After Six Years on the East Coast, Apparently Public Transportation Still Confuses Me

Friday, July 26, 2013

Despite my frequent travel & my vocal disdain for confused travelers who slow down the system, this morning I made a major Amtrak goof that reminded me that I am fallible & largely inept. In other words, today I was one of those people I hate.

Waiting at the Metropark station for my train to DC, I was pleased to find I had plenty of time to spare before my 6:25 boarding call (thanks for driving me, boyfriend). When the train pulled up, I briefly registered, mentally, that it was an Acela, one of the faster trains: "I paid for an Acela? Huh. Yeah, probably.  Stuff's cheaper when you're traveling at 6am." I took a seat in the Quiet Car, stowed my luggage, set my ticket out for the conductor, & started to settle in to watch some Catfish on my iPad & hopefully fall asleep.

And then I glanced at my ticket again. 6:37 departure? What, what? It's only 6:27! And then it hit me: Acela. I took the wrong train. I AM ON THE WRONG TRAIN.

Cue panic.

In truth, it could've been a lot worse. The train I was on was still going to the right place, but it was just going a lot faster & for a lot more money. Panicky & unable to find a conductor, I weighed the options if I stayed put: explain my situation to the conductor when s/he came around, at which point I'd either have to pay the difference, get off the train, or, in some miraculous case of conductor kindness, fly under the radar & be permitted to stay on at no extra cost (unlikely). Becoming all the more anxious at the realization that in order to figure it out, I'd have to cause speak aloud on the Quiet Car (see: people I hate), I made the executive decisive to get off at the train.

Loudly & with some inadvertent fanfare (like waking up my sleeping seatmate & knocking his tickets to he ground), I  heaved my luggage from the overhead compartment & removed myself from the Quiet Car, which was by then filled with very annoyed businesspeople, each of them adept at the art of the withering stare. As I stepped off the train at Trenton, I prayed that my train, the one I was supposed to be on, was scheduled to make a stop there.

It was - 23 minutes later, plus a 10-minute delay, because that's what it's like when you take the slow, cheap train instead of the fast, expensive one. When my carriage finally arrived, it was one of those creaky old things with brakes that squeal & doors that don't quite open all the way, nothing like the sleek, futuristic train on which I'd earlier been an accidental stowaway. I was happy to have made it to the right train, of course, but now I've seen how the other half lives while in transit - & it's much, much nicer.

For a mere half an hour, from Metropark to Trenton, I got a taste of that bougie Acela  life... & my train rides may never be the same.

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