Monday, December 12, 2011

Planes, Trains, Automobiles...

Public Transportation seems to fail miserably whenever I take it.

When I've flown, I've been meet over 90% of the time with long delays in airports. Okay, I do understand that delays cannot be helped.
But as service in the air industry gets poorer and poorer, my expectations while having a nice 'friendly flying' experience get worse each time I go.

So this past week I decided to experience taking the Amtrak to visit my son.

The trip down wasn't too bad. I missed my connection to the town of Sturtevant by literally 30 seconds.
I was given a refund and my son picked me up in Milwaukee.

The return trip was some sort of comical nightmare.
We should have known when we made our first stop and all the lights and power went off on the train.
My 'seat mate' and I looked at each and wondered allowed...

"Could this be a good sign?"

Within moments we were on our way again. I was able to watch a brilliant orange to red sunset as my seat mate talked endlessly on her cell phone. Other passengers were conversing and it was interesting to watch the interaction.

Other passengers buried their heads in books or stared off at nothing, not wishing to be engaged in 'passenger chatter'.

The train slowed.
Again, everything shut down.
Now more people looked around and wondered outloud...
"What the heck is going on?"
No announcement from the conductor.

We made our Columbus stop, and the Portage stop with the lights going off each time before the train proceeded.

Then finally the train slowed to a standstill.
Lights out. The fresh air filters, out.

After what seemed like an eternity...

An unseen voice came over the PA system.
"As you may have noticed, we have been having trouble with our engine..." the voice said. "We have our conductors out working on the problem. We'll notify you soon what the situation is."

The voice paused and then said..."Do not try to exit the train, do not try to open windows. You must stay on the train. You may not leave. Thank you."

We all glanced at our watches. Cell phones lit up the dark as people scrambled to call those who would and should be picking them up on the properly scheduled time.
Nervous laughter.
Some whispered cussing.

Someone called out that they should just go online and order a new train engine from and have it UPS'd same day.
Another said..."Well, then we really be here a long time!"

The group surrounding me started playing noises with their cell phones to pass the time. People recorded their voices and turned it into 'Robot Voices'. We laughed like kids.
We thought we should get together and go to the lounge and have a party at the 'bar'.

Someone got out gummy worms and passed them around. Another got out Oreo Cookies and passed them around. Pretzels appeared.
Bailey's Cream appeared and was given to anyone who had an empty container in which to drink from.

An array of people of different ages, racial backrounds, geographical backrounds, and educational backrounds suddenly seemed to meld together ~~ determined to make the best of a crappy situation.

Jokes were told, laughter abounded. People stood up and wandered from car to car.
Funny, the conductors seemed to have disappeared.

When one did walk hurriedly through the care one of us yelled out..."Hey, what about a keg of beer while we're waiting?"
He mumbled over his shoulder something about the wish for a Fifth...of Jack...and continued.

Okay, they were obviously not having a good time with a 17 car passenger train, crammed with people.

Nearly 2 hours later, when things had gotten pretty darned stuffy, the train lit up and we began to move.
No unseen voice explained a thing.

I thought that was pretty crappy.

But now we had a 'band' of travelers that had taken a potentially uncomfortable situation and had made it an experience worth remembering.

3 hours late, I got to my destination.
I have to wonder if what happened was a fluke, or was it a constant with trains?

After all, I really did enjoy the train ride.

Maybe I'll re-thank my options next time and drive my car...or maybe
...I won't.


  1. Despite the train troubles, it sounds like you got to interact with some pretty interesting people. :) Glad you got to visit with your son and DIL.

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