Greyhound
May 6, 2015 1:18 AM   Subscribe

I had a really unpleasant experience with Greyhound. I am on the bus, and I do not want to be on the bus. It is 2 am, and little or no options to leave the bus.

I am taking a trip across Canada, from Edmonton to Toronto. It has been really nice so far. I took Greyhound from Edmonton to Saskatoon, but Greyhound does not operate in Saskatoon, so I picked back up going from Regina to Winnipeg. The bus driver on the Winnipeg leg has been a nightmare, and I have been a bit of a nightmare. I do not know if I will be able to get on the bus from Winnipeg to Sudbury.

He rattled a lot of information at the front of the trip, and it was in a really agressive tone. He told us in the first thirty minutes of the drive, that he would not be afraid of kicking people off the bus who got out of line. He told us over the loud speaker to put shoes back on, not to put legs in the aisle, always use headphones--some of it was standard, but the tone, and the threats of leaving us in a small town in Saskatchewan was pretty omnipresent.

We got to our first rest stop, and I was wondering where the driver switch off was, and where the next long break was. He didn't want to answer these questions, and I got snarky. I told him if he didn't like his job, to quit. He was really abusive at this time--he didn't say anything directly, but he kept threatening to leave me in this tiny town, he refused to let me leave, he towered over me, got into my personal space, pointed at me, raised his voice. It felt like I was under attack. I think I said somethings I shouldn't.

I don't think what he wanted was unreasonable, but how he responded was really really scary. I told him I had autism, and that I had a processing disorder, so I cannot keep a list of places straight, and that I was orry for being short, but he said that obviously I wasn't right in the head. and that he thinks I should not travel without a companion. I travel 10 or 11 times a year, on all kinds of transportaiton devices. Usally it goes really well, but sometimes I get into these beaurocratic spaces, that trigger both trauma and procedual problems. I have a therapist, who is a specialist in autism disorders, and I will talk to him on Tuesday.

I have very specific questions:

a) Can he forbid me from travelling from Winnipeg to Sudbury without a companion.
b) How can I escalate this to greyhound, without coming across as complete loon.
c) How can I de-escalate these kind of sitautions, with figures in authority, who have pride at keeping and following tiny rules
d) How do I sleep on a greyhound bus sitting up.
e) How do I feel safe enough on this bus for the next seven hours.
posted by PinkMoose to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, I don't know about the others but a possible solution to d is a couple Benadryl, likely available at the next rest stop. My stress response is to sleep, so if it's at all possible to sleep the next 7 hours that could work.

If it makes you feel any better, this guy sounds like a total asshat and a bully. I don't think your autism is particularly at play here - I respond pretty similarly to that kind of behaviour. He's a dick. When you complain to Greyhound just be polite!

I had a flight attendant like that once who threatened to ban me from the airline after he forbid me to pee while the seatbelt light was on and I threatened to pee in my seat and then used the toilet anyway. Mostly because he was a self righteous prick about it.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:46 AM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've taken the cross-Canada greyhound route several times, I know how much it sucks and how much influence the driver has over the pleasantness of the trip.

Once you've both had a moment to breathe and cool down, could you write down your itinerary, and ask the driver to point at where you are and where the next rest break is?

How crowded is the bus? I can sleep okay in a window seat with my back to the window and my legs on the next seat. Failing that, maybe scoot down on your seat and rest your knees on the seat in front of you?

I (a small female) have been left behind by a bus at a small Greyhound stop (Thunder Bay). It sucks, but it is survivable and safe. There is an attendant there.

As for feeling safe, have you talked to any of the other passengers? Even just introducing yourself to the nearest person might help a little. No need to carry a conversation (reading really helps here!). Also, I always wrap my bag straps around my legs, just to be safer.

