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December 28, 2004

Is there heat with that?

Normally I don’t go to bed until about 4 a.m., and on my good weeks that means I get about six to seven hours of sleep. This wasn't one of those weeks.

A few days before Christmas, an old friend from here in Burntmattress came home for Christmas. She’d been holed up in darkest Arkansas for about seven years, married to a total POS who’d talked her into moving there because it put them close to the crystal mines. Something to do with New Age mysticism and that stuff, which didn’t save him from finally dying of chirrosis of the liver, leaving her down there to figure out what to do next.

Maybe a few buckets of those crystals could help explain why folks in Little Rock cleared out several blocks of low-income waterfront housing, making way for a concrete trailer memorializing their ex-governor, the pathological sex fiend. But hey, who am I to argue? Tourism for Bubba's Massage Parlor and Sex Toys Palace should bring in a few bucks from the suckers. And it’ll give the Arkansas state cops something better to do, rather than scout for bimbos for Bubba.

So anyway, Christmas was here and my friend came back to see her mother, Helmet Head, who earned that nickname from the serial coats of lacquer holding her Thursday hairdo in place. They thought they'd lined up the same arrangement as last time, where another guy would go pick her up in Toledo at the Amtrak station, and then I would take her down there for the return trip. Which all went to hell when the other guy wanted Fort Knox for the job, so I volunteered to go get her.

She was supposed to come in about 2 a.m. or so, which wasn't out of my usual sleep cycle (including the round trip). But it never dawned on me that Amtrak was still a quasi-government agency, so I never bothered to try and catch a nap that afternoon. At 11 p.m. my friend called and said there’d be a delay until 3 a.m.

At midnight, She Who Must be Obeyed got home from work, heard about the scheduling stuff, and decided to come along for the two-hour round trip to the Glass City. What my sainted wife didn’t tell me was, later that same day she had to work a 12-hour day. So we drove down there, and about 2:50 we learned there’d be another two-hour delay, because they'd had trouble somewhere in heating up the passenger cars.

Think about that one, kids, if you like traveling indoors in winter. What next? In-transit showings of Boxcar Bertha, maybe?

By the time it was over, we picked up our passenger at about 5:30, only five hours later than scheduled. By the time we got home about 7:30, I was so groggy I thought I was either hallucinating or else wondering how come I wasn’t. Which made for a lovely week of trying to get adjusted again, knowing I still had to drive my friend back down there to escape from Helmet Head and Burntmattress, once again.

Last night, which made the first round look like only a warm-up.

This time she was supposed to start calling at about 3 a.m, to find out if they’d on time, which would have meant we’d leave at 4 or so and be there in time for the 5:30 train. But SWMBO heard on the radio that there’d be dense fog, and we’d already had a 6-inch snowfall, so I wanted two hours of lead-time, not 90 minutes. At 4:10 came the call. Another hour’s delay at the minimum. By then I was getting very antsy about the roads, so I told her I’d pick her up at 4:30 and we’d leave early.

Which was fine as far as it went. The roads turned out to be clear and traffic nonexistent. We even had time to find a place that would sell her a pre-paid telephone calling card, and on our fourth try actually got one of those as well. By then we decided she should check in with Amtrak again, and then more proof Amtrak is a quasi-gummint organization, because now we learned the original delay wasn’t true, and we now only had about 23 minutes to get all the way across town to the station.

I should have known not to get onto I-75 from where we were, and then I had to figure out how to get back the way we'd come, without getting further lost in the bowels of the Willys Jeep Parkway (or whatever it’s called). The train was supposed to depart at 6:35, and we hit every red light after getting off onto the surface streets, but at 6:20 a.m. we finally got to the station. I was wound about as tight as it gets; she was just numb, from my driving and the overall wonderfulness of Amtrak in Toledo.

And yes, this delay was also because they couldn’t heat the passenger cars.

Got home at 8 a.m., still twitching and spazzing from the ordeal. SWMBO looked nice and comfy under 3 feet of quilts, but then she wasn’t riding Amtrak so she had heat. And me, I know better than to complain to the gummint, but I’m peeved enough to try it anyway.

Memo to Toledo Mayor Jack Ford. Word, fool.

Instead of parking your ass for lunch at the Coney Island at Westgate Shopping Center, go camp on somebody’s chest at the Ohio Department of Transportation, and then at Marci Kaptur's congressional office. Practice your loudest, most piercing screams. Bring lawyers. Beady-eyed little ambulance-chasers with souls of coal and writs of pure-D venom.

Don’t let up until every last dirtbag pencil-pusher in state and federal gummint puts up clearly-marked signs placed well in advance, not 100 feet from the exit, showing the way to Amtrak.

More memo. At the first stoplight coming off Exit 208-A, actually put up a sign showing which way is that station. Don't make people guess it’s a right turn. Don’t wait several blocks from there. You are not helping tourism in your city if you fail to do this. And then put up real signs on Broadway, how to find that station without a Ouija board, two St. Bernards and a pack of Girl Scouts.

Not that Ford will listen to this, of course. His idea to bring business to Toledo was to support no-smoking regulations for restaurants and bars, which has done wonders for similar businesses in the suburbs. With logic like that, they’ll promote tourism by blocking all the roads.

The next time I’m going to say, vote with your feet. Leave the incompetents at Amtrak, but take my friend to Toledo Express Airport (which at least is on time, and heated). That’ll make my friend really happy — particularly if she’s got a train ticket.

Posted by Weaselteeth at December 28, 2004 08:57 PM


It's nice to see mass transit is still functioning. Happy New Year WT.

Posted by: Jack at December 29, 2004 12:45 PM

Happy New Year to you as well, Jack.

As for "functioning," AMTRAK is still unionized, meaning they bleed off the lion's share of their money into paying unionists to lie around doing nothing, then blame management for underfunding the supplies they claim they never got.

America needs rail service. It needs affordable passenger rail service. It does not need Amtrak.

Posted by: WT at December 29, 2004 03:25 PM