourself time and time again that they’re a stellar idea.
It starts the same. Arrival at the station around 9pm having just eaten dinner saying things like “I’m nice and full and just so tired. I’ll be asleep before we even pull away. Yeah, that’s it. I’ll be asleep before we even pull away.” You stow your bags below, hop aboard and cram yourself into the microscopic seat with your hand luggage between your legs. You then convince yourself that the hand luggage will make “the perfect legrest.” Absurd.
The excitement of the last ten minutes means your energy levels are a bit high. That and it’s a million degrees on the bus so you’re sweating buckets and shedding layers like nobody’s business. The bus backs out and you pull out a book thinking, “I’ll just read for a few minutes and then “poof,” asleep I’ll be. An hour later the lady behind you is kicking the back of your seat the guy in front has reclined far enough for you to notice his recently balding head and the driver has decided the bus would really benefit from a Lady Gaga dance party.
Maintaing your commitment to saving money, feeling rested and making the most of this “investment,” you pop in some ear plugs, inflate your neck pillow, pull down your sleeping mask, recline your seat and “sleep.” The remainder of the journey is spent “asleep” fighting off near constant numbness in the buttocks region.
There are several ways to fend off such sensations. The first in the left-cheek right-cheek cha-cha. This is when you shift your weight from left cheek to right cheek every fifteen to twenty minutes or whenever you’re woken up because you can’t feel one entire side of your body. The second is the “crouching tiger hidden butt numbness.” This maneuver requires the performer to prop their knees up on the seat in front of them and then slide so far down in the seat that their butt is no longer making contact with the seat. This position is shockingly comfortable for the first thirty minutes or so then everything from the waste down goes completely numb. As a result of the numbness it is near impossible to move your legs back to a normal seating position and you become a sort-of flailing turtle rolling back and forth to loosen your knees. Unfortunately, the more you move the further down you slide. The final position is called the “normal guy just sleepin’ sittin’ up.” This is when you pretend that you can in fact sleep in a normal sitting position which is, in fact, impossible. Feet flat on the floor, shoulder back and head upright you doze off only to find that your head begins to bobble back and forth, left and right, up and down as you doze in and out of sleep. In this position, while your body parts do not go numb you appear to be one of those bottom-weighted dolls that pop back up when they’re flicked, punched or jostled. This position leads to no sleep and a serious neck problem.
Save for one unexplained 3am interruption for passport control or something equally bizarre when you aren’t traveling over international borders, you arrive on time at an ungodly hour that is too early to check in to your hotel, leaving you tired, disoriented, smelly and forced to wander around a city in half-darkness saying things like, “please god, just let me take a nap. I’ll do anything for a nap. Anything.” Around noon that nap comes. With it goes the entire rest of the day and your entire original plan of saving time and money on a night bus. Next time, just take the train.