Amtrak vs Greyhound

Well, I'm back! Grin. Good to be home, even though NYC is a wet drippy mess of a spring day. At least it's not snow! I had a great trip, sprinkled liberally with the label of "interesting" bits when it came to the travel part.

Michael made it home on Tuesday night, so we had our 22 hours of "time alone without a kid at home!" and managed to enjoy it and not spend the entire time packing and tying up loose ends. Funny how running errands together can be novel and enjoyable when not accompanied by a demanding 3rd party :).

I took off for the bus station on Wednesday night, leaving just enough time to get to Grand Central, pick up my ticket, and get in line for a 'good' seat on that delightful service known as Greyhound. I chose them over the train so I could have an extra day at home to work, and travel at night, and also as they were a bit cheaper than the train. NO NEED to wonder why! I got there with time to spare, and was about the 20th person in line. A wonderful and somewhat scary cross-section of America seems to inhabit Greyhound stations, and NYC is no exception (the station in Chicago was downright scary at times). Amazingly unhelpful and aloof personnel who'd rather have their coffee chats than look you in the eye or talk to you. The homeless woman beating a path around the lounge with her cart full of possessions, talking loudly to herself and anyone within range about how they couldn't kick her out. A pushy french-canadian who barged in front of me in line (after I'd waited 1.5 hours in that spot) and refusing to make eye contact. A homeless-looking man with a dirty wad of bills asking me where to go to buy a ticket ... the list is endless of mostly-resigned and tired looking people.

Once they started loading our bus, 15 min late, they got to the man in front of me (the pushy one with tons of luggage) and stopped, saying the bus was full and they were getting another. "10 minutes, not more, just about 10 minutes". Then they made the man in front of me take things out of his overstuffed suitcase and pack it in another bag, just to get the weight down. Why this is required as they NEVER touch your bags but make you carry them everywhere, I have no idea. The 10 minutes turned into 90, and the staff all disappeared for most of it. At last 11:15 pm rolls around and they start loading a new bus. I'm the first one on, glory be, and pick a nice seat half way back that has the window where I want it, and hope that I'll get to keep the row to myself (trailing my coat over the other seat just to make it a wee bit harder to ask :| I REALLY wanted my sleep, and seem unable to sleep sitting up and have to curl up on my side to get any real rest.

Alas I wasn't so lucky, and a very well-dressed woman came and sat down next to me. Took me awhile to realize she had her sights on the man across the aisle, and by the time we were an hour out of New York (and into a blinding snowstorm) they were well into an animated conversation in Spanish. Curses upon my knowledge of spanish, making it much harder to tune out than any other language that I don't know. Needless to say, my fears of the four loud brooklyn boyz behind me being loud all night were totally unfounded, and my lovely seatmate and her target were the only two on the whole bus who managed to talk ALL NIGHT. We stopped once for a rest break, and once at the border, the only respites I had from their conversation. The woman took advantage of the border break (all off the bus, take all your stuff, stand like cattle at 5am and wait to be grilled by the newly-picky border guards ... then wait for the few with funny histories or questionable paperwork to be grilled forever and a day) to 'freshen up' in the bathroom and come out smelling like a perfume display. Lovely.
I looked at my watch as we finally got back on the bus, and realized that I had 55 minutes before my bus from Montreal left for Ottawa, and I was pretty sure we were more than an hour from Montreal. Between leaving almost 2 hours late, snowstorms and border delays, the fact that our "2nd bus was going direct and skipping all the stops" wasn't going to be enough. Sure enough, we rolled in 5 minutes late so I got to wait an extra hour for the next one ... not all that bad. As they say, Leave the Driving to Us is fine, but pack in a few more struggling members of humanity and see what happens :)
Deb and Anna-Rose met me in Ottawa, and I got to relax finally, get to know a delightfully outgoing and humorous child, and take advantage of Deb/Mish's comfy couch. Lots of kid time, chat time, and "what it's like to be a mom" time that we both needed. Discovered that we share a very similar set of feelings about being a mom and being a person too ... so nice to have fellowship in that! Another post maybe someday on that.
Met up with Douglas on Friday, and had to take a good look at him as he seemed to have changed a lot in the 9 days since I'd seen him last. Amazing how much you can miss a small boy-and-a-half (Deb's name for him) and how fast they can change! Older cousins with new tricks and words and ways to manipulate, not that he needed any help in THAT category! We stayed low with the kids, as both needed to chill out and just be at home. Oh the days of not getting any real sleep and having it interrupted over and over ... seeing Deb with Anna-Rose and the exhaustion they bring on makes me wonder if I'm crazy for wanting more kids??! Hmm. Getting a bit too comfortable with a kid who is more self-sufficient every day!

Mike brought over a VERY funny video about guys who went around giving presentations while pretending to be from the WTO, see here for details. People are amazingly gullible sometimes!
This post is way too long, so I'll just say this about Amtrak ... what was I thinking in ever taking Greyhound?!! MUCH nicer, spacious, nice spot on the floor where I convinced Douglas to take a 2.5 hour nap while I stretched out on the seats. I'd have to say the bathrooms are pretty much the pits. Q: Where do you stand a toddler while taking off and on his shoes, pants, and Bim (thanks Sharon!) so he can pee sitting down, with a floor spotted from previous patrons who SHOULD have been sitting down? A: Stand 'em up on the sink, and have them hang onto the towel dispenser and hope the train doesn't sway too much while YOU take a bathroom break :) I won't detail the tired-tantrums in the middle of Montreal's huge echo-ey waiting room, or the one in the station bathroom, or the one in the middle of Penn Station, or the meltdown on the very crowded steps up to the A train (mom lugging a big suitcase and loaded backpack and one small and very overtired child by the hand) because someone bumped into him.

We made it home :)