I hope you have a calm trip.
posted by third word on a random page at 1:48 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I'm sorry this happened to you. I wanted to say that I do not have autism, and am generally fairly savvy in dealing with people, and yet I too have had absolutely awful experiences in virtually all of my dealings with Greyhound. They have my own unofficial gold star for the absolute worst customer service I have ever experienced, and I even have my own unofficial policy never to travel with them if there is another alternative (which admittedly there often isn't, hence presumably how they are able to stay in business, even given the uniformly poor service they provide). I agree with you about the drivers getting apparent power trips by enforcing semi-pointless rules in their own little fiefdoms. I took a trip on Greyhound a couple of weeks ago where my driver behaved as you described. And before the bus got moving, we were 45 minutes late to board, no one at Greyhound had any idea why or when we would be boarding, they were yelling at anybody who asked questions, etc. Even more egregiously, a few years back I was having problems with booking a ticket on their website, called Greyhound customer service, ended up speaking to someone's manager, and the call ended by her yelling at me and then hanging up on me (!). This is the level that we're dealing with here.

Given that, my policy when I have to travel Greyhound is metaphorically to keep my head down and follow all of their rules, and that is what I would recommend to you. Regarding (a): I think the driver effectively *can* forbid you from traveling on his bus if he deems you unstable, unsafe, a security threat, or whatever. I would doubt you would have much recourse if you get kicked off of the bus: Greyhound customer service, as I have described above, is notoriously awful. Hence, re. (b), I personally absolutely would not escalate this to Greyhound - I think it will prove extremely counterproductive, and I think it will increase your likelihood of getting kicked off of the bus. As I see it, your best strategy is to disengage. The bus driver obviously takes pleasure from his petty power of being able to force people to follow rules. Just let him. Follow the rules he gives, don't challenge or engage him, and basically don't distinguish yourself from the other passengers. Keep in mind your endgame here: your goal is not to be Morally Right - it's to get to Sudbury. This will also produce your best chance at (e) - feeling safe on the bus for the next seven hours. Can't help you with (d) - I've done overnights sitting up on Greyhound and Amtrak, and the sleep (or at least, the little of it that I got) was bad. With Greyhound, you definitely get what you pay for, quality of sleep included.
posted by ClaireBear at 1:51 AM on May 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


Response by poster: we changed drivers and the new one seems okay, i am quite large and so sleeping tucked in is difficult. i also move in my sleep and am anxious now about sleeping at all.

its been a really nice trip up to now, this is the first time i've done it. these small prarie stations don't have any attendants or aren't open.

im just worried now about the companion problem.
posted by PinkMoose at 1:52 AM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wad up (part ) of your coat and put it behind your neck.
posted by brujita at 1:53 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


a) No. If anything, if he thinks a traveller needs a companion, he should be assisting that traveller, per Greyhound Canada's disability policy. Kicking off someone who needed a companion would be a PR disaster in the making.

He could kick you off if he decided you were being "unruly", though, according to Greyhound's policy relating to on-board restrictions. If you think he might go in that direction, it's better to just not talk to him for the rest of the trip.

b) Write them down as soon as you have the opportunity, with information about the time, date, route and bus number, and location of the interaction. If you can get the driver's name, that's good, but they should be able to work it out from the date. Get contact information from a fellow passenger who might back you up, if you can.

c) I guess, in situations like this, stay mostly quiet and comply, unless what they're asking for goes beyond the official policy. Take info down and report later to customer service.

d) Lean your seat back a bit (ask the person behind you). If you have a sweater, roll it up and stick it behind your neck for a pillow. If you're by the window, lean against the window and put the sweater there, and stretch your legs as far diagonally in the opposite direction as you can within your "legal" foot space.

e) Put on some music and/or use your phone to distract yourself. Do some deep breathing. If you can't sleep and your seatmate's up, make some small talk.

**
Don't worry about the companion problem, there's no problem at all. Try to relax :)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:54 AM on May 6, 2015 [8 favorites]


a) Can he forbid me from travelling from Winnipeg to Sudbury without a companion.

