As a teenage screw-up, I thought that drinking with my friends on a long distance Greyhound ride was the funniest thing ever and a great way to pass the time. Years later having a few beers (although in a much more low-key way) on a long distance bus also seemed like a good idea in South Korea, a country that has a very lax attitude toward public drunkenness.
My friends and I were traveling from the rustic island of Ganghwa-do back into the mad metropolis of Seoul. What looked like just a few hours on a map was in reality a whole day affair once we hit traffic. We hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before because what looked like a peaceful place to set up a tent on the beach was actually a nightmare. A nearby fish restaurant stayed open all night and blasted the same song for hours on end.
So before getting on the bus we all bought a handful of beers. Nobody looked at us twice. The first half of the trip was great – riding on twisting roads through the rice patties and green mountains of the island, and then crossing the bridge onto the mainland and satellite city of Incheon.
Then about four or five beers in, we hit the standstill traffic of Sunday afternoon Seoul. It was time to pee. But no bathroom! After so many Greyhound trips – not to mention lots of bus trips in Europe – I had taken it for granted that there would be a bathroom on the bus and hadn’t even checked.
Stupidly we finished the beer, thinking the traffic would get lighter, but we truly suffered for the several hours we had to wait in stop-and-go traffic. When the bus finally arrived in central Seoul, we ran into the station for the bathrooms. Now I make sure to always check for a bathroom, whether here in Mexico where I live now, the U.S., or anywhere. I might not drink beer on buses anymore, but a few cups of coffee beforehand can make for a really long trip.