Dealing with Stuff, When Stuff Happens.
Amtrak’s on-time performance has been steadily improving, but anyone who has traveled by train more than a few times has had a trip when something has gone wrong. The locomotive breaks down. Your train is delayed over and over for freight traffic. Or there’s bad weather or a mudslide. Let’s face it: stuff happens.
Losing your temper is far and away the worst thing you can do. Besides, the on board crew is never to blame anyway, so what’s the point of beating up on them?
But if your train is seriously late and you have missed a connection and your travel plans are badly snarled, when your train finally arrives, my best advice is to run – no, sprint!– to the Amtrak customer service rep who is waiting to help. Remember there could be 100 or more passengers all frustrated, many of them angry, and all needing help from customer service. It can literally take hours before all the problems have been sorted out and dealt with for all those people. You have one simple goal: be first in line!
Some years back, while crossing Montana on the Empire Builder, I saw a wonderful example of how best to deal with a little adversity. It was during lunch in the dining car as I was enjoying an interesting conversation with my tablemate, a middle-aged man from Great Britain. He was on a month-long tour of the U.S. and doing it all by Amtrak.
As we were lingering over coffee, the conductor came through the diner and stopped briefly at our table. “I hate to tell you this,” he said, “but a freight has broken down up ahead and we’re probably going to be four hours late getting into Seattle.”
My luncheon companion positively beamed. “Jolly good!” he exclaimed, “then we really are getting our money’s worth, aren’t we!” As far as he was concerned, we were all getting an additional four hours of train travel … and for free!
When stuff happens, that’s the attitude we should all have. Or try to have.