Every tour has its own ecosystem, and within that ecosystem, the buses have their own as well. Just like in a situation at home with loved ones or roommates, quirks that you might not think are a big deal, can really add up and cause resentment over a long period of time.
Listen, I’m not gonna throw stones from my glass house on this one. I know I’m not a great bus mate. I have night terrors for Christ’s sake. But, I try to make up for it elsewhere.
These are tried, tested, and true ways to make it to the end of a bus tour with “How To Make Sure Your Bus Mates Don’t Hate You.”
As always here at Backstage Culture, we’re gonna break this down into multiple categories and commit to a template of touring.
- General Rules
- Who’s responsibility is it to…?
- What Makes A Great Bus Mate?
- How To Make Your Bus Mates Hate You
Let’s go with larger-scale touring where there are multiple crew buses and focus on that. Sure, there’s gonna be a ton of instances when you’re on a single bus tour and you have the artist with you. At which point, they’re going to dictate a lot of the general vibe on the bus. Maybe that’s a topic for the future, but for now, let’s focus on ourselves, (the crew) shall we?
Here are the general rules for every bus, no matter the size of the tour or which artist or bus company you go with.
No # 2’s
Everybody’s favorite rule to tell everyone. No shitting on the bus. This goes for any sort of solid waste for that matter. Not only is it gross and stinks the whole place up, but toilet paper or any sort of solid waste actually clogs the line. Some buses are equipped with “grinders” that turn solid waste into… less solid. If you don’t have those, and toilet paper gets stuck down at the pipe, then the driver has to go dig it out by hand. In the winter, it sometimes freezes. They will NOT BE IMPRESSED WITH YOU. See the @roadiedictionary instagram page if you don’t know what a “hot bag” is.
Let The Driver Know When You Get Off The Bus
Buses often stop in the middle of the night. Sometimes at truck stops, sometimes at rest stops, or some drivers even stop at certain times of the night to get some fresh air and take a break. If you don’t see the driver and make it dead clear that you’re getting off the bus, then they’re likely going to assume everyone is sleeping. A good way to let your driver know that you got off the bus is to leave your laminate on the driver’s seat. That’s an international language for “something is different than before I stopped, someone must be awake”. See @roadiedictionary for “Oil Spot”
Label Your Food
I shop for tons of treats on days off. I often go out to places and bring leftovers back to the bus. It’s important that I put my name (and date if you’re smart) on the item so that no one else takes it. Lots of food items are considered “for the bus” whether or not someone asked for it in particular. College roommate rules. No name, fair game.
Jump Seat Activities
It’s not the 90’s anymore. Most buses are non-smoking buses. That being said, depending on the driver, the jump seat (the seat beside the driver) is the designated smoking section. For as carnival as our lifestyle is, it’s pretty amazing science that someone can smoke in the jump seat, and as long as the door or curtain is closed, the smoke gets sucked right out of the window.
There are many others, but I think most of them are preference-based from tour to tour, or camp to camp. Now that we’ve gone of the basic general rules, let’s get down to something a little more meaty.
Who’s Responsibility Is It To…?
This one is a bit of a grey area. The short answer is… Yours. It’s your responsibility to not act like a jackass in a shared space. It’s your responsibility to clean up after yourself. And It’s most definitely your responsibility to be accountable for your actions.
That’s why I like to…
Appoint a Bus Leader
I like to appoint a bus leader for each bus. They’re normally, but not always, someone on tour whose load is a little lighter on a day-to-day basis. They’re generally very experienced with bus touring and can provide guidance and solutions to most situations. Or… They’re the one person who is the most particular and it drives them crazy to have everyone else running around wild without rules. Those people appoint themselves.
This is gonna piss some people off. But, it’s not the driver’s responsibility to clean up after you. It’s your responsibility to clean up the counters, put garbage in the chute, and not leave food out.