I don't know if there is some scenario in which he theoretically could have forbade you (I doubt it, but possibly).

But apparently he *didn't* forbid you from traveling without a companion, since right now you're on the bus, you're continuing on your journey, and the new driver hasn't said anything. If he had really forbidden you from making this trip without a companion, you wouldn't be on the bus right now.

It sounds to me like when he said that you weren't right in the head and shouldn't travel without a companion, he was just trying to be insulting/threatening toward you. I don't think that there's an actual Greyhound requirement.

b) How can I escalate this to greyhound, without coming across as complete loon.

I agree with the person above who said that Greyhound customer service is terrible to deal with, disorganized, and unresponsive, and it's probably not worth your time or energy to escalate this. FWIW, I wouldn't escalate this.

c) How can I de-escalate these kind of situations, with figures in authority, who have pride at keeping and following tiny rules

I'm happy to hear that this driver will no longer be a problem for you! I started writing this answer before your update and maybe it's not useful to you now -- but maybe it can still be helpful generally? Here's my usual go-to solution to conflicts with this sort of martinet: This is very corny, but give a small gift, preferably food. Ime, "breaking bread" together actually will smooth over more conflicts than you'd think. In this case, what I would do is, the next time you get off at a rest stop to grab some snacks or a drink, buy a second snack/drink for him, and give it to him when you get back on the bus. I don't think you have to apologize or do anything as effusive as that. I would just smile and maybe say something like, "I thought you might like one, too."

Also, ime it's usually a good idea to very visibly follow one of the small rules that he's outlined. Like in this case, if he is adamant about everyone wearing earphones, maybe have your earphones in your hand or around your neck the next time you go up to talk to him. If things start escalating again, you might also want to stress when you're talking to him that you think it's important to follow the rules and *want* to do that, you're just confused about something (where to get off, or whatever) and need to ask him how to do it.

Ime, people like that are usually pretty insecure, and will treat even really mild-mannered push-back against their authority as though it's a gigantic crisis. I think that's just them being insecure and high-strung, don't worry about it. It's not personal.

d) How do I sleep on a greyhound bus sitting up.

Personally, I like to put something over my face. A jacket or a hat or something. What works for me is to just lean back into the seat with my face covered, and keep my eyes closed. Ime, you might not get a really restful sleep, but you'll eventually fall into a doze.

e) How do I feel safe enough on this bus for the next seven hours.

Don't think about all seven hours. Think about right now. Not the future (not a half hour from now, not one hour from now, not seven hours from now. RIGHT now).

Right now, you're on the bus and doing fine! Whenever you start getting kind of wound up worrying about what else might happen on this trip, just bring yourself back to RIGHT now. Stuff that helps me when I'm getting wound up is to think about my breathing and concentrate on making it slow and steady. My go-to is to think about about a character that I like or admire and figure out how they would handle the situation. I don't necessarily model my behavior on theirs or anything, it's mostly just something pleasant/interesting to think about.

You can worry about the future in the future, there's no need to borrow tomorrow's trouble today. The present is all you've got to think about now, and you can handle what's going on in the present just fine just by continuing to sit there in your seat.

I'm sorry you've had a bad experience tonight. But eventually it'll be over. You'll make it :)
posted by rue72 at 2:10 AM on May 6, 2015 [15 favorites]


Also, I don't want to make you more anxious, but there's the possibility of theft on Greyhound, which increases if you sleep. I would advise keeping your real valuables (wallet, phone, ID, mp3 player, etc.) securely on your person (perhaps in an inside zippered pocket in your jacket), and maybe putting your leg through your bookbag strap or something similar before trying to sleep. It's quite possible otherwise for someone to walk off the bus with your things. I typically try not to sleep if I'm alone on Greyhound or Amtrak, unless I'm on the bus/train for multiple nights and really can't help it: in that case I follow the above steps and additionally try to wake up with each bus stop to make sure I still have all my luggage and that no one is walking off the bus with it. Greyhound is not really a great option for an enjoyable long-distance leisure trip. This is typically why people who can afford it fly instead.

