After my brothers girlfriends bus got hung up while trying to find Schenectady and presumably needed to be towed to get free, I realized just about everyone who's ridden Greyhound has had a shit experience on Greyhound. I'd love to shed some light to anyone who's curious about some behind the scenes stuff or what being a motorcoach operator for the nations largest carrier is like.

My proof: 22 yr old me deadheading back up the Atlantic City Expressway, taken by my friend who I invited to ride with me that day

Comments: 1071 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

hakkai999928 karma

Tell me about this "black dog". Is it some urban tale?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos2417 karma

There's a movie with Patrick Swayze, Meat Loaf, Randy Travis, and Gabriel Casseus where Patrick Swayze is a truck driver. He talks about the black dog you see after you've been on the road for too long and start getting too tired. It'll come out of nowhere in the middle of the night and dart out at you, and you'll think it's real and try to avoid it. I thought it was just some made up movie plot til the first time I saw it when I was really tired on an overnight. Not necessarily a dog, but any hallucination of something darting out in front of the bus. Happened quite a few times, very scary

hakkai999697 karma

Ooooooh that black dog. Yeah I can definitely tell you that's real. To give my tale some context, I'm a push over when it comes to sleep deprivation (Lasted a month in a grave yard software support job) and my girlfriend and I love going on road trips within our island home, Cebu, using only a Honda Wave 110CC motorcycle. Long story short, we had to cut off an overnight trip because of some complications with our accommodations in a certain place down south so we went home at night nearly at about 9PM. I know 9PM is very early for people but for me, it's already time to hit the sack. My eyes got heavy after an hour of driving but we were already near the major city and I decided to book it. Unfortunately for me, my sleepiness got the best of me and I managed to doze off for about a split second but thank goodness I still had the consciousness to remember that I was driving and managed to open my eyes. Upon opening them, I thought I saw an animal so my heart jumped but I never thought of swerving because that'd be the end of us, if we did.

TL;DR Saw the black dog in one of our road trips.

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos355 karma

That's exactly the reaction I would have. Makes you jump.

smellycat94574 karma

Why do you think Greyhound kind of has a bad reputation? I've heard only negative things about Greyhound buses and stations. I live in Europe and travel with a bus all the time and have never had a bad experience but I'm a little nervous to ride with y'all because of all the negative feedback I've heard about Greyhound.

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos1059 karma

The clientele. Even in training they tell us we'll be driving the nations bail jumpers, fleeing felons, ex cons, pimps and prostitutes. In my experience though, most of my passengers were pleasant and just wanted to get from A to B. A lot of the stations are a hub of homelessness, beggars, and especially in NYC, the mentally ill. The ones Greyhound owns though largely employ some sort of security that keeps it restricted to ticketed passengers and those waiting for them (Philly for example), but again, not always the classiest of people. Between riding and driving, I've never had an issue that was truly concerning.

The bad rep also comes from the way they operate. Just because you have a ticket with a specific time and specific date, it doesn't mean you're guaranteed a seat on that bus. They just keep selling tickets regardless of how many seats are available. At the larger terminals like NYC they'll often bring out another bus or two to handle the overflow, but only if they can find a bus and a driver (they are perpetually short drivers). At a lot of the smaller stops, like Wilmington DE, If there aren't enough seats, you gotta wait for the next one which can be several hours. You also hear of drivers getting lost a lot. That's because they give us these paper directions that are often wrong or haven't been updated since god knows when (best one I had was telling me to take a road to the 2nd casino entrance marked hotels, but the road had since been turned into a highway and the exit to access the casino was actually 2 miles back). Even when they are right, we're trying to drive the bus, read the directions, and watch for the street sign signs. They train us on as many stops as possible for the city that we work out of, but it's impossible to cover all of them in the time they spend training us, and for the ones we do go to, it's impossible to remember them all of one visit. To give you an idea, an NYC based driver has a typical range they'll send us to of Bangor ME, Montreal QB, Cleveland OH, and Norfolk/Richmond VA, with dozens of stops in between, but drivers have ended up getting sent as far as Minneapolis, Florida, Atlanta, etc. Oh and sometimes we cover other companies schedules and have to do their stops, like Peter Pan and Adirondack Trailways. It's honestly a miracle getting lost doesn't happen more often

Sulf1324 karma

That's super interesting about the instructions. Is there anything stopping drivers from just getting their own gps or using google maps? (Since the company doesn't seem to be interested in upgrading.)

