In Kansas City, they wouldn't let him back on the bus.
March 19, 2013 9:29 AM   Subscribe

The trip was fine. I've never seen that part of the country from the highway before. There just were a few incidents on my way home that chipped away at my resistance. I really do try to remember how incredibly fortunate I am. I really do. I just can get worn down.
Freddie DeBoer messed up his airline reservation for a conference in Vegas, so ended up taking a bus home to Indiana. He meditates on the people he encountered on his trip in his blog.
posted by dry white toast (37 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
A wonderful read. Thanks.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:39 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Greyhound bus can fuck you just as well as the DMV. I don't know how anyone who has ever talked to Bank of America customer service remains a libertarian.

God yes
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:41 AM on March 19, 2013 [33 favorites]


Excellent but also so sad. I think I could feel his tiredness along with him.
posted by brilliantine at 9:41 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]



He leaves out that the bus has an extra layer of anxiety where you sleepily wonder if your driver is still awake.
posted by srboisvert at 10:08 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


That was such a perfectly channeled Greyhound Bus ride that I can practically smell the commingled scent of cheap fast food, stale cigarettes, diesel exhaust, and plastic that has been offgassing for four decades that is the bus station.

That the employees wouldn't bring Muy his coat is just beyond comprehension. What if his cash or ID or ticket were in it? They just condemned him to a more fucked-up day/weekend/week for no good reason at all. How awful, and how draining. I've seen many conductor interactions with ticketless passengers on Amtrak, and they've never come close to that level of awful disinterest in a person's difficult situation.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:08 AM on March 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Greyhound bus can fuck you just as well as the DMV. I don't know how anyone who has ever talked to Bank of America customer service remains a libertarian.

In case anyone's wondering, if Greyhound mails you a ticket and it doesn't show up, you don't phone the 800 number. You have to phone Dallas long distance starting right when they open at 7.30am. Phone at 7.31 and you get a busy signal. Repeat for about three days and you get through. No idea what the hell happened to my ticket, but they did arrange for me to collect a duplicate from the station. (I was dead pleased when I discovered Greyhound now has print-at-home tickets. I was not looking forward to a repeat of that debacle.)
posted by hoyland at 10:10 AM on March 19, 2013


Can someone explain Muy's transfer ticket problem? And why DeBoer doesn't just throw him the jacket? Or is this just fiction?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:17 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I also kept screaming to myself "Just throw his jacket out the window!!" or is there some Greyhound logistics I am missing about this situation?
posted by vacapinta at 10:20 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


And why DeBoer doesn't just throw him the jacket? Or is this just fiction?

Greyhound buses have a gate that the driver closes separating them from the passengers. He could maybe have thrown it out the door, but it's not clear to me that would be easy. (You could hit the steps pretty easily, but out the door would be round a corner and it doesn't sound like Muy was standing right there.)

I don't totally understand the thing with the tickets. He either missed a transfer in Kansas City and wanted to continue on to somewhere else because the schedule was favourable. Or he missed a transfer somewhere earlier, but they didn't check tickets until Kansas City and they kicked him off there. (Though I don't understand about the author being worried about missing a transfer. Other than the schedule sucking, I think it'd be like missing a plane. It is, however, fairly easy to get left behind at a meal stop.)
posted by hoyland at 10:22 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also kept screaming to myself "Just throw his jacket out the window!!" or is there some Greyhound logistics I am missing about this situation?

The windows don't open.
posted by hoyland at 10:23 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


(You could hit the steps pretty easily, but out the door would be round a corner and it doesn't sound like Muy was standing right there.)

Around a very sharp corner. The mechanics of hurling a coat around the corner of the well down the long steps and out the door without doing much more than having it land at the feet of the unmoving Greyhound employees would seem to be improbable. Though it's ambiguous whether he actually managed to get off the bus during this episode or not (he writes that he "got back on and put his jacket back up in the storage").
posted by blucevalo at 10:41 AM on March 19, 2013


Can someone explain Muy's transfer ticket problem?

His itinerary probably called for him to transfer to a Chicago-bound bus at an earlier stop, and he didn't realize that. Or he got on the wrong bus in Denver. Not like he couldn't have gotten to Chicago this way, but the staff chose to be dicks about it, rather than say, "that's no problem sir. Just get off in St. Louis and catch the 11:30 bus to Chicago."

Maybe I'm just that privileged, but I'll never understand how even half-way decent human beings can just fuck others over so casually like that.
posted by dry white toast at 10:55 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's something about driving a bus, or any position of small, mostly meaningless power, that turns a small percentage of humans into raging douchebags. Like the bus driver on my regular route a couple of years ago who liked threatening to kick parents off the bus if their infant didn't stop crying.
posted by selfnoise at 11:06 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's something about driving a bus, or any position of small, mostly meaningless power, that turns a small percentage of humans into raging douchebags.