I would echo cotton dress sock's comment about the driver's ability to kick you off for being "unruly", or something similar. I have seen Greyhound drivers threaten that (not directed at me, but at other passengers perceived as not following the driver's directions), and I didn't doubt that the driver might follow through on the threat. I have also seen someone almost left at a rest-stop (we were pulling out when the person missing ran up to the bus). As I said before, I think there is a real danger of you being left behind if you antagonize the driver or fail to follow the driver's directions, and if that happens I think you are going to have little recourse with the unhelpful Greyhound Customer Service (unless you want to hire a lawyer etc.).

For the rest of this trip, I think you should just try to relax, put the incident past you, not talk to the driver, and follow the driver's instructions to the best of your ability. If you sleep (which may not be advisable) you should try to secure your valuables beforehand.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:12 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


He sounds awful, and deserves to be reported. When you get to a safe place, contact Greyhound and describe the situation much like you did here. Say he threatened to strand you and he called you "not right in the head".

His conduct is beyond unprofessional. That kind of crap should get people fired, and often does. I'm not saying Greyhound will act on your complaints, but please, make the complaint. He shouldn't be out there, scaring passengers and acting like a choad on the road.

Glad to hear you have a new driver! As for feeling safe sleeping on the bus, the odds that anybody will bother you while you're asleep are pretty slim. It's an enclosed space, and if somebody was going to harm you in any way they'd then be stuck there for hours with you and dozens of other passengers. Also, you say you're "large," so any potential creeps are even less likely to hassle somebody who could smoosh them.

One way or another, you'll get where you're going. I hope the rest of your trip goes much better!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:23 AM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Greyhound's explicit statement re your concern about companions:

"Greyhound will accept the determination made by or on behalf of a person with a disability that the person does not require a personal care attendant during travel."
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:35 AM on May 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry this is happening to you. One strategy I use when I fixate on the injustice of poor treatment at the hands of someone like your bus driver is to think about how terrible their job must have been to them and how unhappy they must be, to have resulted in such anger and a resort to bullying to try to create a workspace he can tolerate and/control. YMMV.
posted by girlpublisher at 3:28 AM on May 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


Response by poster: i think this is going to be okay. going to try to find a place for a few hours when i get to winnipeg. the advice on this thread has been invaluable.
posted by PinkMoose at 3:48 AM on May 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


I've seen similar driver attitude before, including threats to put someone off in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, the best procedure seems to be to avoid conflict with these types; complain to the bus company when your trip is over, if you want, but let them get fixated on someone else as their antagonist passenger.
posted by thelonius at 4:40 AM on May 6, 2015


Best answer: First off I want too say that I have a lot of sympathy for you and I'm sorry you had a terrible trip. As a former frequent greyhound rider, I know how bad it can be.

However, I also tried to have some sympathy for the drivers. It's not a great job, and it can be a dangerous one. I also suspected that some of the drivers who were the worst pretty tyrants may be suffering from processing disorders like you do.

Finally, He didn't want to answer these questions, and I got snarky. I told him if he didn't like his job, to quit. He was really abusive at this time--he didn't say anything directly, but he kept threatening to leave me in this tiny town, he refused to let me leave, he towered over me, got into my personal space, pointed at me, raised his voice. It felt like I was under attack. I think I said somethings I shouldn't.

