Archive for October, 2011

My Adventure on a Fung Wah Bus to New York, December 2006

October 28, 2011

The following is a true story about my adventure on a Fung Wah bus from Boston to New York City in late December 2006, at the end of the fall semester of my junior year of college. I typed it the morning after, and decided to fix up the grammar and re-post it from my now defunct livejournal to my blog. Many people who read the original livejournal version liked it a lot. Enjoy.

On Saturday I made my way to South Station in Boston in order to catch the Fung Wah bus to NYC, where I would then take the subway uptown and then catch the LIRR home. It’s a trip that I’ve taken countless times and can probably do with my eyes closed.

I arrived at the station early, and managed to catch a bus that left 30 minutes before I planned on leaving. “Smashing!” I thought.

However, there was to be nothing “Smashing” about the trip.

I was initially put off guard when I noticed that the bus lacked the trustworthy (?) Fung Wah logo. Instead, it was an older, unmarked white and yellow vehicle. Given some of my previous dealings with Fung Wah, I was unsure whether this should have inspired confidence or fear. To make matters stranger, the driver was not the familiar Chinese man that I was used to seeing on these trips. Instead, he was a tall, portly, middle-aged man of Eastern European decent. He wore a thin leather vest over his shirt, which struck me as both un-stylish and remarkably impractical.

I made my way towards the back of the bus and took a seat, where I found more trouble. Some sort of liquid was dripping down from the ceiling, with certain seats marked to let people know not to sit there, lest they get wet. “No big deal,” I thought to myself, as I took a seat towards the back, away from the unknown liquid.

At that point, a tall, lanky guy carrying a backpack boarded the bus. He made an announcement as he walked down to take his seat to my right: “Well, we’re going to be together for 380 minutes, ladies and gentlemen–let’s have a pleasant ride!” This was obviously his attempt funny or cute, although he failed on both counts. Rather, the only thing it did was reveal that he was almost certainly crazy. He reminded me of a more harmless version of Gary Busey, and from here on I will refer to him as GB.

GB reached up to put his bag in the overhead compartment, only to be yelled at by a young and rather sketchy gentleman wearing long dreadlocks: “TAKE YOUR BITCH ASS HANDS OFF MY MOTHERFUCKIN’ SEAT,” he exclaimed. Surprisingly enough GB kept his cool, while the sketchy black dude (from here on referred to as SBD) was clearly still very angry. Everyone on the bus was clearly irked by the prospect of spending the next 3.75+ hours locked in a bus with a mentally disturbed guy in dreadlocks and Gary Busey. Should we alert the driver? If so, what would he say? All of the previous Fung Wah drivers didn’t speak a word of English beyond “Sit down,” “We be there soon,” and—upon pulling into a highway rest stop—“Ten minutes.” I suspected the same of our current driver, a Chinese accent replaced with a Russian one.

The driver closed the door and drove off as passengers took their seats. Both SBD and GB calmed down, and we started rolling down the Mass Pike toward Worcester. It finally started to seem like a normal bus ride.

It would not be normal for long.

Not too long into the ride, SBD began rocking back and forth, laying down on both of his seats (hopefully his seats weren’t soaked with the phantom liquid from earlier—more on that later), and making strange grunting noises. Everyone on the bus was noticeably freaked out, much more so than after his initial outburst at GB back in South Station. He went to the bathroom a few times, while GB made various smart-ass comments.

Shortly after, GB rose from his seat and talked to the driver for a good five minutes. Apparently he coordinated with the driver to have SBD removed from the bus, or at least that’s what I inferred from his 911 call when he gave the operator the approximate location of a rest area/Chinese buffet near Hartford that we were pulling into.

As we pulled into the shopping center people milled about smoking and stretching, or going to the nearby Chinese buffet. General Tsao’s chicken at 11 AM? The breakfast of champions, indeed.

