Best Laid Plans Still Come Apart When Stuff Happens
Brother-in-law Peter and I walk over to Toronto’s Union Station in the late afternoon to stash our luggage with VIA Rail, have a bite to eat, then head to the Rogers Center for the last of three games between the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. VIA Rail’s Train # 1, the Canadian, is scheduled to depart at 10:00 p.m. so it’s a given that we will have to leave the game early, probably about the 6th inning.
Ah, but the first inkling of trouble comes when we arrive at the station and see on the board that Train # 1’s departure time now reads 1:00 a.m. Whassup wid dat??
One of the VIA representatives says that there have been some problems with the incoming train — somewhere along the way a passenger became ill and had to be removed from the train and taken to a hospital. And there had been a “mechanical problem”, too. Net result: Number One has not yet arrived in Toronto. When it does, of course, it will have to be restocked with food, linens and all the rest; then serviced — fuel, water, windows washed, beds made up, salt shakers refilled, etcetera and so forth. All that and more must be done before the consist is “turned”, boarded and sent back out with us aboard en route to Winnipeg and Saskatoon and Edmonton and Jasper and, finally, Vancouver.
Wait! This might not be a problem. We will now be able to see the entire ballgame, stroll back to the station and still be in plenty of time for the 1:00 a.m. departure. Why, if they let us board at midnight, we could actually be tucked snugly in our berths and sound asleep by the time the Canadian pulls out at one o’clock.
And so off we go: Dinner, the entire game, and back in the station at 11:15 p.m.
Uh-oh! The big board now shows Train # 1 leaving at 2:00 a.m. We retrieve our bags and head for the first class lounge where we find some 200 passengers in various stages of agitation. Train # 1, we learn, is still out in the yard being serviced and — this just in by way of two-way radio — the departure time is now “estimated” at 3:30 a.m. Bravely, the VIA employee in charge of the lounge, an attractive women in her 40s, begins working her way around the room to convey those unwelcome tidings to the restless assemblage.
Whatever she is paid, tonight it’s not nearly enough. A big blustery man, wearing a baggy Navy blue sweat suit, glares at her: “You lied to us twice already,” he snarls. “How do I know this isn’t just another lie?” Then he turns to his audience, a handful of fellow passengers, most of whom seem embarrassed by his tirade. “VIA Rail!” he sneers. “What a bunch of amateurs!”
The VIA lady smiles apologetically, chooses not to engage, and moves off to relay these latest bad tidings to another cluster of passengers. She will make these rounds twice more, first to announce that that the boarding time is now firm, but will not be until 4:30 a.m. Then, finally, her last announcement for the evening: “Passengers holding sleeping car reservations may now board through Gate 17.”
In all, there are 21 cars on the train, including a baggage car, three coaches, four dome cars, two dining cars and 12 sleeping cars. The on board crew — car attendants and the cooks and servers working in the diners — is the same bunch that brought this train into Toronto some 10 hours ago. They’re all based in Winnipeg and it will be another two days and two nights before they get back home.
We finally roll out of Toronto at 5:05 a.m., seven hours and five minutes behind schedule. Behind us, the eastern sky is starting to turn pink.