(I haven’t had a reliable Internet connection since April 8, and this has discouraged me from updating my posts until today, April 26)
4:30 PM. After Pontiac IL, the conductor announced that we wouldn’t arrive in Chicago until around 6:00 PM, and further noted that the Wolverine (the evening train from Chicago to Detroit and Pontiac MI) would leave Union Station before the Texas Eagle arrived. He said that passengers for the Wolverine and other trains should talk to Passenger Services at Union Station for assistance in continuing their journeys.
Well, crap. I’m not ticketed past Chicago on Amtrak. Passenger Services isn’t going to do anything for me. I’m boned.
I buttonholed the conductor a few minutes later.
“I’ve got a Greyhound ticket for the bus that leaves at 6:00 PM. Any chance we’ll arrive in time for me to get on that bus?”
“No way, sorry. We’ll get into the station just about the time your bus is pulling out. Talk to Passenger Services in Chicago, sir.”
“Man, I’m not an Amtrak passenger after Chicago. Damn, I’m screwed.”
“Talk to Passenger Services when you get into the station. It can’t hurt.”
Well, maybe I could still get on the late Megabus. I checked the schedule – it leaves from the sidewalk outside Union Station at 6:10 PM.
Should I buy a ticket? It’s only 13 bucks. But maybe a miracle will happen and I’ll be able to use my Greyhound ticket after all. Or maybe I won’t be able to catch the Megabus and will need that 13 bucks to take a cab to an affordable motel to wait for tomorrow’s bus.
Or maybe I’ll be able to stay in Union Station all night. With my suitcase and computer bag and Bag O’Food and Other Things. Maybe I won’t get mugged.
5:30 PM. We’re still crawling toward Chicago. I check Megabus’s site again – still seats available on the 6:10 bus.
5:45 PM. Still crawling. I could go faster on my bicycle. I check Megabus’s site again – still seats available. But now the ticket price is $20 – that’s cold, Megabus.
5:55 PM. We’re getting closer, but we’re not there yet. I check Megabus’s site again – no more trips tonight! Crap, crap, crap! Maybe if I get my bag quickly and run to the bus stop, I can pay cash for a ticket then and there.
6:02 PM. We’re in the station, and I stride to Baggage Claim and wait. C’mon, c’mon…
6:10 PM. No suitcase yet. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t buy that Megabus ticket, even at the $13 price.
6:15 PM. I retrieve my suitcase. Now what? Well, first things first – a pit stop in a larger bathroom than the ones for Coach Passengers on the Texas Eagle.
6:20 PM. Relieved in the physical sense, I wonder what to do next. What the hell, try Passenger Services – it can’t hurt. I head back the way I came, and find the Passenger Services office (with an Amtrak guard’s help).
“I came in on the Texas Eagle, which as you know was late. I had a Greyhound ticket for the 6:00 bus. Is there anything you can do for me?”
“Where are you heading?”
“Too bad you didn’t come here right away from the Eagle. We just sent a shuttle bus to Dearborn with the passengers for the Wolverine.”
Stars and stones! Hell’s bells! EMPTY NIGHT!
A woman in an Amtrak uniform comes into the office. The guy I’d been talking to asked, “Has the shuttle for Dearborn left yet?”
“No, I’m just checking to see if there are any more passengers.”
“We’ve got one more here. Wait, let me see your Greyhound ticket.”
I hand it over, he verifies it, and keeps it. The woman and I leave and go up the elevator to the street level and go to the 20-passenger bus/van. They load my suitcase into the luggage compartment, I go up front and find a seat with the other passengers.
So here I am on the shuttle, heading for Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Ann Arbor, and Dearborn. No power outlets on this shuttle, so I connect my phone to the laptop to make sure I’ll have enough juice when we get there to call Mary, my sister’s partner and my ride to Saginaw tomorrow.
The moral of the story: If you’re riding Amtrak and you get into a jam (especially if it’s not your fault), talk to Passenger Services. It can’t hurt.