Photo: Jacopo Romei
WHEN I BOARDED THE BUS IN Chicago one sunny summer day, I did not expect to be the dishtowel for a homeless woman’s carry-ons. But I was—she had six full garbage bags that she put on the bus one by one, then walked each one to the back of the bus. When she was done, she walked each one back to the front of the bus. On she went, back and forth, brushing each bag along every poor soul in an aisle seat, including me. The bags were somehow soaking wet (did I mention it was sunny out?) but soon the moisture soaked into our clothes.
Disgusting, yes. But if you ask me, far from the worst story out there. From public city buses to the chicken bus, here are some of the most horror-inducing bus ride stories we could find. We’ll start with one from my very own mother.
The crazy lady.
“I got on a bus to go to work one morning and since the bus was crowded, I did a quick look at the passengers and sat down next to the most normal looking one—a lady putting on lipstick. As I sat next to her, I noticed that she kept putting on the lipstick, around and around her mouth over and over again. All the seats were full and there was no place to move. I sat there trying not to look at her. When she finally stopped putting on the lipstick, she opened her purse to put it away. Her purse held about 100 slips of paper, which she started to pull out and read. She’d make a brief comment like “no” or “not today.” As she put one paper in her purse, I glanced at it. It had the word “kill” on it. Another said “die.” The others were variations of the two I saw. Needless to say, I quickly got up and off the bus at the next stop.” –Kathleen Billock
“I was 19, taking a night bus from Port Authority to Morristown, NJ, when the guy across the aisle decided to pleasure himself with one hand while holding his book with the other. I didn’t watch to see how he turned the pages.” –Sharon Van Epps
The 40-hour vomit comet.
“Winding bus rides in the Andes Mountains, stuck in the back of the bus, and lots of people throwing up in front of me. Some of them were throwing up out the windows and it was coming back in through my window, which made ME almost throw up. Moral of the story? Don’t sit in the back of the bus, and puke begets puke. I also took a bus ride from Asuncion, Paraguay, to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, through the middle of the Chaco, which is fairly desert-like and scrubby. Only one town that I can remember—the rest is deserted. They don’t give you an arrival time, because they really just don’t know. The bus stopped for bathroom breaks, in which the driver would say, “Watch out for jaguars!” and people would go into the bushes or squat behind the bus to pee. Forty hours later, we arrived in Santa Cruz.” –Debbie Weingarten
“1996. Bus from Guatemala City to Tapachula, Mexico. Boarded in the middle of the night by what I’m pretty sure were Zapatista rebels. My sub-5′ height might have saved my life. I covered my body with a Guatemalan blanket I’d just bought, and I think they figured I was a tiny Mayan woman asleep. They didn’t even pat me down before they left.” –Alex Leviton
The stoned driver.
“Chinatown bus from NYC to Philly. I was waiting on the bus and looked out the window to see a Chinese man crouching on the sidewalk and taking a huge hit from a bong. Then, he got on the bus. He was the driver.” –Catherine Carberry
The gum whore.
“1987, bus from Casablanca to Marrakech. My then boyfriend (now husband) and I sat behind a couple of nice guys in their 20s and I started chatting with them in French. One of them offered me a piece of gum and I took it and said thanks. At that point an older man went BERSERK shouting in Arabic and carrying on and looking in our direction. It went on for five minutes and the bus driver had to stop the bus and walk back there to tell him if he didn’t calm down he had to get off. He decided to get off. I said to the young guys, “WHAT just happened?” They told me he was very religious and didn’t like that I took gum from them. Basically, he was calling me every version of “whore” that there is in Arabic. Good times!” -Anonymous
The heights of human misery.
“2007, traveling by bus from Tuguegarao to Manila with dengue fever on bumpy country roads for some nine hours. It was a party.” –Tessa Lenore
The alien man.
“In Fort Lauderdale, I spent a bus ride avoiding eye contact with a man rambling on to the entire bus about the aliens in Roswell, while praying he wouldn’t come over by me and that he wasn’t going to get off on our stop. He even knew the names of each alien there. Later during the ride while I was looking out my window at a red light, I saw a biker in the lane next to us turn around and point a gun at the taxi behind him. For a moment I thought I was going to see someone get shot.” –Jennifer Martinkus
“A few years ago my daughter, partner, and I took an executive bus from San Salvador to Granada, Nicaragua. I think it was ten hours or so? Anyway, we had no legroom, like they put us in the worst possible seats—way less than the seats around us. My legs swelled up like watermelons from their cramped position and the heat. The AC was broken and because this was an AC bus, the windows wouldn’t open. It was sweltering even though the escape hatches in the roof were both open. Then the toilet overflowed. Somewhere in Honduras we were moved after a long wait to a new bus, also with no AC. Also, because this trip was on an exejutivo, it was catered with a Burger King breakfast and no local vendors at stops were allowed to sell us homemade food.” –Yuki Hayashi
The “nothing to see here.”
“A friend of mine once got on a bus in Los Angeles. It stopped, he got on, realized that the bus driver was being held at knifepoint by a dude behind him who had the knife at his throat. For some reason the bus driver was just stopping at all of his regular stops. Friend got off the bus at the next stop.” –Erin Blakemore
The evil talisman.
“One of my favorite necklaces is a long pendant with a crystal on the end. One day, a dude on a D.C. city bus wearing a WHO visitor badge asked me to turn away from him lest my necklace curse him. It was a packed-full bus and I couldn’t move an inch, so I had to awkwardly continue to face him as he ranted about my apparently evil jewelry.” –Kate Bigam
The honest, hard-working taxpayer.
“When I was going to school in Milwaukee, I was taking the bus back and forth to campus a few times a week. One day, this guy got on the bus and dropped a bunch of trash on the floor near the driver. The driver told him to pick up the trash and the guy refused. The driver asked him again and this man became enraged, screaming about how he paid taxes so he was the boss of the driver. The driver asked him to calm down and pick up his trash or he would be asked to get off the bus. The man continued to yell and got louder, pacing back and forth down the aisle of the bus. I honestly thought that we may all die (or at least end up on the news). Man continued to scream and rant (with many curse words) until the driver pulled over and insisted the man get off the bus or he would be calling the police.” –Sarah Dunkleman-Chagdes