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos462 karma

Greyhounds policy in routing. That and they frown upon having any type of distracting devices, such as a GPS

ricobirch23 karma

Are you not allowed to bring a smartphone?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos182 karma

The problem is that the mapping software on them will often send you ways that buses aren't allowed to go (look up any video of an 18 wheeler on the Northern State Parkway on Long Island and see what happens) and also that Greyhound has their own in house company prescribed routing they want you to take. If you get into an accident off route, it's instant termination. They also follow you on GPS and sometimes by car and will call you if you're off route (even though we aren't supposed to talk on the phone while driving). The terminal manager in Albany was notorious for that shit. There was a shortcut that everyone knew to take and if he caught you on it he'd call you and tell you to turn around and go back the way you're supposed to go

B4UGOTHERE236 karma

Come on man. Just let it loose. What's that one story you always tell?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos534 karma

Pick your poison. There's my last night of training driving blind through a blizzard (16 inches of snow, zero visibility) all night long on an interstate that was shut down at 25mph for 10 hours. Had an inch of ice frozen onto some parts of the windshield.

There's the time I was doing NYC to Boston and the destination sign was stuck on Tijuana so in my thickest Spanish accent I announced "okay ladies and yentlemen gwelcone aboard the Greyhound lines to Tijuana Mexico making the one stop in boson Massachusetts, uhhh mi nombre Javier, okay we go" and then burnt out the brakes trying to follow another bus that was flying in the rain because it was my first time going into Boston

Or there's post Greyhound where I worked for this one company in Austin TX where I had to outrun a tornado while driving across Louisiana. Or my first ever job with them which I'll post below tomorrow

Or the sketchy Russian company I used to drive for where the AC went out in Orlando in May and my boss told me to go to Walmart and buy as many fans as I could plug into the outlets and drive back to NYC. I asked him if he wanted me to buy the ones that spray mist too.

enjoi_7763 karma

Did the passengers notice you getting nervous about the tornado?

qui3t_n3rd38 karma

He's keeping an eye on it.

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos11 karma

Lawn Care is important

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos6 karma

In the Louisiana one I was actually driving a car from the yard to go relieve the driver in Jackson MS so I had no one with me. There was another time at Greyhound where Iwas doing NYC to Springfield MA the day the tornados hit there. Passenger asked me as we left New Britain CT what do we do if one hits. I said park the bus under a bridge and hope for the best. Then as I got ready to leave Hartford, after clearing with central dispatcher in Dallas that it was okay to proceed, the passengers all freaked out that it had just hit downtown Springfield. I called Springfield directly and they said stay put. Finally 30 mins later I got the all clear. Downtown was a mess, but we thought it was over. I offload and go into the drivers room and here over the TV "we now have a confirmed touchdown on the Massachusetts Turnpike." I walked up to the dispatch booth and said load me up I'm getting the fuck outta here now!

spattering179 karma

When you get to your destination, do you get to just hang out in that city for a while or do you get right back on the bus and go on your next drive?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos250 karma

It all depends, no 2 days are ever the same unless you have enough seniority to bid a regular run. Sometimes it's load up right away to either go back or to somewhere else, some days you have to wait around for a few hours to find out what you're doing next, some days you know what you're doing next and have some free time to kill and can walk around cuz you don't need to be at the yard or terminal for them to tell you what you're doing next, some days they put you to bed and you can kinda enjoy an hour or two out waking around, and sometimes they leave you up there for days and kinda forget you exist. It also depends on the city. Philly, Harrisburg, Montreal, you're right there in the heart of town so it's easy to go walking around. Atlantic City 9 times out to 10 you have to park at the yard in Pleasantville which is 20 mins outside the city and the only thing worth walking to is Wawa. If they put us to bed in AC it was a mile to the nearest bar (and believe me, we'd walk it!). Cleveland is walking distance to downtown and the dorm is at the terminal, so I got to explore there. Boston we would stay in Dorchester and we couldn't really go into town to hang out because if they call you to report in, you only get an hour and if you're in town you're not gonna make it from downtown back to the hotel and then back to the yard in time. Montreal was the place I consistently got the most free time to really enjoy the area.

