Monday, January 16, 2012

The Long Way Home

Monday didn't start quite as early as Friday did, but it was early enough at 4am. My brother shuttled me down to the Forsyth Grayhound terminal so I could catch the 6:30am bus south to Miami and points in between, including Orlando.

Getting on the Bus

Getting into the Atlanta Greyhound terminal was as simple as walking in, getting a tag for my one piece of luggage, and then queueing up at door #6. Loaded into the bus starting at 6am, and then on the road back to Orlando by 6:30am.


Buses don't just make a beeline trip between destinations. They make numerous stops a long the way. The first stop was in Macon about an hour after we started. Most of the stops were fairly fast, with passengers getting off and new passengers getting on. Two of the stops were 30-minute layovers where the passengers could get a bite to eat. The first was in Tifton, the next stop after Macon, and the second was in Ocala, right before the final leg (for me) to Orlando.

Watching It All Roll By

The Greyhound buses are undergoing something of a transformation these days. They're nice, clean, modern, and quite comfortable. The bus I traveled home on had standard American 120V electrical outlets at most seats and open "free" WiFi on the bus. I tried the WiFi using my Android phone, but eventually turned it off because I discovered my T-Mobile connection was faster, and more significantly, I discovered that whey you use Greyhound's WiFi all web pages are wrapped in a "frame" with a Greyhound advertisement banner running across the top of every single web page. That might not be too bad for a device with a large screen, but for a smartphone the banner took up too much screen real estate, and was thus Highly Annoying.

I suppose that's the price you pay for "free" WiFi. My solution works because I'm paying for unlimited data with T-Mobile. For others not so fortunate the banner is something they're going to have to live with, along with the slow throughput. I would imagine that the bus' WiFi is based on technology very much like Verizon's MiFi (which I also have via my job). Greyhound advertises this bus-based WiFi as a way to surf the web and keep up with your email. I'm curious to see what will happen when someone wants to stream YouTube or Netflix, especially more than one someone. You only have one pipe on the bus, and I'll bet the aggregate is fixed. That means that everybody shares the one connection, and it'll only take one "data hog" to make it excruciatingly slow for everyone.

Or maybe not. My worst-case scenario assumes that the typical Greyhound traveler can afford a portable device capable of streaming copious amounts of data, like a Netflix movie, across WiFi. On my bus trips I saw passengers with feature phones texting, or else they read books or magazines they brought with them, or listened to music stored on their phones or dedicated players, or else they just rested against the window and watched the landscape slip past.

Scanned at Greyhound Orlando

And then, of course, there was Orlando, back where I started last Friday. And the same group of security guards scanning dangerous passengers as they walked into the bus station. In all the bus stations we stopped at, both up to Atlanta and back, including Atlanta, there was no other security check at all. It is only Orlando that has the heavy-handed security checking like you see above, complete with rifling through all your personal possessions. Who authorized this, and why would they consider retirees, students, and regular folks to require such invasive inspection? What do they think they're trying to protect the bus traveling public from?

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