It’s the driver’s responsibility to change the garbage bags, mop the floor, and clean the bathroom. If you wanna get some extra treatment, find a way to get on your driver’s good side.
Tip Your Driver
I was on a tour last year where my bus mates were pooling together money to tip the driver. Is this something that people riding on the bus normally do? Normally as the TM, I’ll tip the drivers on behalf of the tour. Someone hit me up about this. Am I doing it wrong?
Also, Drivers… Don’t ask for tips. I had one driver bring it up like 5 or 6 times for a 3.5-week run. That doesn’t make me wanna do it more.
Anyways, Now we’ve got a foundation of General Rules and Responsibilities…
What Makes A Great Bus Mate?
Have Some Respect For The People Around You
It’s a mixture of empathy, compassion, and spatial awareness. This is as basic as it gets. Be respectful to the people around you. Don’t leave your shit laying around everywhere. Don’t touch stuff that isn’t yours. And most importantly, don’t fuck with anyone’s attempt to get some sleep.
Bunk VS Common Areas
I had a friend this past summer put it into a great perspective. If the bus is an apartment, then your bunk is your bedroom, and the lounges are like the living rooms (Shared spaces). If you wanna live like an animal, by all means, destroy your bunk. But if you want to make sure your bus mates don’t hate you, keep it out of the shared spaces.
Use Your Indoor Voice
At any time of the day, someone could be sleeping on your bus. That’s one thing that’s very unique to touring. Different roles work at different points throughout the day. When folks aren’t working, they could very likely be recharging. If you want your bus mates to love you, it starts with whispering whenever you’re in bunk alley.
There are a lot of great ways to get people to love you… but we need to spend some time on the other side of the coin.
How To Make Your Bus Mates Hate You
Forget To Turn Your Radio Off At Night
This one is special and near and dear to my heart. You wanna get on my bad side? Bring your radio into a junk bunk or the back lounge and leave it on overnight. Nothing… I repeat NOTHING boils my blood like rummaging in the dark through people’s bags to try and find a radio whose battery is dying. Even if I have to tear the whole bus apart… I will find it… And I will hate you forever.
Leave Your Shoes In the Walkway
I’ve got a good idea, let’s leave our black shoes that camouflage with the floor right in the walkway. What could go wrong? Wanna make it even better? Have them smell like you took a dehydrated vinegar piss on a dead animal carcass. No. Put your stinky shoes in a drawer so I don’t trip on them in the middle of the night or worse, smell them from my bunk.
Speaking of feet… I have a funny side story. I did a bus share with a band over a decade ago. For those of you that don’t know what a bus share is… it’s when the band you’re working for and another band don’t have enough money for a bus, so you take 6 bunks each and split the cost… Anyways… One of the guys from the other band kept talking about how he needed to go to the doctor cuz he had a rash on his feet from the tour showers. Then I kept seeing this guy walking around on our bus barefoot.
Naturally, I got pretty outspoken about it. What was I supposed to do? Sit there and watch him infect the floor of the whole bus with his wart feet. He was less confrontational than me and kinda shrugged it off, making me more annoyed. So I went out on a day off and bought Tinactin and Gold Bond Medicated Powder to at least give myself some protection. I wasn’t trying to bring that home to my wife.
Anyways… turns out it wasn’t his feet at all and the rash was on his privates but he was too embarrassed to tell us. Another day in the life…
Man, it feels good to be back. I’ve said this before… but the toughest part about running an online magazine for roadies is the fact that I’m still on tour the majority of the time. I’ve gotta admit, I got a little heated thinking about How To Make Your Bus Mates Hate You. It got kinda dark. But that’s showbiz babyyy.
I try and leave every article with something positive. For this one… let’s be grateful that you aren’t chasing the buses in a van and trailer. I’ve always found it funny that you’ve “made it” when you start waking up in alleyways and loading docks in a bunk bed with a bunch of other people. It’s a hilarious, amazing life we live. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
See you out there