Clean, cheap and fast

I've been on my share of buses.

Greyhound buses. Chinatown buses. Ecuadorian cockroach buses. Lotta buses, man. None of 'em good.

So as I walk past the state Capitol this past brisk Saturday morning on my way to Old Sacramento, coffee in hand, to catch the 8 a.m. Megabus to San Francisco, I look back to all the buses I've known.

I've seen some things. Boy, have I been on some buses.

Down in South America, the drivers try to freeze you. I swear it. And then they stop in these little pueblos and let old men and sun-dried ladies and little girls onboard to hawk sweets and water and empanadas.

These girls, they alight before you take your first bite of the empanada, of course, and you realize, after nearly choking to death on a chicken bone, that litigation was never really an option here. You've done this to yourself.

But this Megabus? It's not so bad, I decide, as I hop onboard and climb to the upper deck, taking a seat in the second row and listening to the pretty woman give safety tips on the TV up front.

This is a nice bus. The seats are stiff, sure, but the interior is blue and clean and most of all warm, and I decide that this may not be as bad as the others.

The others, man.

When you take the creaky, lurching red-eye in Peru from Cusco to Lima, you worry about being robbed by the Shining Path. You think about this until your Australian friend with a hernia hands you a pill to help you relax. And you just take it. You just take the pill. You don't ask what it is, so you probably shouldn't be surprised when you wake up three hours later, in the dead of the night, unable to stand or shift or scream. You shouldn't be surprised by this. But you are.

But this is nice. The ride to the coast is scenic. Undulating hills and all that. My fellow passengers are quiet and courteous and mindful of the hour. This is nothing like the other buses. Those other buses, man.

Try the Greyhound from Denver to Phoenix. Just try it once. But don't expect to sleep. Your fellow passengers will be talkers. They'll have a lot to say. Many of them will use cellphones. They will be loud.

And as the bus nears Albuquerque, N.M, for your transfer, the driver will speak to the passengers in Spanish. Which is fine, until a 15-year-old boy up front stands up and says, “Would you mind repeating that in American?”

The driver will not repeat it in American. But the boy will be propositioned by a dusty old man at the Albuquerque transfer stop to come with him to a hotel room and watch pornography.

But none of this happens on the Megabus to San Francisco. The Megabus is uneventful and quiet. It is a short trip. It is cheap (prices start at $1 for a one-way ticket). It is a smooth, clean and easy ride, and as I climb off the bus and wend my way north toward Chinatown, I call up my friend in the Presidio to tell him I've arrived early.

That is how nice this Megabus is.