Conversely, I've also seen lots of situations where customers are seriously abusive to people with, as you put it, a "position of small, mostly meaningless power", because they represent authority, but actually can do very little to enforce anything. I'm not saying it justifies being a douchebag, but man, we're all just people.
posted by dry white toast at 11:10 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The bus ride was okay, aside from the expected physical discomforts, and a couple of guys on the bus. They were young ... And they had one of those American bro downs

Hey, pal, you're lucky they didn't sing John Wayne's Teeth alla way.
posted by Twang at 11:12 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the truth is that I am so tired of being poor. I am so tired of being poor. I know everything that's wrong with saying that, I know I shouldn't say it. But I am so tired of being poor.


Oh brother, who can't relate to this. Brings me right back to my salad pasta days years. There's a lot in there but this particularly hit me like a blow to the back.
I am so tired of being poor. I am so tired of being poor. I am so tired of being poor.
posted by forgetful snow at 11:15 AM on March 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


The last time I road a Greyhound I had the fine pleasure to hear two men, one in his teens, another in his twenties, discuss performing oral sex on a women for just short of an hour. I guess the same guys are on every bus.

Also, single, lower socio-economic status-ed women 18-25 in the New York area, I apologize for my gender.
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:16 AM on March 19, 2013


I have done every inch of I-10 on a greyhound bus at least twice -- the stretch between Houston and LA at least 6 times. This whole article is all so true that it filled me with a dread & ennui so palpable that I may not be able to do anything more than go lie down.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:28 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Maybe I'm just that privileged, but I'll never understand how even half-way decent human beings can just fuck others over so casually like that."

They are tired of being decent human beings, and getting written up by their supervisors for it. Middle management passes on the priority of upper management, which is "Make More Money", but along the way, they add a heaping helping of "Or We Will Fire You" with it.

Also, customer service is not part of the equation when you are serving a demographic that is literally without other options. Oh, well, yes, my Republican friend just reminded me that they indeed, do have other options: Walk, Don't Go Anywhere.
posted by Xoebe at 11:31 AM on March 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I also kept screaming to myself "Just throw his jacket out the window!!" or is there some Greyhound logistics I am missing about this situation?

Even if DeBoer had thrown the jacket out the window, the Greyhound employees would have likely thrown him off the bus for defying them, and would probably have confiscated the jacket as well.

Low level employees like this learn quickly that if they bend any rule for someone, be it for convenience, common sense, or even just as an act of kindness, they risk disciplinary action from management. More and more often, that just means being fired. In that kind of tenuous environment, a mindset develops. Eventually, employees go about their jobs making no exceptions whatsoever to procedure, under any circumstances, no matter how earnest the appeal to logic or basic human decency. Sometimes, this callous disregard curdles into a petty sort of sadism, as Mr. DeBoer writes of here.

The quickest way to experience full immersion into the real actual nitty-gritty sensation of being poor (assuming you're not poor already) is to take an eight-hour, overnight bus ride on Greyhound.

On preview: Xoebe, great minds think alike.
posted by KHAAAN! at 11:39 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Unrelated: Going through some old posts this is probably one of the most interesting personal blogs I've ever read... though I typically avoid personal blogs so this may not be saying much. Are there others like L'Hote?
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:45 AM on March 19, 2013


"Maybe I'm just that privileged, but I'll never understand how even half-way decent human beings can just fuck others over so casually like that."

I'll add that if you've never worked in customer service, the ways in which customers will lie, cheat, and try to manipulate you would shock you. After a certain point, you adhere to the bureaucracy in self-defense.
posted by fnerg at 12:27 PM on March 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Nicely written essay, even if it left me with only a sense of despair. I'm not poor, but business has not been great for years now, and those times when the bank is empty and clients haven't paid and bills are due and all your available credit is being utilized...that's stressful in ways that few other things are, and I can't even imagine what it's like to live that way your entire life, without the benefit of credit or even good times to remember.

This essay also reminds me to try harder to be kind. I do my best, but clearly there is room for improvement.

What he didn't add but which is very apparent: libertarians and republicans are an outgrowth of the macho culture the two young douchebags personified. I personally know at least three people who are clearly right-wingers for no other reason that they think being "liberal" is for "pussies."
posted by maxwelton at 12:34 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there others like L'Hote?

In terms of the way he addresses policy issues in moral terms, I'd say the closest is Steve Randy Waldman -- much wonkier but often the same insider/outsider vibe, direct style and alarming sincerity.
posted by pete_22 at 12:34 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll add that if you've never worked in customer service, the ways in which customers will lie, cheat, and try to manipulate you would shock you.

I've always wondered (and have no idea if it's even still policy) if the retailer Nordstrom's ultra-lax return policy was a net benefit or a huge drain on their finances. Stories were rife of people returning almost anything, including things not bought there, and not getting hassled. Surely some of it was myth, but policies like that really help spread good will.

Then again, when I worked at a small sporting goods store, we had the opposite policy, almost. Not quite "all sales final" but damned close. I think part of that was the owner hating what he felt was people trying to take advantage of him, and some was the fact that returned goods essentially were scrap; our wholesalers only took back items which were clearly defective.
posted by maxwelton at 12:38 PM on March 19, 2013


Well, a welfare gal and her drunk galoot
And nobody wearing a three piece suit
You meet folks this way you just don't see while flyin
So you take the plane but I'll take the bus this time
posted by Ghost Mode at 12:53 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'll add that if you've never worked in customer service, the ways in which customers will lie, cheat, and try to manipulate you would shock you.

