The broken bus adventure.

Megabus © by wrestlingentropy

The Megabus died within spitting distance of the Lincoln Tunnel exit of the New Jersey Turnpike, close enough to see (and yearn after) the Empire State Building. We filed outside and stood or sat under a couple of trees, breathing in vehicle fumes mixed with air as humid as most oceans.

“It’s my birthday,” moaned one of the young women who was heading to the Big Apple with two friends to celebrate.

A skinny red-haired guy pulled out an equally skinny, almost triangular guitar and began strumming under his breath. One of the trio of young women noticed.

“Play us some music,” she ordered. “Do you know ‘Wobble Wobble’?”

Her friends snickered. The young man said, “No, I don’t know that one.” Instead, he launched into Bob Marley’s “Is This Love.” The birthday girl began to dance, one of her friends began filming with her smartphone, and other passengers stopped kvetching and began to listen.

From there the minstrel launched into a Spanish-language song (he’d just come back from three years hitchhiking around Latin America). I didn’t catch much of it, but the word “borracho” (drunk) leapt out at me. Some of the passengers listened; others checked their smartphones or made “I’m gonna be late” calls.

The rest of us clapped when he finished. His next selection, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” seemed to turn off most listeners. Chatter started up again, more smartphones were consulted for the latest info (the Megabus wi-fi signal continued to work, even if the bus was kaput).

I felt sorry for the guy, the same way I feel sorry for guys singing at coffeehouses or at bars where people aren’t there for the music. When he finished with the Dylan I clapped as loudly as I could and others joined in.

One middle-aged woman asked for the name of the song. She liked the lyric, “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand.”

“Good one, right?” the singer agreed.

He played another song that I didn’t recognize but which was also vaguely protest-y in nature. We applauded again and he said, “I could just be like the radio – you don’t have to feel obligated to clap.” Pausing for a moment to think, he then announced ,“I guess we should do Billy Joel.”

“Only the Good Die Young,” a song I hadn’t heard for quite a while, was the next selection. Our human radio couldn’t quite drown out the constant rumble of traffic, but it sure made the wait more bearable.

The air was still thick, the breeze still sporadic, and the “20 minutes” predicted for the replacement bus had stretched to more like 45 minutes by the time I posted this. (I’m writing from the breakdown zone.) But as travel hassles go, this one wasn’t nearly as wearying as, say, getting bumped from standby flights for 12 hours straight. This time, there was music.

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  1. I really appreciate it when folks make the best of a bad situation. And as a music teacher – let me make a shameless plug for the arts – bringing beauty to something that stinks!

    • Donna Freedman

      Cheri, I agree. A couple of people were complaining about the situation. Granted, it wasn’t ideal. But more than a few times I’ve had flights delayed or outright canceled due to “equipment” issues. I don’t like it, but grousing about it won’t help.
      As an update: Another passenger started making up a humorous rap number about trying to take the bus. The guitarist accompanied him, and a third man started chatting with them — he was a former music major who now teaches piano and is involved with a music collective called Snarky Puppy. The three of them started talking about music and exchanged contact information. Maybe a year from now we’ll see the three of them being interviewed by a news show: “Yeah, we met when the Megabus broke down on the way to New York.”
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.
      P.S. When I did a search for “Snarky Puppy” I won 10 Swagbucks. 🙂

  2. It’s great to see some people were trying to make the best out of the situation. At least it didn’t turn into hours of waiting 🙂

  3. Nancy from Mass

    What an awesome story. sometimes the best things that happen on a trip are when something goes awry….

  4. Isn’t it great when you can “almost” enjoy being slowed down by life. Might as well enjoy it, there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it. Hope the rest of your trip is more pleasant, Donna!

  5. Love people like that – using a gift to make a situation better for everyone. They make life and its bumps bearable. 🙂

  6. Unless you’re in a tearing hurry for real life and death reasons, there’s generally not a great reason to turn these delays into the sort of grouse and gripe sessions some people do. I love it when people take the opportunity to just relax into the wait and hang out like that. It’s how lines at conventions actually seem like a part of the fun, and not like the worst part of the whole thing – you hang out with your fellow attendees who were strangers when you arrived, and probably still will be when you leave, but for the duration of the line, you’re fellows in waiting.

  7. I love when a miserable moment(or 45)gets turned into a wonderful memory.

  8. Aw that’s pretty cool. Glad to hear you weren’t totally stranded for too long!


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