Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Amtrak: Minneapolis to Chicago

The train was late on the return trip and didn’t actually arrive in Minneapolis until over an hour after I got to the station. Boo – that hour would have been much better spent hanging with the bro, sleeping or showering. I did get to hear an old woman waiting for her son to arrive on leave from the military to grip about 1). The utilitarian nature of the station/trains compared to their luxurious past glory; 2.) The high cost of tickets, and; 3.) The government subsidization of Amtrak. Hmmmmm....... Seems to me that she has some inconsistencies because somehow she wants passengers to pay less to travel in more luxury while also removing the government funding. Certainly more efficient management could free up some funds, but her expectations seemed quite unrealistic.

Finally we boarded and I headed straight to the observation car to nest again. Both customers and crew were bitching about the hellion boys who kept everyone awake the night before. Apparently their mother couldn’t/wouldn’t control them and they didn’t listen to the crew. According to the stories, they were running up and down the aisles fighting and yelling all night long. The boys had just fallen asleep and many of the adult passengers suggested that they band together to be loud and obnoxious and prevent the boys from sleeping in retaliation.

The crew didn’t know what to do. My thoughts were this: Approach the mother and tell her that the next time her boys are seen breaking rules by a crew member, or the crew receives another complaint, then they will be discharged at the next station – and then follow through. I can’t even begin to imagine how much it would suck to get kicked off the train in Winona and have to find an alternate way to Chicago. I saw the kids – they were all around pre-teen age – certainly old enough to understand this threat and also old enough to know better. For all I know the crew maybe did give this family the smack-down, because I barely saw/heard them.

The other kids on the train were basically well-behaved. I hate ill-behaved brats and their parents, but I do recognize that most children behave reasonably well. One child was approximately two years old and she behaved perfectly every time I saw her. A few times when she started to get excited and begin speaking even slightly loudly her mother calmly reminded her to speak quietly – and she did without a fuss. She is at least one example of a very young child being able to learn to behave. I think it can be done, but parents have to instill discipline and expectations early. I remember many occasions when I was bored out in public with my mom, or with guests and simply sat their daydreaming. I don’t however remember running around squealing, nor do I remember my parents ever pleading or yelling at me. I knew what was expected and did it. Why is it so hard for so many parents today to convey this to their kids?

Two women complained for over two hours about needing a cigarette. They couldn’t stop talking about it. Then they complained about how their family and friends wanted them to quit and how they were sick of hearing about it. Randomly, they both mentioned that their most successful attempt to quit was ruined by a driving – one woman took a long road trip and resumed smoking, and another started smoking when she accepted a new job that required commuting by car. The stress of driving was what each woman said triggered her renewed smoking. Hmmm..... I thought driving = freedom/excitement/fun. The stressful nature of driving rarely gets mentioned.

Once in Chicago, I found my bike safe and sound at the rack in front of the station. Most people seemed concerned about leaving a bike there overnight, but mine has never been messed with.


At 7:10 AM, Blogger George said...

From your adventure on Amtrak,it's hardly a surprise that they are having a hard time making any money.

A friend of mine calls them a Greyhound with steel wheels.

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Tincéir said...

I rather enjoy the train; I've met interesting people on nearly all my Amtrak trips. Less than 2 weeks ago I rode from Milwaukee to Minneapolis, and met Devon Evans... former band member of the Wailers. Fun stuff.

I'm not trying to invalidate your negative experience btw, and I totally agree that Amtrak needs better management... just saying that it's not always a bummer to take the train.


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