You really played a role in the negative situation. If you want too avoid similar situations in the future, I would suggest you practice de-escalating fights even if you think the other person is wrong. You being rude and telling him too quit his job turned the situation from a trip with a less than helpful driver to something really stressful and unpleasant.
posted by fermezporte at 5:34 AM on May 6, 2015 [22 favorites]


Best answer: c) How can I de-escalate these kind of sitautions, with figures in authority, who have pride at keeping and following tiny rules

For these sorts of things, the best way to de-escalate is not to escalate in the first place. I've been on Greyhound; it's very possible and more usual not to actually engage with the drivers at all through the trip. I doubt the sort of person who takes a job driving busses at 2am is ever going to be someone who's great at customer service. There's no reason to engage with them unless it's really desperate, you know? If you encounter an unreasonable delay, at that point maybe speak up and ask what's up, but avoid engaging with people who've started off seeming to be engaged in petty power trips. Be prepared to headphone up and not actually have anybody to interact with for the duration of a trip like that. If the driver isn't sending really clear signals that they want to be helpful and chatty, don't bother interacting if it's not important.

d) How do I sleep on a greyhound bus sitting up.

For the future, maybe it'd be a good idea to practice this napping in a chair at home so that you can at least figure out what you have to do. I think the sleep issue is huge, here--not that the driver wasn't unreasonable, but you'd probably have not been so freaked out if you hadn't been operating on no sleep. Don't book overnight trips if you have difficulty sleeping on planes/buses. If you're anxiety-prone, sleep deprivation will just make everything a hundred times worse. Prepare in advance for what you'll need to do to keep your stuff secure while you're sleeping, and also just prepare to be sure you're going to be able to get the rest you need to support your ability to cope.
posted by Sequence at 5:42 AM on May 6, 2015 [4 favorites]


In the best case scenario, Greyhound customer service responds to your complaints by giving you a ride on a different Greyhound route, likely as a 1 way ticket - meaning that you'll still have to get back from wherever your destination winds up being. They aren't going to refund your money. As such, the best case reward is that you have to ride with them again in probably a 1-way scenario, then pay them again to get home. Just on the chance that you wound up with this driver again, there's no way that its worth it...

It is rare, but there are times when complaining doesn't win the end game... Sometimes the only way to win is not to play the game...
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:52 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


d) How do I sleep on a greyhound bus sitting up.

This won't be much help this time, but I like to travel with an inflatable neck pillow, sleep mask and earplugs. I keep them in a zippered pouch and they take up about as much space as a slim paperback. If I don't have earplugs in, I'm usually listening to an audiobook/podcast/recorded lecture. When I fly, I notice that there's almost always someone with noise-cancelling earphones, but I can't personally justify the expense.
posted by pullayup at 6:08 AM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Best answer: You may well be off the bus by this point, but I also wanted to share what might be a helpful technique in the future for deescalating a situation (or avoiding escalating in the first place). I find imaginative perspective-taking to be extremely helpful in cultivating empathy for the person with whom I am engaging. You say this about the driver:

He rattled a lot of information at the front of the trip, and it was in a really agressive tone. He told us in the first thirty minutes of the drive, that he would not be afraid of kicking people off the bus who got out of line. He told us over the loud speaker to put shoes back on, not to put legs in the aisle, always use headphones--some of it was standard, but the tone, and the threats of leaving us in a small town in Saskatchewan was pretty omnipresent.

We got to our first rest stop, and I was wondering where the driver switch off was, and where the next long break was. He didn't want to answer these questions, and I got snarky. I told him if he didn't like his job, to quit. He was really abusive at this time--he didn't say anything directly, but he kept threatening to leave me in this tiny town, he refused to let me leave, he towered over me, got into my personal space, pointed at me, raised his voice. It felt like I was under attack. I think I said somethings I shouldn't.


You also say in a followup that "i am quite large".

