Post-vacation means there’s a lot of things that need to get done pronto waiting for you when you get back. This whole polar vortex delaying and cancelling nearly the entire North America’s traveling plans reminds me of my own travels over the holiday break.
Over the holidays, my parents and I decided to head to Las Vegas for New Year’s. We were to take the train from the Bay Area down to Oxnard to meet my uncle there, then drive to Las Vegas the following day. However, this (what was supposed to be a) simple 8-hour train ride was beset with so many delays and problems, that it took us 13-hours instead, and we arrive at Oxnard past 11pm instead of the original arrival time of 7pm.
Here’s a quick recap of everything that could’ve gone wrong and went wrong:
1. Train arrives more than an hour late. Instead of 8:45am, it arrives past 10am.
2. The food bar runs out of some food and supplies.
3. The train runs slower than expected for a good couple of hours, only to find out that…
4. One of the two engines pulling our train is busted. We stop at one of the stations for a bit to see if the engineers on board can fix it.
5. Nope, they can’t. However, we need that second train in order to get up and over the mountains to go to Southern California. So…
6. They call in for help from the Union Pacific. We have to try to meet them in the middle of nowhere somewhere on our way down south. Hopefully, by the time we get to the meeting place they are there already as well.
7. Of course, they are not. Now, we’re just sitting in the middle of nowhere. It is night time and you can’t see anything outside. We feel like sitting ducks, waiting for a bandits on horses to take over our train like in the old western movies.
8. The second engine (which is apparently the electrical one) gives out. No electricity, so it means we’re all sitting in the dark.
9. Some time around after 8pm the Union Pacific arrives. The entire train is shut off so that it can be connected. This process apparently takes a while to make sure the connections are properly set.
10. After this entire ordeal, we arrive at Oxnard instead of 7pm but a little after 11pm. The trip took 13 hours.
Throughout all this I’ve witnessed how different people of different backgrounds handle public transportation and the stress of delays and out-of-our-hands problems.
1. Elderly woman sitting across the aisle complains multiple times to the train crew member that she is freezing. Worker tells her multiple times he does not control the overall cabin temperature. She has a jacket on. She then moves on to complain multiple times about the delays and that she now demands a refund. Finally, the crew member gets frustrated at her and tells her straight that he has no control of the situation and there is no way she’s getting a refund at this precise moment and she has the freedom to call the 1-800 number. This whole time her husband is chuckling at his wife, and has read two books throughout the entire ride.
2. Two guys we meet at the lounge make jokes as we’re sitting in the dark. One of them, though, starts getting irritated as the night goes on because he’s a couple of hours delayed on smoking a cigarette. If he knew we’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere for this long he would’ve gotten off the last station we were in for a quick puff. The other guy chuckles at first as we make jokes, but gets more and more silent as the other guy starts becoming more and more irritated and starts to voice his frustrations.
3. Mom sitting next to me is actually pretty decent. She takes this train often to visit her daughter in San Francisco from her Oxnard home. Apparently, there was one time they were stuck in the middle of nowhere for five hours because a car was trying to beat the train but hit it instead. We make light of the situation, and come to an understanding that with the situation we are in it is what it is. No point in fussing since we cannot do anything about it. We did admit that it is frustrating and we wish it didn’t happen. But, what can we do? We’re sure the conductor is trying his best and not just playing Angry Birds. We traded stories of our holidays, and also any other traveling nightmares we’ve been through.
The whole ordeal was crazy. Definitely not a good way to start your vacation off. But, when (bleep) hits the ceiling is when people’s true personalities come out. It’s when things don’t go as planned when things get interesting; seeing how people interact with the situation and with one another. There are those whose hot heads explode. A lot of yelling emanate from them, negativity, anger and rudeness. Then, there are the complainers who will just talk and talk about what they think is the obvious problem and the obvious solution, and their frustrations at why nobody is doing what they think should be done. Then, there are those who try to be the solution by getting involved directly. They ask questions, give suggestions, try to be hands-on and see what they can do to make the situation better (or worse).
I admit I’ve been at least once of each of those on several occasion. However, with this circumstance I was the quiet type who leaned back and waited for things to unfold. What was the point of blowing up? It wouldn’t have made the situation any better. We were stuck in a metal cylinder in the middle of nowhere until help arrived. It is what it is. It wouldn’t have done any good to complain and voice frustration. Sure, it would have made me feel better. Plus, there’s the whole freedom of speech thing. But, it would have only created more negativity and fueled more anger, which would not help with the situation. I know nothing about trains, so it’s not like I have advice or solutions to offer. So, in this circumstance all I did was patiently wait. I got to know strangers and share stories, like as if we were in the same platoon that’s going through a lull during a big battle. There was no escaping the situation. Unfortunately, there’s no way out of the train, literally (the train door was a few feet off the ground). So, I learned the virtue of “it is what it is” and accepted the situation until it resolved itself. Ended up reading a book and a half, met a few good people, had a few laughs, and took a couple of naps. It’s amazing how as a kid I refused to nap, and now it’s a blessing whenever you’re lucky to get it.