Taking Greyhound: a Gadling bloggers experience in the Twighlight Zone

As much as I liked being on a Greyhound bus riding the open highway with my son, who stretched and balled up Silly Putty between new York City and Columbus, Ohio, finding out how to actually take the bus was not the easiest.
Mind you, I’m a seriously traveled traveler. The process that led to our bus ride almost did me in.

Here’s how you play the game, “Getting on a Greyhound, and Welcome to the Twighlight Zone.”

Round One: Who is On First and What your Ticket Says Doesn’t Matter: At the Adirondack Trailways bus station in Kingston, New York after searching out bus schedules online.

Me: “I’d like to buy one adult one way bus ticket and one child’s ticket from New Paltz, New York to Columbus, Ohio. I think there is a bus that leaves New Paltz at 8:20 a.m. It arrives in Columbus about 11:30 p.m.”

Ticket Person, clicking away with her snazzy polished fake nails at the computer keyboard. Cheerful: “Sure. But, I’d take a later bus so you’re not in New York City as long.

Me, happy that she’s on the ball: “That sounds fine.”

Ticket Person, handing me tickets-still perky: “You’ll go through Cleveland and get to Columbus at 3:00 a.m.” (This is a paraphrase.)

Me, now, a bit irate: “Three in the morning?! No. I don’t want to go through Cleveland. I want to go through Pittsburgh. There’s a direct bus that leaves New York City at 11:30 a.m. I saw the schedule online.”

Ticket Person: “The online schedule is wrong.”

Me, attempting to hand back the tickets: “But, I don’t want this schedule. I want a direct route. I don’t want to go through Cleveland.”

Ticket Person, clicking away again: “There’s a 5:50 a.m. bus from New Paltz that gets you to the city in time to take a bus to Pittsburgh.”

Me: “But, I don’t want to leave that early. And what do I do now that our tickets say we are going through Cleveland and not Pittsburgh?”

Ticket Person, off-handedly.: “What the ticket says doesn’t really matter. Your ticket is from New Paltz to Columbus, so you can take any bus there. You don’t have to go through Cleveland.”

I leave the bus station, tickets in hand, confused, not sure at all which bus to take.

Round Two: Someone Knows What’s What.

Later at my dad’s standing in his kitchen. I call Adirondack Trailways to see what’s what. I don’t trust the ticket person in Kingston at all.

Me: “I’m calling to check on a bus schedule between New Paltz, New York and Columbus, Ohio. I just bought tickets in Kingston and they are not what I wanted. Is there a bus that leaves New Paltz at 8:20 in the morning with a change in NYC and a direct route to Columbus that stops in Pittsburgh for an hour? We would get to Columbus about 11:30 at night.”

Phone Ticket Person, after checking the schedule: “Yes, there is.”

Me: “The person in Kingston told me that bus didn’t exist and the online schedule is wrong. She said it’s often wrong.”

Phone Ticket Person: “The schedule is updated regularly.”

Me: “Here’s the problem. The tickets I have say we’re going through Cleveland and leaving New Paltz after 9 a.m. Plus, I have Trailways tickets. What about the switch to Greyhound?”

Phone Ticket Person: “That doesn’t matter. The tickets are good for any time and Trailways is the same company as Greyhound. The bus driver will let you on the bus to Pittsburgh. Ignore the Cleveland portion.”

Me: “Great!” Not one hundred percent confident, but willing to go with it.

We took the 8:00 a.m. bus out of New Paltz without a hitch. Problems not over yet. New Paltz busses to the city are frequent in the morning.

Round Three: At the Port Authority information booth you get misinformation.

Me, after snaking around through throngs of people and a stop to two separate bathrooms on two different floors. That’s another story:

“Where is the gate for the bus to Columbus, Ohio?”

Information Person: “Which city are you going through?”

Me: “My ticket says Cleveland, but I want to go through Pittsburgh.”

Information Person: “You need to change your ticket, otherwise you need to go through Cleveland.” (She directs me to the Greyhound ticket office.)

Round Four: When You Eventually Get Ahead

Me, trying not to get frustrated: “I have a ticket to Columbus that goes through Cleveland but I want the bus that goes through Pittsburgh. I was told I need to change tickets.

Counter Ticket Person: “No. That ticket is fine.”

Me, relieved, but not confident: “Great! Where do I catch the bus?”

Counter Ticket Person: Gate 70

Me: “Great! I want to purchase preboarding passes.” (Preboarding passes allow you to get on a bus before others.)

Counter Ticket Person: “I don’t sell those. I just give information. You need to stand in the next line. “(She is sitting next to the person who can sell me the preboarding passes.)

I move over two steps to the next line.

Me, showing my tickets: “I’d like to buy two preboarding passes for the bus to Columbus.”

Other Counter Person: “I can’t sell you preboarding for Trailways tickets. Those aren’t our tickets.”

The first Counter Person, leaning over: “Yes, you can. Trailways is Greyhound.”

Other Counter Person: “Oh. It is?” She’s stumped and really doesn’t know how to sell the prebarding passes so the other person shows her what to do and then hands me two of them.

Round Five: When Signage is Clear as Mud
The sign above the door to Gate 70 doesn’t list Columbus as a destination. Cleveland is on the sign, but Pittsburgh is not. None of the other signs say Columbus either.

Panicked, thinking that we are destined for travel hell after all, I quiz passengers waiting in line to find out the scoop. After deductive reasoning, and after chatting with a woman standing in line who works for Greyhound, I decided that the bus would be going through Pittsburgh and the people going to Cleveland would change buses in Pittsburgh. Why the sign didn’t say Columbus since that was where the bus was heading, I have no idea.

Also, there isn’t a special place to stand for passengers with preboarding passes. We hang near the front, but not in line. When the driver opens the gate doors to take our tickets, I tell him about the preboarding passes and we cut to the front. There is only one other woman with children in line with preboarding passes.

Because there isn’t a designated spot for preboarders, I feel as if we look like we are cutting in line, but once we are on the bus with our pick of seats, I don’t care. I earned them.

*Sure enough, the Cleveland portion of the ticket was ignored. We were allowed to go to Pittsburgh and arrived in Columbus at 11:40, about 20 minutes late. (see post on how the trip went.)

Jebb’s shot is of the Trailways bus to New Paltz.