TL;dr: getting to hang out and walk around town happens less often than not, except for in Montreal

spattering60 karma

What do you mean by put you to bed?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos200 karma

Going to bed means going to either the hotel or the dorm (Richmond VA, Cleveland OH, NYC, and some others have forms at the terminal or close by, other cities they use a hotel) to get a minimum of 9 hours off duty before they call you back in. Sometimes they call you exactly 9 hours from when you pulled in, sometimes you'll be sitting there for days. That's when it really sucks because you'll go to sleep, wake up and stay up all day, then finally when you're nice and tired and ready to go back to sleep, they're like hey come in and do this 8 hour overnight run. You can look at the board for that city online and try to guess when they're going to call you, but often times something comes up that messes up what time you think they're gonna call you. Often times I'd keep myself cooped up in the hotel room trying to match my sleep to what I was reading on the board so I'd be ready to work a 15 hour day, but you can only force yourself to sleep so much. That's when the job starts getting depressing and messing with your head.

agent06356285 karma

So they only require you to be off duty for 9 hours between shifts? They don't require that you get some sleep in that time? And they expected you to be ready to go within an hour when there's the possibility that you'd been up all day waiting and would be driving when you normally should be sleeping? Doesn't sound very safe.

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos156 karma

Yup. When in the hotel or dorm, it's 9 hours + 1 hr to report. At your home terminal is 9 hours + 2 hours to report, except NYC which gets 3 hours to report. And no, they can only mandate you be off duty, they can't mandate that you sleep during that time off. They urge you to sleep, but we've all got things that need to get done sometimes during our time off. And then yeah, the varying schedule means your bodies internal clock is all fucked up. One day I could get a 3pm report, the next day a 5am report, be in the hotel for the next 36 hours playing blues clues with the board, then get 2 days of 9pm report, and I may not have even gone home at all in that time. There's a reason most of Greyhounds severe accidents are fatigue related. You can of course always call out sick or fatigued and they'll book you off for another 12 hours or so, but you can only do it so much before it starts causing problems with management.

Edit: the craziest part of all this, Greyhound is actually one of the best in terms of time off between jobs. The federal minimum is 8 hours and most charter companies, in my experience, go by the bare minimum. For me it's just a matter of learning when to say no

T-Dawg_0821 karma

Gosh that must have been so stressful for you. Would they generally be understanding if you said no and explained why?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos7 karma

Not really, if I can go I'll go. If I can't, I'll tell them no. There was one night in particular, I reported in at 5pm and at 9:30pm they finally told me to go to Cleveland. I told them hell no, so they tried to send me to Montreal, which is hardly any better when you're already tired. I told them I'll go to Albany and they can find another driver there and the only reason I made it that far was because there was an intense storm that night that kept me focused hardcore

nctdreaming152 karma

What made you want to become a greyhound driver, convenience or you wanted to travel?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos295 karma

I had always been fascinated with the road and big trucks. All throughout college I knew I was gonna at least try out some sort of job where I could just have the road and my music, a sort of place of peace for me. After I graduated a financial situation came up that was ultimately what pushed me into filling out the application. I got the job and fell in love with the daily adventure and how soothing the combination of the highway and my music really was for me.

mfb-77 karma

I've broken down in places with no reception

What do you do then?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos176 karma

This particular instance was in the Adirondacks on I-87 heading south from Montreal to New York at about 2am. There are emergency phones every 2 miles on the highway. I was getting ready to start walking when I saw the headlights of the northbound bus approaching. He pulled over and we were shouting across the highway some ways to troubleshoot. It's absolutely desolate up there and many nights all you'll see for an hour or so is is the bus headed in the opposite direction, so it was quiet enough for us to hear each other. Fortunately it was easily solved, I just had to use the switch in the engine compartment to restart the bus.

Additional background on that story: That bus had started giving me problems the moment I got into the Villa Marie tunnel in Montreal, making a loud screeching noise through the windshield and the sign constantly beeping as it reset itself every few mins. Then about 3 km to the border I lost all throttle power and coasted into the border. While immigration processed my passengers I sat on hold with maintenance trying to get another bus brought down to me. After being on hold for 45 mins I said fuck it and kept going. Coming up a hill it happened again and the bus just coasted to a stop. Engine was still running but it was in neutral and wouldn't rev up at all, just idle. Ended up that supposedly the tracking system for the bus, Cadec, that each driver had to sign into before they can put the bus in gear was cutting me out. Shutting it down and rear starting it would fix it for some reason.

nelsonthebear71 karma

What's the nastiest thing that's happened in your bus?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos152 karma

Towards the end of my training, probably the 5th week or so, I was doing a schedule from NYC to Harrisburg PA. Before we even got to Easton PA some guy threw up the entire big gulp of kool-aid he was drinking when he boarded all over the 2nd row.

