Don't miss the bus

Those who haven't already taken a low-fare bus from D.C. to another east coast destination during their time at AU have certainly heard stories from those who have. Some will tell the horrors of the onboard bathroom malfunctions, or drivers who leave people at rest stops, while others will recount their experience as a victory over "the man," who, as many suspect, would like to charge college students much, much more to go hither and thither.

A word of caution before continuing - the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates interstate bus companies, forced 56 buses and 13 drivers out of service in October after a sweep of inspections of 400 buses used by low-fare bus companies, as reported by The Washington Post. While this news isn't heartening, it is at least encouraging that the buses are actually inspected and are expected to be held up to reasonable standards.

DESTINATIONS

New York City Trip Length: 4.5 hours Cost: $35-40

Philadelphia Trip Length: 2 hours Cost: $28-30

Richmond Trip Length: 2.5 hours Cost: $20

Boston, Toronto and Niagara Falls are among other destinations available via bus transfer in New York City.

DO...

Buy tickets ahead of time online. This ensures that the bus you want will not be sold out, and that the company at least has it together enough to have a functioning Web site - a good sign.

Be cordial to the person next to you. Anecdotes abound of the guy getting left at the rest stop because he was taking too long in the crapper and no one spoke up when the bus pulled away. You want someone to miss you enough to speak up.

Do confirm that the bus you are boarding is the bus that you bought tickets for. Bus companies have been known to hustle befuddled riders onto their buses and, once the other buses have left (presumably the one you were supposed to be on), insist that you pay their fare.

DO NOT...

Use the bathroom on the bus. Just don't. Go before you get on or run to the loo afterward. No one wants to be in a confined space for two or more hours with whatever you left in there, and you don't want to be in a room where strangers' rear ends have most probably bounced (hopefully accidentally) all over the walls.

Choose an empty row if the bus looks like it's going to fill all the way up. Choosing an open seat allows you to pick who you want to sit next to. Sitting in an empty row when all seats are going to be filled is the equivalent to putting blood in the "obese verbose crazy person, come sit next to me!" water.

Expect to sleep on the bus. You'll just be disappointed. Buck up and enjoy the cheesy movie they're playing and mentally re-mix the weird clucking sound coming from the neck of the elderly lady next to you into a sweet dancehall hit.

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