Apr 20, 2010

Dear Amtrak

Dear Amtrak,

I'm writing you today to discuss your New York-Savannah service on the Palmetto line that I had the pleasure of experiencing this past Sunday as I was coming home from Charleston.  As with all forms of travel, there were some highs and there were some lows.  The highs included the friendly service, roomy accommodations and a scenic view through some lovely mid-Spring vistas.

The lows, however, were pretty freaking low.

The lowest point occurred after our stop in Washington DC.  Your service switches from diesel to electric at that point, so there is a short break as you switch engines.  Except that our short break lasted about 2 and 1/2 hours.  The first engine they attached to the train made it about 100 yards out of the station before it broke down, and the second one had to be built from scratch or so it seemed.

Now, I normally would have no problem with this kind of delay.  I was choosing to travel via rail.  A mode of transportation that takes 5-6 times as long as flying while costing approximately the same price.  I was doing it of my own free will.  I wanted to travel that way.  It's usually something that I enjoy.

But that 2 1/2 wait turned into something out of a horror film.  Since the engine was broken we had no electricity.  That means no AC, no overhead reading lights and no lights in the bathroom.  There was literally nothing to do in that time period except close your eyes and try to sleep in the stale air of the rail car.  The infrequent announcements apologizing for the delay made no estimates as to when we would be moving again.  Maybe your team could have let us off the train until such time that we were ready to go again.  I don't know.  Anything other than just sitting there in the dark.

And that sleep that I mentioned as the only remaining option?  Wasn't going to happen.  Because there were these two women with young children seated across the aisle from me.  The kids were mostly awesome.  They slept just about the entire way from Charleston to Washington DC.  But since they were getting off at Baltimore their mothers woke them up, thinking they were only 30 minutes away from home.  That 30 minutes turned into 3 hours because of the delay.  And it wasn't a quiet 3 hours, no sir.  These formerly awesome little kids must have saved up all of their energy during their naps because they spent that 3 hours running around, screaming and crying.  It was delightful.

So I don't know if this kind of delay is "normal" for your service.  I've traveled by rail before and this was the first significant delay I've experienced.  But after about an hour in the hot, fetid, dark air of the rail car with two screaming kids, I was convinced that I had done something horribly wrong in a past life. 

You should offer this service as a method of torture to Homeland Security.  I would have given my mother up to get that freaking train moving again.

Sincerely yours,
An Unsatisfied Customer

Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. Next time....I'm flying.  Probably.


Lifeofkaylen said...

Trains sound fun!

And I know it's hard to believe, but as hard as it was on you--it was probably ten times as hard on the mom. You have the freedom to highly dislike those kids and wish horrible things upon them for being noisy kids who are making you miserable, whereas she is bound to love them at all times. It's hard being a mom.

savannah said...

great post, but did y'all really complain top amtrak? ;~D xoxoxo

Mrs. Hall said...

you did do something very, very wrong in a past life. you must have. next time bring a flask. :)

Mrs. Hall said...

and I gaurentee you, the parents felt 600 times worse. nothing worse than being trapped with your children while they get their crank on in full force.

and yet

trapped with others, hence no where to beat them.


sybil law said...

What Kaylen and Mrs. Hall said about the parents!!

And oh, God - I'd have given up my own mother, too. That sucks!

Water Logged Canine said...

A few years ago, about 12 to be exact, my uncle's retina detached leaving him partially blind in one eye. Of course, this was a traumatic life-changing event, but it was somehow made easier when he received a get well card from a neighborhood boy. After he opened the card, it simply stated, "I'm sorry it happened." We still share laughs about it to this day...and share the sentiment whenever life throws us a curve.

My friend, I'm sorry it happened.

Verdant Earl said...

Kaylen - Oh, I certainly was wishing horrible things on those kids.

Savannah - Not yet. I'm one of those people that feels like complaining never works out. We'll see.

Holly - I would have been fine with seeing them beat the kids.

Sybil - I'd never make a good spy.

Doggie - 'Twas my own doing, really.

Slyde said...

This story makes me happy all over...

Avitable said...

You really should send that letter verbatim to them. I've found that complaints, when written intelligently, do get responses from many companies.

Bruce Johnson said...

I have had similar issues with Amtrak in the past. But considering that they are run by the government, I am surprised that the trains even move at all. However, I would still opt for the train instead of flying. While the "Trak" is bad, it still beats a cattle car with wings.

Verdant Earl said...

Slyde - Why ya gotta be a joik?

Avitable - Done and done. We'll see what they say.

Bruce - Yeah, that's how I feel about flying too.

RW said...

I'd give up your mother too.

Er.... wait...

Kate said...

Damn. Those screaming brats make old bitty bitch sound like a pleasure..
well, maybe not.

As Water Logged said..

Mrs. Hall said...

THAT was funny, your response!

cause seriously.


Verdant Earl said...

RW - She's quite the criminal mastermind.

Kate - And they were so well behaved while they were sleeping. ;)

Holly - ppfft indeed!

Kevin Spencer said...

Good lord how I miss trains. Not exactly a popular way to travel here in Phoenix let me tell you.

Barlinnie said...

Utterly brilliant!

Verdant Earl said...

Kevin - not very popular here on the East Coast either. The Acela Express between NY and Boston is okay.

Jimmy - shucks!

Faiqa said...

At least you didn't have to sleep at Charles deGaulle airport because Mt. Kkjjlkdlie erupted and they can't fly planes. Whatababy.

Verdant Earl said...

Faiqa - I think you may have spelled that wrong. There's a space between "de" and "Gaulle". :)