Thursday, May 31, 2007

Greyhound Woes

As a person who cares about the Earth, I decided to take public transportation when I went out of town over the Memorial Day weekend. I am disabled and I live on a fixed income, which is well below the federal poverty level. Flying was not an option. I would have taken the train, but Amtrak doesn’t go everywhere. That left the bus. I remembered that I didn’t much like the bus back when I lived and Chicago and did not own a car. If I came downstate to visit my kids, I took Amtrak. But now, I live downstate and the only ways to get to Dayton were driving or Greyhound. Well, this was the last time I will use Greyhound. I’m sorry. I know that driving alone to Dayton, Ohio from east central Illinois guzzles gas and adds emissions to the atmosphere. But Greyhound is not an option.

First—I asked about baggage handling when I picked up my ticket. Despite the fact that I walk with a cane, I was told that I would have to transfer my own baggage when I changed busses in Indianapolis. I expected the driver to board disabled persons, seniors and people traveling with children first—as they do on both Amtrak and the airlines. No such announcement was made. I had to lug my suitcase (which was heavy as I use a CPAP machine for sleep apnea) and my carry-on bag to the bus myself, and stand in line, leaning on my cane. There was a woman on my bus who was on crutches. The driver asked her if she had “Special Handling” for her bags. This was the first I learned of this service. Of course, by then it was too late for that portion of the trip.

When I arrived in Indianapolis, they called a bus for Columbus. I was fortunate to get into line fairly close to the front, only to discover that the bus was an express and my bus to Dayton wouldn’t leave for four more hours. This was my fault, as I hadn’t read my ticket very carefully. So, I was stuck at the doorway when the woman on crutches hobbled over from the smoking area. The driver told her that she had to go inside and get in line. I couldn’t believe my ears. She was on CRUTCHES! I asked him if he could give her a break and he said no, it was company policy. I got his name and made my way inside through another door to the ticket counter. I asked to see a supervisor and complained about the way the woman was being treated. She asked me whether I was traveling with the woman and I said no. She then said, “What business is it of yours?”

I was outraged. It is everyone’s business when a person is being mistreated. Meanwhile, the line was moving behind me. By the time the woman got to the door, the bus was full. I heard her telling the driver that her luggage was already on the bus and he told her she’d have to wait for the next one. By this time I was incensed. I made enough of a fuss that the ticket agent finally agreed to talk to the driver. He apparently let the woman on the bus, but I suspect he would not have done so if I had not intervened with the supervisor on her behalf. I sat for the next three and a half hours waiting for my bus with my blood boiling.

The Indianapolis Greyhound station has a designated smoking area outside. People do go outside to smoke but very few use the designated area. All night, people—both passengers and employees—were smoking right outside the doors in the loading area, and second-hand smoke was blowing into the terminal. By the time my bus arrived, I was beginning to have shortness of breath and chest pains.

When my bus pulled in, I got in line. It was twenty minutes before the bus was due to leave, but the terminal was suddenly crowded and I didn’t want to chance missing the bus. So, I hobbled over to the line that was forming and stood there. A man came in from outside. He walked with a cane and seemed to be in even more pain than I was. He had gotten off the bus to smoke and was told that he couldn’t get back on board. He was sent inside to stand in line with the rest of us. I let him in line, then the driver announced that the bus was full and those of us who had not come in on that bus would have to wait for another one to be called up from the garage. The little old man was allowed into the other line by a kind passenger. But if that hadn’t happened, the bus could have taken off with his belongings on it. I really don't think that all of the peole in that line had come in on that bus. Many had come in on the bus in the next parking spacer and were transfering in Indianapolis, as was I. Meanwhile, the second bus did not arrive until forty-five minutes after our scheduled departure time. By the time I boarded, I was barely able to walk. And no one who worked for Greyhound offered to help me with my luggage at all.

It is an unconscionable travesty that any of this happened. Since disabled people and seniors often cannot afford other forms of transportation, one would expect Greyhound to have policies in place to help them. I suppose they feel that since their passengers don’t have other choices, they can treat them any way they please. Please let your friends know that Greyhound is unfair to the disabled. Not only is it the least comfortable way to travel, the employees are rude and uncaring. Despite my desire to do my part to stop global warming, from now on if Amtrak doesn’t go to my destination, I will drive. I urge anyone who reads this to do the same if they have the choice.

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