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TheStreet Open House

Chinatown Bus: Ode to a Cheap Thrill

(Ho!) I don't think you're right for him

(Hey!) Look at what it might have been if you

(Ho!) Took a bus to Chinatown

(Hey!) I'd be standing on Canal

(Ho!) And Bowery

(Hey!)

(Ho!) And she'd be standing next to me

(Hey!)

- The Lumineers, "Ho Hey"

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- On the Friday before St. Patrick's Day weekend a decade ago, I found myself in the basement dining room of Wo Hop -- an infamous, if touristy, late-night Chinese restaurant on Mott Street in New York's Chinatown -- at sunrise eating egg foo yung and watching the staff turn a corner table full of meat and dough into rows of dumplings.

I was working as a copy editor at a newspaper in North Jersey at the time, and both cash and days off were hard to come by. After wrangling a Sunday-Thursday schedule, I decided to make the most of both my time and money by booking a ticket on a Fung Wah bus and crashing on the floor of a friend's bedroom in South Boston for the Saturday St. Patrick's Day parade down West Broadway.

Not only did I get a 5:30 a.m. bus out for $10, but it took me up I-95 in four hours, gave me two days to spend doing the things idiots do when turning an hours-long St. Patrick's Day parade into a two-day affair and brought me home Sunday with a Boston Phoenix and Newbury Comics bag next to me and plenty of time to make my Sunday night shift. The Fung Wah was convenient, it was quick and, now I'm told, it could have very well been the end of me.

Earlier this month, the federal Department of Transportation shut down Fung Wah after the company responded to initial concerns about safety by blocking access to its records. In the past two years it has been cited for 159 maintenance violations, racked up nearly a dozen speeding tickets and has been cited for employing drivers without commercial driver's licenses.

Oh, there's also the small matters of running over pedestrians on the Manhattan Bridge, related on BoweryBoogie.com, overturning in Massachusetts, described in the Worcester Telegram, and getting involved in myriad other calamities in recent years, noted in a boston.com editorial.

That brought the scolds out of the armchairs to remind the rest of us how lucky we are to still be alive (though Fung Wah never killed anyone). The New Yorker dusted off Bob Dylan's "Farewell Angelina" for a parody song that sounds like Weird Al Yankovic's dad giving him a lecture about the perils of low-cost coach travel.

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