Megabus and the Real-Life Ethical Dilemma

MegabusDamn, I felt today like I was in the boat scene from The Dark Knight.

Most of you dudes know I split my time these days between school in Ann Arbor and home in Chicago. The best way to get back and forth is Megabus, which I took yet again today.

(For anyone interested, here’s a quick cost-benefit analysis of the transportation links between Ann Arbor and Chicago:

  1. Megabus – Cost averages $25, mostly comfortable, takes 4.5 hours including stop for food — though sadly, only at Hardee’s. Nasty.
  2. Amtrak – Cost is $29 on weekdays but $75 on weekends. Most comfortable option, but delayed so often that it averages six hours per trip.
  3. Driving – Cost depends on MPG (about 3/4 tank when I take the VW) but you can’t really do any work. Takes about four hours, and you then have to find parking.
  4. Greyhound – Hellz no.)

To finally get to the point of my post, today we hit the food break at the Love’s truck stop — the one with the Hardee’s — at mile marker 110, which not only has just one fast-food option but also plays Fox News in the dining area. (Megabus used to stop at the truck stop in Sawyer, Mich., which has a Popeye’s, BK, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut Express. Now that is a quality junk-food spread. I think Love’s must have started paying them to subject us to Hardee’s.) I ate a Thickburger anyway and we left 30 minutes later.

Next up was the exercise in group morality: The driver came on the intercom about 20 miles past Love’s and announced that a passenger was left behind at the truck stop. Whoops. The driver had made several announcements when we stopped that everyone had to be back on by 3 p.m. EST, but whoever this person was somehow failed to note the time. The driver initially said he was going to turn around despite his anger and pick up the person, which would have resulted in us being about 40-50 minutes late in arriving. A bunch of passengers told the driver to keep going anyway — because hey, screw that anonymous guy — so he then announced he was not turning around.

I and the passengers around me found this a bit heartless — anybody who plans an urgent event based on a bus’s on-time arrival is an idiot — so I went downstairs and told the driver he should go back, and despite us both being pissed at the passenger, I could tell he felt the same way. He went on the intercom one more time and said he was turning around, but then enough people howled in protest that we ended up heading to Ann Arbor as scheduled, leaving the unknown passenger to fend for him/herself until the next Megabus comes through. With that bus not leaving Chicago until 4:45 p.m. CST, that comes out to an almost six-hour wait at the truck stop if there isn’t some other ride available. Ouch.

So what was the right course of action? After all, the passenger was at fault for not paying attention to the multiple announcements about being back to the bus on time. How would have you voted? Drop some ethical knowledge in the comments section and let me know. Also, give me a ride next time so I can avoid these philosophical quandaries.

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9 Responses to “Megabus and the Real-Life Ethical Dilemma”

  1. They should go back. You KNOW that person would have been super apologetic but also super appreciative. If it was a woman maybe she got stuck in a long line for the restrooms. Or maybe she was just an airhead, but I bet she’ll never do it again.

    Every single person on that bus would wish the bus turned around and went back for them if they were the ones who somehow got left behind, and they KNOW it. Enough people have cell phones these days that everyone can call whoever was going to pick them up at the train station to say they’re running late, and I’m sure there are enough nice people who’d lend their cell phone to those who don’t have one to do the same.

    You’re a mensch.

  2. I see both sides though — what about the moral hazard argument? If we go back for this person, will other people think it’s OK to delay the rest of the passengers? There’s no guarantee this person would have learned a lesson if the bus went back.

    For me it was a calculation – 40 minutes isn’t that big of an inconvenience to us in this situation, but I would think differently if this were a plane or a train. Then again, those can’t exactly turn around and go back very easily.

  3. Seems like a pretty cut-and-dried case of The Golden Rule.

    I’ve never been on a Megabus, but I presume from your telling of this story that this type of thing does not happen on a regular basis.

    Who knows why the person didn’t heed the call to get back on the bus but they clearly didn’t do it to hang out at Hardee’s for six hours of Thickburger bliss.

    In the end, we rarely know what’s going on in the lives of others. Maybe that person just received a distressing phone call and was too distracted to notice the time. Or a slew of other possibilities.

    It’s sad to me that so many people are so self-involved that they can’t take a little time out of their lives to help a fellow human being.

    Good for you for suggesting to the driver that he go back.

  4. I was almost left once at the fast food mecca truck stop. I ordered a pizza and they forgot to make it. I was hungover and not paying attention, assuming that I would grab my pizza and head back to the bus in plenty of time. However, it didn’t happened that way and I literally got on the bus as it started moving.

    Mistakes happen. I’m with you. They should have gone back.

    Posted by Whitney | November 10th, 2009 at 10:07 am
  5. Do the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the one, or the few. ST drivel aside. I’m sorry that someone got left behind, if it was just me, I’d go back. But taking almost an hour out of 40-50 peoples lives just to help one person? They’d have to have one hell of a reason for missing the bus.

    Posted by Brice Ligget | November 11th, 2009 at 6:51 pm
  6. The driver gave enough advanced warning when the bus would be leaving. It’s each individual’s responsibility to be on the bus at that time.

    The driver should have done a head-count prior to leaving to ensure all were aboard, but is that really his responsibility?

    Perhaps it’s my military background that taught me to be where I’m supposed to be and when, and if I can’t be there, I better let someone know as soon as I know. And I guess I hold others to these same standards.

    This shouldn’t be a new concept to people either, an average person is expected to let others know if they’re going to be late, whether it’s a job, interview, etc.

    I think there are very few exceptions to this rule, such as a child traveling without an adult (do they allow that on busses? what parent would do such a thing?) Airplanes won’t return for missed passengers, why should a bus?

  7. Seems odd that the driver didn’t bother to do a head-count before leaving, only to realize he was missing a rider 20 miles later.

    I agree with you and the other person who said that there are just too many reasons someone could have missed the deadline. Although it could’ve just been a case of absent-mindedness, there’s enough chance something legitimate came up to not subject this person to a six-hour wait.

    Big props to you for making your case to the driver and risking the wrath of your less patient fellow riders!

  8. Yea, yea, yea…. get out you hankies and dry your eyes.

    Poor planning on someone’s part does not constitute and emergency on mine.

  9. What if the reason he/she missed the bus was that he/she couldn’t tear themselves away from Fox News? Then what would you have said to the driver?

    Posted by Eddie | May 4th, 2011 at 5:16 pm

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