For a few months, my brother temped as a customer service rep. I picked him up from work each night, and each night, he would have a story about his boss or his customers. His boss ignored the temps: When the company hired one of them, she suddenly started to gossip with her and treat her like a human being. She had other faults, but my brother focused on that one.

His customers, meanwhile, would rant about his company's incompetence. When not doing that, they would try to defraud the company in obvious ways. For instance, one person would call from one address as multiple different people, each claiming to have bought a defective product.

My brother's attitude soured more and more as the job went on. He hated the customers. He hated the company. If the company had offered him a job, he would have declined it. When his contract finally ended, he said he never wanted to work in customer service again.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:09 PM on March 19, 2013


Metafilter: Somebody will make fun of this post.
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:25 PM on March 19, 2013


There's something about driving a bus, or any position of small, mostly meaningless power, that turns a small percentage of humans into raging douchebags.

This is more on point than some people here seem to think, and is completely unrelated to the "shitty entitled customer" thing. And yes, before it gets brought up, I have worked shitty retail/food service/CS type jobs.

It's a cartman AUTHORITAEE type thing, it's a power trip. Some people really are desperate to flex their limp little muscles and deny someone something just because they can. Sometimes they aren't even following the rules of their own organization, in spirit or even sometimes in letter.

Being exhausted at other people's shitty behavior is an explanation, but not an excuse for being an asshole. And some posts in here seem to be getting dangerously close to going "well when people treat you like shit day in and day out being a dick is kinda just the natural reaction." As if that's it, said and done, and somehow excuses it.

It's basically removing malice, and the childlike will to burn people like ants with a magnifying glass from the equation. Which is often, honesty, a big part of this type of dickery. Childish lashing out.

Don't sell it as something more understandable or noble than it is. It's a personal failure that deserves nothing more than a head shake and a "wow".

People who just refuse to be human either from burn out, or just because they enjoy flexing and being a dick suck to work with too, is worth noting.

And this is coming from someone who has literally been assaulted and given a huge bruise on my face by shitty customers.
posted by emptythought at 1:27 PM on March 19, 2013


Geez. I've had one experience with Greyhound. I bought two tickets for my daughter and a friend to go from Mpls -> Eau Claire. We got to the terminal at zero-dark-thirty and tried to use the kiosk, which claimed my tickets had already been printed. I hadn't printed them at home, because I bought them before midnight and went to print them after midnight and you can't print tickets on a different day. Long story short, the counter staff could do nothing. They called over a manager type, who took me into the back office and made me watch as he did the same thing over and over trying to print them from the website.

I'm sure those tickets were sitting on a printer somewhere in that building, but no one had any interest in finding them. After calling a half-dozen times and sitting on hold for over five hours altogether, I finally wrote off the $100. Never again.
posted by chazlarson at 2:17 PM on March 19, 2013


I was a teenager in 98 or so, still in school, when I took a Greyhound halfway across the country by myself for a spring break trip. On the way back, a pair of people near me became a couple, fell in love, planned their futures, fell back out of love, and parted enemies, all between Pittsburgh and Louisville or so. Long trips on Greyhound are truly a one of a kind experience.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:32 PM on March 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Here's a little more information on the situation with Moi and why he didn't just throw the jacket to him.
posted by _Mona_ at 3:00 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I deal with state employees every day and it raised not a moment's worth of surprise to me that the Greyhound employees would not help a man get his jacket. Nonetheless, in their defense, would you be anxious to help out a man on a Greyhound who urged you to make a small delivery of possessions to someone else?
posted by Countess Elena at 3:54 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my teens, I used Amtrak a bunch, Kalamazoo to Chicago, Kalamazoo to Detroit. I only rode Greyhound once, Chicago to Indianapolis. The difference between Amtrak and Greyhound was stunning. The staff and driver were consistently rude to the passengers, and it was in the 'I have power, and you don't' sort mentioned upthread. And the passengers, well, they just accepted the rudeness precisely because they didn't have power.

How fucked is it that the company and its employees only function because their customers can't use/afford any other form of transportation, but that because of that, they feel free to demean them at every turn? If I have any sort of luck, I hope I'll never have to ride Greyhound again.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:09 PM on March 19, 2013


Nonetheless, in their defense, would you be anxious to help out a man on a Greyhound who urged you to make a small delivery of possessions to someone else?

It's not carrying somebody else's bag through customs, it's returning the jacket of somebody that you've prevented from boarding the bus.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:32 AM on March 20, 2013


This was great, can't wait to see the movie.
posted by clark at 9:08 AM on March 20, 2013


For, maybe, a slightly different look at Greyhound customer service: Homeless Isn't Hopeless. The writer became homeless and spent quite a few months travelling, and living, on Greyhound buses before eventually landing up in a shelter in the Florida Keys. It's a story that is, at times, heart breaking, but the author has an indomitable spirit. Disclaimer - I know the guy who runs the website.
posted by IncognitoErgoSum at 10:03 AM on March 20, 2013


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