Shortly thereafter three Connecticut state troopers rolled up, where they confronted our dreadlocked friend and asked him to sit on a bench as they asked him about the situation. He refused, resisted, and cried racism, which only made the situation worse and resulted the SBD being taken away in the back of a patrol car. GB made it clear that he “hates to have to do that,” and even though I still thought that GB was a bit crazy and that the SBD was treated a bit harshly due to his race, I was reassured knowing that at least one of our two crazy guys was no longer on our bus. I boarded the bus again, happy that that unpleasantness is behind us.

And that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

Between Hartford and New Haven, the bus stalled. The product of a faulty cooling system, GB loudly informed us. Well, that would explain the liquid dripping from the ceiling. After a minute or two of idling, we start up again, on our way. Everything is fine now, right?

No. Over the next hour or two, the bus stalled and needed to pull over the side of the road a few more times. We also moved very slowly, far slower than any other vehicle on the road. GB was apoplectic. He called Fung Wah, commanding them to send another bus to meet us, assuring them that there will be “real big trouble” if they don’t. After 15 minutes of getting nowhere, GB locates a Chinese man on the bus, and asked him talk to the Fung Wah people in NYC over his cell phone. This attempt at making Fung Wah talk to “one of their own” bore no fruit, as we continued on down the highway at 30-40 miles an hour, pulling over and re-starting the bus from time to time.

GB contined to go nuts. He spent the next several hours talking in the phone non stop; to a pastor about bible passages, to the people that he was going to meet, apologizing about being late; yelling at the Fung Wah people some more, and telling us that he “blames himself” for not using his “intuition and experience to know that there was a problem back at South Station when the bus was leaking.” Everyone on the bus was quietly upset. Not GB. He was loud, walking up and down the aisle yelling at the people at Fung Wah over his cell phone some more. I began to wish that the state troopers took this guy away, also.

As for me, I kept my eyes on the road ahead of me, straining to see each green sign that we passed along the Connecticut coast into New York. Westport, Bridgeport, Greenwich, Fairfield, Stamford, Yonkers…we were getting closer and closer [Note: this was in the pre-iPhone, pre internet-on-bus era, so one actually had to check the signs as the bus went along to know where one was].

And that’s when things got worse.

We were near White Plains, NY when the bus stalled and pulled over. But it was not a normal stall. The driver could not re-start the bus. We idled on the side of 95 South, the daylight fading, so close to our destination and at the same time so very far.

GB reached his boiling point as he rambled on to me and the girl next to me. She was one of the few sane people on the bus, and I was very glad to have someone normal to have a conversation with. He informed us that Fung Wah was akin to Soviet Russia, as both were huge bureaucracies that “don’t care about anyone.” I asked him if he thought that it would be fair to characterize Fung Wah as an “evil empire,” which he interpreted as a sign of flippancy. The girl and I stared straight ahead while GB went on.

This madness continued for another hour or so. Shockingly, we had no more breakdowns all the way from White Plains down through the Bronx and over to Queens.

However, things began to get worse while we waited to go over the Manhattan bridge, which is literally right next door to the Fung Wah drop off point. Waiting in the right turning lane, the bus STALLED AGAIN. We waited through two green lights, cars behind us honking and going crazy, because the bus was unable to idle long enough during a red light without stalling. Finally, we started back up again, stalled again over the bridge, and quite literally coasted into the bus’s drop off point on Canal Street.

At this point, I was standing in the aisle, unable to wait to leave. I also noticed that the leaking fluid from before made its way to my section, leaving a residue in its wake. A few drops got on my shoes, hand, sweater, and jacket. I moved into the aisle as the bus is still moved.

Finally, we come to a complete stop. I got out as fast as I could, grabbed my suitcase from the bottom of the bus, and walked over to the Grand Street subway station where I then made my way uptown. I stopped at Ben’s kosher deli to calm down and get a corned beef sandwich before going to Penn Station to board the LIRR during the last leg of my journey home.

The entire thing was like something out of a movie. We had two crazy guys, one of whom was taken away in handcuffs because crazy guy #2 called the cops; a bus that kept breaking down, and fucking cooling fluid on my shoes. Fuck you Fung Wah, I’m taking Greyhound next time [Note: This was not the last time I took Fung Wah. I used at least 3 more times after this misadventure that I can recall].