February 22, 2010

Something to Chew on for Travellers

Given the choice, I would not travel coach, let alone by coach. The powers that be have conspired against a civilised link between Montreal and Boston – flights prohibitively expensive, trains only via New York over two days – so there is little choice. The newer buses, with reliable temperature control, reading lights that work, and wireless connections, ought not to be too terrible. Unfortunately I find the selling points of even the most up-to-date Greyhounds to be defective. On the latest trip it was 80 degrees, my reading light didn’t work (putting paid to the objectionable book), and the wireless was patchy at best. These modern contrivances only add frustration to the general unpleasantness of travel when they do not work.

For all that, it is not so much the bus itself that gets my goat as the other people with whom I have to share space. Other people will always be objectionable, and it is just as well. If we went around instantly liking everyone the world would be unbearable. Still, I would like it very much if the following might actually be observed when in close proximity of strangers over the course of seven hours, with no possibility for escape:

1. When the driver says ‘turn off your cell phone ringer’, do it.
2. Select some food that tastes great but which you alone can smell.
3. Chewing gum over many hours is unsavoury enough. But with your mouth open? Please.
4. I will take it on trust that your music rocks. I do not need to hear it.
5. You are an inveterate snorer. Don’t go to sleep.

I might add, for those travelling across international borders, if your passport or credentials are remotely incredible, please don’t travel at all. Being on a bus that moves is bad enough. Being on one that is parked at the border while we wait for you, possibly not to be let in, is just too much to bear.

Happy travels.


  1. I do hope you have plans to publish a "Manly" book of etiquette as I need one for my twin sons who are 17. Some manners desire a complete and utter overhaul. I would love a visitor from the 50's to come visit from a time machine and just give commentary on travel and the lack of ettiquette. It is appalling.

  2. Thank you for the suggestion that my humble scribblings might be worthy of a book. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

    Your time traveller idea is a good one. Anyone know where we might find one?

  3. "Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself"
    Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband

    All of your points could be applied to the workplace as well. Including #5.


  4. Doctor,

    I venture a solution to the time machine problem which involves neither science nor miracles. Such people as are desired exist more or less randomly distributed in the civilized world and are called grandparents or worse. They were, I am sure, previously employed thusly, gentling the habits of teenagers, and not unsuccessfully. Presumably, they would have to be taken out of retirement homes or whatever these going-there-to-die places are called and made feel consequential again. One wonders why it is that people may rage for old things, but shun old people...

  5. First we should require a time machine in order to fetch a young person from the fifties who might convincingly lecture the young people of today on the merits of minding their elders. But then, this is very culturally specific. My generation's gradparents, for example, were well-known for not saying very much at all (with some good historical reasons). When they did speak, they were also famed for repeating rather vociferously that they did not want to impose themselves on the lives of their children. But we shall sow now and hope to reap a different crop later.

  6. Amen to that. My research (archaeology) takes me to all sorts of remote parts of Scotland, and some less remote but still 8 hours away by bus. We have a good highland and Island coach network over here - whose reading lights do usually work (no wireless yet), but often there are 'objectionable' people who do any and all of the things on your list. 8 hours of peaceful reading can quickly feel like 80 hours of nerve-twitching hell. I theorize that it's akin to being locked in a room made entirely out of blackboards, with only large scratch-crazy hamster for company.

  7. Thoughts of said hamster are going to keep me awake at night. Shudder.


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