So Greyhound is starting to offer, in selected terminals, a program by which you can pay an extra five dollars and guarantee yourself a seat on the Greyhound bus.
You can even pick which seat you want.
I tried to use this on Sunday, to be informed that the terminal I was at didn't offer this service.
Which is good because I feel a little melancholy about the thought that you can pick your seat on Greyhound. Greyhound is a profoundly screwed up organization, one given to massive lateness and imposing quantities of craziness. But the big upside is that if you're traveling via Greyhound, your only real option is to roll with the punches. There is nothing you can do about the fact that the bus is late, the fact that the bus is full, the craziness of the guy next to you. That's just the situation, and you can stew about it all you want but you can't change it. This whole pre-reservation thing makes Greyhound like other modes of transit, at least theoretically. Pre-planning becomes an issue. Where do you want to sit? Is it worth it to pay more to reserve your seat? Etc.
On the other hand, I've had it suggested to me that nobody's actually going to use this service.
Anyway, this story I'm about to tell you is why I like Greyhound, which is that I was taking the bus back on Monday, and, not having known when I would be ready to go, hadn't bought a ticket. I show up at the bus station in my full on suit and heels and hose (hose!) and there's a bus outside that's boarding. I'm the second person in line. I ask the security guard where the bus outside is going and he says "L.A." and I'm excited, but the guy in front of me is taking forever. He has a baby in a bassinet and he's asking ten thousand questions and I kind of secretly hope that the security guard will say something to the Greyhound employee so that I can get on the bus and I sit there and hate the world, and the bus driver announces final call and then comes into the terminal and sees me in line and asks where I'm going. I say "L.A." and then he stops and waits and the guy with the baby asks about a thousand more questions and finally the bus driver tells me to get on the bus and I can buy my ticket in Los Angeles.
It's not so much that it was a nice thing to do as that it was a human thing to do -- it was treating the situation with common sense and in a we're-two-people-here kind of way. It was nice only in the context of him treating me humanly, of him trusting me to buy the ticket on the other end, of him being more interested in me getting where I was going than in collecting the requisite number of tickets at that moment.
But here's the thing which may be somewhat interesting or may be only a sign of my particular mania and I'm not going to describe it well because for whatever reason I'm exhausted, which I'm going to blame on Bakersfield, so here's the thing: He was human, and that was nice, but it created this particular climate of embarrassment, where I worried that he would think that I wouldn't pay and felt vaguely anxious about the whole thing. The reason that I don't think this was just my mania is that we were going to be five minutes in the station before mine and the driver nudged me on the shoulder and said, "You can go buy your ticket here." Which was interesting, because I had been sitting there wondering whether if I got off the bus at my station and went to the bathroom before buying the ticket the driver would think I had run off, and then I concluded I was being ridiculous. But the nudge suggested that he was just as anxious that I know that he expected me to pay for my ticket, that he was anxious that human not be confused with unbusinesslike or free.