Riding the Megabus: a brief ode

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I recently read an article by Angus Harrison on VICE UK about the Megabus – how it became a symbol for our popular culture, how it all began and, simply, why it’s just the worst.

It is rare that I find myself connecting with an author so completely – so wholly – as I did with Angus and his coach-specific plight. Yet his words resonated with me on a deep, spiritual level. Why? Because I used to be a bonafide Megabus regular. I was on it at least once weekly – sometimes twice. Overall, I’ve probably racked up about 300 hours riding the damn thing. “What the fuck would compel you to climb aboard Lucifer’s chiefest torture device on such a regular basis?”, I hear you chime. It was for a boy. Duh.

Only romance would inspire you to adopt such a frankly deranged travel habit.

They were bleak travels. Bleak, bleak travels.

Entire portions of my memory are reserved for the Megabus – like a nightmare, I recall it far more vividly than I would a dream (like, my seventh birthday party. Why are blissful memories of my seventh birthday party now subsumed by the memory of a coach neighbour who stank of cheap lager and had a nasal problem!? That’s just cruel, Brain.) 

Each time I disembarked the vehicle, each time more closely resembling the river spirit from Spirited Away, I vowed never to board it again. Yet every week when arranging my lovestruck travels, my purse couldn’t help but cry out for the more budget option. Why would I, a lowly third year student with a barren overdraft, spend £70 on a train from London to Leeds when I could spend £3 on a bus – filth, vomit and close proximity to potential drug cartels put aside? You just couldn’t beat those prices. (That is, until you boarded the moving bargain bin, and regretted every moment you were on it from thereon.)

Yes, such cheapness came at a cost. A terrible, terrible cost. I definitely believe that during those months of Megabus frequency I became an unwilling incubus for all hosts of diseases – possibly kickstarting my hypochondria that dominated at the time (and for a long while thereafter). I’m not positive that Megabus hypochondria is entirely unfounded, however – pretty sure that in there, there is a specific type of oxygen that allows sicknesses like chlamydia, diabetes, meningitis and chronic diarrhoea to travel airborne. If so, I must be superhuman now. I’ve survived every illness the Megabus has tried to throw at me. I want a trophy that says ‘FIRST CLASS MEGABUS SURVIVOR’ emblazoned on it, please. (Perhaps that’s a bit much. A big badge will suffice.) 

Some sort of compensation is surely necessary. The Megabus – along with my sweet childhood memories – has also stolen many hours of my life, after all. Hours I could’ve spent chilling with my sorely neglected housemates on a Friday night, watching horrors in my beer hat or even delightfully watching paint dry were instead replaced with the far inferior act of sitting on my poor, Megabruised ass listening to people heave (chunder compiled of regret, cheap pastries and broken dreams, I imagine – that’s certainly what mine was filled with) in the tiny coach toilet. Entering the Megabus was like going into a horrible fairground haunted house ‘ride’ that you regretted from your first breath, but had to see through til the end anyway. We all hated it. The atmosphere was thick with resentment – and other unsavory gases from the guy with the flatulence problem, three rows back. There was always one.  

Bad smells, however, were of the least offensive category of Sins of the Megabus. I have seen (and heard) far worse. Such as:

x Projectile vomit decorating the walls, basin and floors of the ‘coffin-like’ toilet (and surrounding area);

x A man yakking on his phone for the ENTIRETY of the journey (which was, FYI, four to five hours long);

x Two guys punching each other through the cracks in the chairs – in an aggressive, hate-filled way, not an acceptable ‘bro’ way;

x Pot smoking (on several occasions – though you can hardly blame their compulsion to get high in such a dystopic climate);

x Depressed young lads getting wasted on Carling and describing, in lacklustre tones, all the birds they were set to ‘smash’ on the other side of our endless journey down the M1 (‘depressed’, I say, because our journey down the M1 was seemingly endless);

x A ‘yo momma’ showdown between the driver and a passenger;

x A woman moving house via the Megabus and thereby carrying 13 boxes and suitcases onboard, much to the chagrin of the driver;

x Toilets so clogged they were on the brink of a fecal explosion;

x A driver not knowing where he was going, thereby going round a roundabout roughly 10 – 12 times, before ‘winging’ it and zipping down a road to fuck knew where, making our journey maybe three hours longer.

This is not to mention all the screaming babies, arguing couples, commuters, naive tourists and one time a wedding party I’ve boarded the bus with. The messy food eaters, knitters, readers, sleepers and criers who’ve shared my double-seat. The crusty chairs, urine-laden floors, grotty windows smeared with semen-y fingerprints and wrapper-filled pull-down tables I’ve been in close proximity to.

Ah Megabus? Do I miss you? Nah. Not really. I’ve accumulated many stories from having ridden you, sure – but I’m not sure the trade-off was ever worth it. You were a rite of passage – the kind of thing I’ll bring up to my grandkids when they moan about the tribulations of being poor (‘Yeah? Well in MY day, if you were poor, you had to ride a vehicle seemingly constructed with foil, old nappies and congealed human waste’ e.t.c.). But I doubt I’ll be seeing much more of you in the future. I don’t want you taking up any more of my memories. My eighth birthday was precious.

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