I don't know about you, but I myself enjoy a certain level of trashy in my life. I become deeply excited by things like bedazzled cell phones, baby mamas and facial tattoos. If I can find all of these things in one place, well, so much the better. So I have always adored traveling on the Chinatown bus, an experience that is as typically Struggledelphian as cheese steaks or getting into a drunken fight at a sporting event (ask me about my youth hockey league). For between twenty and forty dollars you can board a bus at the corner of 11th and Arch and it will take you to other Chinatowns in Boston, Washington D.C., and New York City. Cheap, fast, and probably funded by the Chinese mafia, the Chinatown bus has carted many a teenager trying to leave home, many a hungover hipster, many an illegal Chinese family and many, many others from one city on the eastern seaboard to the next, asking only for a small fee and that you keep your feet off the seats. Sketchy it might be at times, but it gets you where you need to go.
However, of late the Chinatown bus has faced some serious competition from a new kid on the block, the Bolt Bus. The Bolt bus claims to be cleaner, faster, stronger, which incidently is Kanye's sequel to last year's hit. Well, I'm sorry Kanye, but I took an experimental ride on this new line this Saturday and let me tell you, the Bolt bus is in reality a HUGE struggle, and here's why:
1. You have to get on the Bolt Bus at the corner of Market and shadiness. At least the Chinatown bus is right by Reading Terminal Market, so you can grab a freshly made Amish pretzel before your journey.
2. My bus didn't have air conditioning. Okay, fine, that sucks, but I can live.
3. Apparently the other passengers couldn't. We stopped at a rest stop in New Jersey to wait for a new bus.
4. The new bus took too long to come. We continued in the heat.
5. We stopped at ANOTHER rest stop in New Jersey and got on another bus. This bus did have air conditioning. I almost froze.
6. Arriving in New York an hour and a half late I ran to the show I had come to see (the gloriously funny Machines.... whose antics made it worth the struggle), cursing the Bolt bus.
7. The way back was no better. I arrived in Struggledelphia at 10:40pm, despite the proposed arrival time of 9:15pm, sweaty, dirty, and halfway through Anna Karenina. Looking out on the city as I waited for my father to come pick me up, I thought I saw the bright lights of Chinatown in the distance. Oh, Chinatown bus. I'm never ever trusting anyone but you again. Say what you will about the mafia, but it gets results.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.