Post Greyhound as a charter driver I was driving a travel camp and the girl sitting on the right side in the first row behind me projectile vomited out of nowhere. The camp counselor got most of it but a bit did get me

BeardedGingerWonder65 karma

What's the strangest thing you've ever seen on your travels?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos194 karma

Aside from the multiple times I thought I saw something dart I out in front of the bus...I watched what looked like an 18 wheeler approaching in my mirror very fast. It was a blizzard, dead of the night, up in the Adirondacks. I kept watching him cuz I thought he was gonna rear end me. The headlights got closer and closer and all of a sudden they were gone. There had been no exit ramp or anything. Idk if he went into the ditch or what. I never found out.

whopper9555 karma

What's the most memorable persom you've encountered being a greyhound bus driver?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos149 karma

Too many. Some of the other drivers themselves, especially this one guy who was in my class in training. Sometimes it was the people you met while on layover. Top probably is the very heavyset hooker who left her number on my drivers seat in Atlantic City whose skirt rode up as she came down the stairs w no panties (thanks for making me remember that, cringe).

CallowaySparks49 karma

Can you smell when a passenger takes a shit?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos268 karma

Considering all the buses smell like someone took a shit, no not really

CapricornAngel47 karma

Stupid question - why is the steering wheel so big? Does it really make a difference when driving?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos113 karma

On the older buses it's really big, the newer ones not so much. I think it's to be able to manipulate the buses movements more gently. The smaller the wheel the greater the reaction it will have on the vehicles trajectory. You don't want a 20 ton vehicle easily being sent shooting off in some other direction at 68mph. That's just my guess though, I don't know the actual scientific answer

bananacatguy40 karma

What is the worst thing to happen to you with a passenger?

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos44 karma

As in? Like what's the worst thing that's happened to me on a bus with passengers, or what's my worst interaction with a passenger?

bananacatguy24 karma

Whichever you deem worse.

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos105 karma

Never really had a truly terrible interaction with any customers. Worst thing I've ever gone through with passengers on board was probably the time I accidentally roasted the entire bus. The switches on the dash of one model of bus are interchangeable, so you have to memorize where each one is because the 4-ways switch might actually open the door. I was doing Atlantic City-Mt Laurel-NYC. I hit the switch for driver AC which was placed where it should be, but the wires must've been crossed in the panel because after about 2 hours of trying to figure out why the hell the cabin felt like the center of the sun and fucking with all the switches, I flipped driver AC off and the passenger AC came on. Turning it on had turned on the passenger heat.

Others were just frustrations, like breaking down and getting lost. Outside of Greyhound, while driving charters my worst experience involved a fatality and a fellow driver who will never walk or speak again.

Edit: it wasn't my bus, but a bus in our convoy

toxichousetony5 karma

Way back in the day I took Greyhound most of the way across the country and back. Three experiences stick in my mind. I've always wanted to know, so my question is, how common are any of these?

One, waiting in Denver to board the bus, the kid in line next to me (Brad, if he owned the gas station attendant jacket he was wearing) showed me a six-pack and said, "Do you drink?" On the same bus there was an older gentleman in a suit and hat who was doing the cups game. He and Brad (or maybe just Brad) got to drinking and Brad must have lost some money because they started arguing. The police were waiting for both of them at the next stop.

Two, near Dinosaur in the frigid snow we took a bathroom break. Lucky me, I was the last one and when I came out, the bus was pulling away. With some frantic arm waving I somehow got it to stop, and didn't get as much as a peep of an apology from the driver as I got on.

Three, finally mercifully close to getting back home, we were waiting in one of the final terminals but there was no driver. A worker at that terminal who was licensed to drive but didn't know the route ended up getting behind the wheel, and promptly went the wrong way off an exit at a pickup along the way. She found a wide driveway where she figured she could back up and do a multi-point turn, and promptly backed all four rear wheels into a concrete culvert.

This all seemed pretty par for the course to me at the time but I'm curious if these are actually commonplace occurrences.

Edit: Just saw your answer about getting lost. Would still like to know about getting lost AND stuck in a culvert though!

Dinosaur_Ass_Tattoos6 karma

It's hard man, you get lost and now you've gone from nervous to flustered. You're trying to get turned around and you're flustered and you're rushing and you're not paying attention now like you should be, and you don't see the culvert, or you don't notice the ditch, or you don't realize that the angle of the intersecting road is too steep and now you got you're bus all hung up and need a tow truck to pull you out.

Terminal with no driver? That happens. 30 drivers per year are guaranteed to quit out of NYC, imagine what the number is nationwide. So they're always short on drivers

As for almost getting left at the rest stop, when I say 15 minutes, I mean 15 minutes. If you come out at minute 16 you'll be waving goodbye as I pull off. Don't ever expect the driver to wait around til everyone is back. I got a schedule to keep and I wanna go home damnit. It's why they don't like us making unscheduled rest stops. All that being said, a lot of drivers will make some sort of effort to verify everyone is back. But don't depend on it