Ask the Bus Etiquette Lady

The bus is still your best transportation value, especially with personal incomes down and airfares sky high–pun intended! Unfortunately, many Americans are woefully ignorant of the “unwritten rules” of the road when it comes to bus travel–but the Bus Etiquette Lady is here to help!

Velma and Gene, in happier times

Dear Bus Etiquette Lady:

I recently traveled by bus from Lee’s Summit, MO to Denver. As you may know, Kansas is bo-ring so I brought along a pint of Jack Daniels Green Label, which is more affordable than the high-priced “Black” label.

Anyway, I sat down next to a woman named “Velma” who had brung a 2-liter bottle of Coke along. We got to talking, it turned out she had just broken up with her boyfriend and–well, it just seemed natural that we’d be together for the ride.

The trip took all night and I will admit, I did get frisky with Velma but we practiced “safe bus sex” as you have advised readers in the past–way back by the restroom so nobody would hear us. When I woke up in the morning Velma was beaming and holding up a little white stick, I said what’s that and she said “I’m pregnant!”

Bus Etiquette Lady, I was suspicious so I asked why she even bothered to check and she said she had missed her period when she woke up. I asked if she looked in the overhead racks and she said yes she searched everywhere and couldn’t find it so she had to take the test.

I know bus tickets are subject to Department of Transportation regulation. Is there some way they could give Velma a DNA test so I know the baby is mine and not the guy who dumped her?

Gene Houchens, Lone Jack MO

Dear Gene–

All I can say is–oh my! “Bus paternity entrapment” is on the rise according to federal transportation officials, who recommend that single men carry condoms and No-Doz to ensure that they are not preyed upon by unscrupulous females.

Dear Bus Etiquette Lady:

I am currently on a bus trip, writing you from the “Business Centre” at the I-70 Truck Stop in Normal, Illinois. I am on a Daughters of the Spanish-American War-sponsored tour of New England, and was hoping to get a window seat on the left-hand side so as to better see the ocean as we head south from Ogunquit, Maine. I read your column on “POSH: Port Out, Starboard Home” as the best seat strategy for maximum water viewing.

Well, I got my hair done for the trip and the beauty parlor was low on cash so I had to go across the highway and get change for a five at the Kwiki-Mart, when I got to the bus terminal there was only one window seat left, on the right–if you follow me.

Now we are at our first “rest stop” and I hurried back from the ladies room to claim a seat on the other side only to be told by Mary Louise Peckham that she has “dibs” on her seat for the whole trip!

Ms. Bus Etiquette Lady, that doesn’t seem fair. Can you please send me a fax c/o the Carmel, Indiana Stuckey’s, that is where we are stopping next. I will get you some peanut brittle if you give me the right answer.

Luellen Jepson, “en route”

“C’mon, people–back to your seats! I want to be an airline stewardess before I die.”

Dear Luellen:

By a wonderful coincidence, you’re both right–and wrong! According to the American Association of Bus Travelers Code of Ethics, “dibs” are good until you reach a final destination, but the “turnaround” point at which you begin your trip home counts as an “FD.” So Mary Louise can keep that seat until you reach an ocean, preferably the Atlantic, then it’s yours–all the way back to whatever rock you two crawled out from under!

Dear Bus Etiquette Lady:

My husband Floyd and I are getting ready to leave on our “dream” bus vacation from Mankato, Minnesota to Padre Island, Texas. I was just putting my knitting needles in my sewing bag when Floyd told me you can’t take them on a bus anymore, it’s something to do with terrorism.

Bus Etiquette Lady, is that right? I don’t recall reading about any “busjackings.”

(Mrs.) Judith Pfeiffer

Dear Judith:

Unfortunately in these tense and troubled times, knitting, crewel work and needlepoint have in fact been banned on interstate buses by the Department of Homeland Security. I would suggest that you take along a romance “book on tape,” but I have my doubts as to whether you could keep up with a battery-powered electronic device.

Dear Bus Etiquette Lady:

I recently traveled from Chattanooga to Georgia on a full bus. We hadn’t gone twenty miles before the man next to me falls asleep and when the stewardess came around with the complimentary bag of pork rinds I couldn’t wake him up. Turns out the guy was dead, so I asked the “stew” if we could maybe drop him off at the first county coroner’s office we came to–I wanted the extra leg room.

They stopped the bus and the driver came back and looked at the dead guy’s ticket and he had paid one-way fare to Atlanta so the driver said they couldn’t move him, otherwise his estate might make a claim against the bus company.

Ms. Bus Lady Etiquette, I think I’m entitled to a rebate. That guy started to smell something awful before we even hit Lumpkin County, and I had to bear the brunt of it.

Deward Darrow, Macon, Georgia

Dear Deward:

Frankly, I’m disappointed in you. Traveling with a dead friend by bus is a tradition with a long heritage in America, dating back at least to “Midnight Cowboy” in the 70′s when “Joe Buck” (Jon Voight) stuck by his little buddy “Ratso Rizzo” (Dustin Hoffman) after he passed away. I fear for the future of our country if bus travelers are going to become as cold and heartless as you. You were, however, entitled to the dead man’s bag of pork rinds.

“Don’t go changin’ . . .”

Dear Bus Etiquette Lady:

I recently took a bus trip from Prairie View, Texas to Kansas City and a guy pulled out a guitar and started playing and singing. He was pretty good, so people didn’t mind. After a while he asked if anybody had any requests and I called for “Me and Bobby McGee.” Well–it turns out the guy was a down-and-out Rhodes Scholar who had gone to Oxford with Kris Kristofferson so he threw in a bunch of verses that he said were taken from KK’s thesis, “Figures of Mitochondria in the Poems of William Blake.” I had to say I was pretty impressed, so when we got to my flag stop in Otterville I gave the guy a dollar tip and told him how much I’d enjoyed his playing.

As I was walking to my mom’s car–she came out to the highway to pick me up–the guy pulls back his window and says “Thanks a lot, you cheap bastard.”

Ms. Bus Etiquette Lady, as far as I know I was under no obligation to give him anything. Do you have any guidelines in case I ever ride with the guy again, which I hope I don’t.

Ewell Markey, Knob Noster MO

Bus Etiquette Lady “hits the road”!

Dear Ewell:

TV used to be free, but now you have to pay for cable. Same with bus-based “hootenannies”–some of these ramblin’ guys are struggling, just trying to clear a few bucks so they can send alimony checks back to the girls they’ve abandoned.

As a rule of thumb, you should tip 15-20% of the fare for the leg of the trip on which your request was sung, taking 1% off for any competing requests especially Billy Joel songs. Remember, it’s always better to “over” rather than “under” tip if you don’t want to get a reputation like that Luellen Jepson woman up above.

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

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3 thoughts on “Ask the Bus Etiquette Lady”

  1. I believe all these stories, which is living proof that I have taken many bus trips in my life.

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