The rest of your post - understandably - is taken up by your own responses to the situation (e.g. "how he responded was really really scary"). But can you imagine it from his point of view? He is working a night shift, alone, transporting probably 50 people. He's outnumbered 50-to-1. If he has a belligerent passenger (or, heaven forbid, multiple belligerent passengers on the same bus), it's his problem to deal with. He's probably had aggressive or even physically violent passengers in the past. His initial aggressive demeanor was likely an initial attempt to head off those potentially aggressive passengers from the outset by spooking them with a show of might and confidence. You say that you are "quite large". Can you imagine what it would feel like to be driving a Greyhound bus, with the big responsibility of getting probably 50 people to their destination safely and on time, and have a big man confront you at 2am with questions that suggested that he didn't want you to be driving the bus? And when you (the Greyhound driver) refused to answer this passenger, the passenger "got snarky" and told you to quit your job? Especially when, as the driver, you're basically alone in this prairie town and solely responsible for the safety of all of the people on board? It would probably feel pretty scary for the driver. I'm definitely not trying to absolve him, and this perspective-taking is an exercise in explanation, not justification. But I think that if you can imagine yourself in his shoes, it would be easier both to feel empathy for him in his situation, and also it would help you think about what might be the best responses ("Okay, so if I were that driver that I imagined, what would most easily make me back off from the kind of belligerent passenger I was just then?").
posted by ClaireBear at 8:17 AM on May 6, 2015 [13 favorites]


The previous driver sounds like a colossal jerk. Complain to Greyhound. I don't know Canadian law, but autism is a condition that requires some accommodation, which should be provided with no hassle. I'm so sorry this happened to you; I don't think it's your fault.
posted by theora55 at 10:37 AM on May 6, 2015


> It sounds to me like when he said that you weren't right in the head and shouldn't travel without a companion, he was just trying to be insulting/threatening toward you. I don't think that there's an actual Greyhound requirement.

Agreed. He felt that you were mean to him, so he was mean to you in return.

It wasn't a great way for him to handle it, I would expect a cooler head from someone whose job is dealing with all kinds of people with all kinds of dispositions who are often tense or frustrated from the uncertainties and discomfort of travelling. Good lord, how does this guy handle people who are being intentionally obstinate or unruly!

So, to be clear, I think it was definitely unprofessional and uncalled-for to treat you like this. I'd be angry too.

But if I were in your shoes or if I knew you better in real life, I would probably come down on the side of shaking it off as "ugh, humans fuck up sometimes in how they behave," put it out of mind for now, bitch to friends about it rather than making a complaint. Because, while it was hurtful and frustrating and scary, it's over, and you weren't ejected or stranded. Dwelling on the situation it in order to make a complaint comes at a personal cost as well, and I wouldn't consider maintaining that anger to be worth it (for me.)
posted by desuetude at 1:05 PM on May 6, 2015


Addendum: I'm not particularly confrontation-averse.
posted by desuetude at 1:08 PM on May 6, 2015


b) How can I escalate this to greyhound, without coming across as complete loon.

Cotton dress sock's advice is bang on. When you have the time and space, I'd strongly suggest composing a thoughtful letter to Greyhound's accessibility feedback coordinates (available in the links above) to say that when you self-identified as a person with a cognitive disability and asked for clarity on the route and stops, the driver flatly denied your request. Your request most certainly was a "reasonable accommodation" request that the driver is required by law and company policy to fulfill. As other people have noted above, cite the route/vehicle number/date/time of the refusal to accommodate you.

You might also note that when you pressed the issue, he threatened to strand you and insulted you based on your disclosure of your disability ("not right in the head").
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:35 PM on May 6, 2015


Best answer: For those who aren't familiar, the Winnipeg Greyhound had a pretty epic tragedy a few years ago in which a mentally disabled person caused (?.. not really the right word here).. was part of an absolutely heartbreaking story. For those who are interested, Wikipedia covers it under the Killing of Tim McLean. OP, I don't recommend reading it until you are done with your trip as it was a terrible one-off that won't happen again. But for everyone else, before we jump down the driver's throat calling him a horrible person, perhaps a bit of past history may explain.
posted by valoius at 5:37 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: I realized my size, the history of Winnipeg transit, my sleep depreviation, and my being terrible at transitions made this worse than it could be. Thank you for the kind words. Also, this was a bad situation made worse by a number of factors, including my own responsiblity. 26 hour bus ride to sudbury coming up, let us hope for sleep.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:45 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


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