All posts by Edward

BoingBoing – ‘Myers-Briggs personality test deemed expensive and silly’

BoingBoing amusingly introduces a Digg article by Merve Emre by saying

The Myers-Briggs personality test is the internet’s sorting hat, beloved of twittering nerds, Tumblr addicts and Facebook oversharers alike (I’m in House ESFPI)…

Emre’s biggest criticism of the MBTI cult is one I share – the idea that the MBTI type is fixed and immutable, rather than a useful description of your preferences and mindset at the moment you’re taking the test – excuse me, the “indicator”.

Amtrak links

After my recent rail trip to Michigan, I’ve been more aware of stories about Amtrak.

I ran across an interactive map from the Brookings Institute showing Amtrak routes, ridership, and profitability. The takeaways: short routes == full trains, long routes == (nearly) empty trains, full trains make money, and empty trains lose money for Amtrak.

I found the above ridership map from a Slate magazine story on the Northeast Regional train crash earlier this week. That’s not the only good Slate story about Amtrak, either.

One of the Slate stories (on Amtrak boarding) referenced a story on another site regarding Amtrak’s locomotives. They’re built heavier than locomotives in other countries (perhaps because American railroads have been dragging their feet on implementing Positive Train Control).

Lost and Found, part 1

The Amtrak shuttle from Chicago got to Dearborn EARLY this morning. Greyhound’s scheduled arrival time was 11:30 PM, but the shuttle left later and took a different route, to accommodate the passengers originally scheduled on the Wolverine.

BTW, looking back at the earlier entries on this blog, I see that I thought Greyhound or Megabus were my only options out of Chicago – when I first tried building an itinerary on Amtrak’s site, it looked like the only Wolverine run available would have left Chicago for points east before the Texas Eagle was scheduled to arrive. However, Amtrak definitely planned for passengers continuing past Chicago to Detroit on an Amtrak train.

I did only start scheduling my trip last Sunday night (after calling my dad in the nursing home), so maybe there were no seats available at such short notice for the afternoon Wolverine train. Or maybe I was in such a hurry that I misread the schedule.

Anyway, the shuttle got to Dearborn after midnight. My sister’s partner Mary had planned to meet me at the Greyhound station in Ann Arbor at 11:30 PM. I’d texted her from Chicago and during the shuttle ride to update her on the change in plans. My last text, telling her we’d negotiated the Southfield interchange and were close to the Dearborn Amtrak station shows a timestamp of 12:10 AM – but that’s Central time, so for Mary the shuttle pulled up to the Amtrak station at 1:12 AM.

You might think my body was still on Central time – but after almost 40 hours of coach travel (sitting – I couldn’t have afforded a sleeper ticket), I was ready to sleep as soon as we got to Lisa and Mary’s house in Ferndale (near Woodward and 9 Mile). I remember Mary saying, “I hope you don’t find the futon too difficult to sleep on,” but that was the last thing I remembered until this morning.

I got up around 10 AM – Mary was already up, despite having been up much later than usual for her.

Did I mention that Mary had to take today off from her job to drive me up to Saginaw? No? Well, she did. I’m very grateful that she was willing and able to help – and did so very graciously, too.

I showered and changed into clean clothes, we had a quick breakfast, and I packed my dirty clothes into my suitcase. I grabbed my Big Bag O’Food, my laptop bag, my suitcase, and my camera…

Where’s my camera?

Maybe I left it in Mary’s car? I checked, and it wasn’t there.

There weren’t a lot of places in the house to check. I’d gone directly to the guest room with all my stuff when we got in earlier this morning, so there were only a few places it could possibly be – and it took just a couple of minutes to be sure it wasn’t in any of them.

I remembered having had it on the shuttle for the early part of the ride. I didn’t get off the shuttle at any stop before Dearborn – and I realized my camera hadn’t gotten off with me in Dearborn.

Hell’s bells! It’s gone for sure!

There’s only one thing I could do.

Call Passenger Services in Chicago and report that I’d lost my camera on the Chicago-Dearborn shuttle last night.

The camera’s surely lost for good, but what the hell – it can’t hurt to contact Passenger Services, right?

It Can’t Hurt

(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).Amtrak Passenger Services sign in Union Station, Chicago

“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?”

“Dearborn, Michigan.”

“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.