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    Warning Will Robinson!

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    Yes Amtrak Sucks!!! It is probably amazing to you that a subsidized public transport system using antiquated equipment and surly employees who know their jobs are secure and therefore don't care about making you a happy customer could possibly suck but when I say Amtrak Sucks I mean that Amtrak sucks in the worst way it is possible for anything to suck.

    To quote that great Animated American Homer J. Simpson, "They are the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked a sucked."


    Have you ever been bent over a table full of spikes, with car jumper cables hooked to a battery clamped on your nipples while a bear trap was clamped around your nuts?

    Figuratively speaking, that is exactly where I am at the moment of the writing of this post.

    It all started a couple of weeks ago when my GF looked up flight info for Screamy and I to go visit my Dad, Grandma and various other relatives. On a lark I decided to check Amtrak.

    I was surprised to find that the Amtrak ticket was very affordable, and the thought of spending some quality time with my boy for a couple of days and seeing the countryside was enticing, so the plans were made, tickets reserved and bags packed.

    So the GF, Screamy and myself toddled off to Union Station in L.A. via the Metrolink. Once at the station we grabbed our tickets through the automatic ticket machine, then had to wait in line to check baggage. Forty five minutes in line to find out that the sign that said “Check Baggage Here” really meant that for our train baggage did not get checked, but thank you for choosing Amtrak.

    I should have known then that the clusterfucks of all grand clusterfucks was commencing. After standing in another line to receive a boarding pass we stood in yet another line in hopes of being one of the first people to get to the train.

    As I said, clusterfuck.

    When the line was allowed to head to the train for boarding it was everymen for himself, and those that got to the line late but with very little baggage shot past those of us that had been standing there for over an hour.

    So we said good bye to the GF, who stayed home to care for the dogs and such.

    I won’t bore you with all the little details, as I was actually having a good time traveling on the train. The (eventual) six hour delay and lack of smoky treat time notwithstanding, it was a fun trip.

    Up until we hit San Antonio Texas.

    You see, I paid extra for the privilege of staying on one train, mostly due to the fact that I knew we would get to San Anton in the wee hours and waking a 7 year old to move from train to train is not my idea of a good time.

    Apparently it IS the idea of a good time to someone at Amtrak who decided that we would be leaving the train car we were traveling in at the station in San Anton and switching trains at O dark thirty.

    Up to this point I had not uttered one word of complaint. This was about to drastically change. After fighting the crowd, moving our gear and then not being able to sit together (our assigned seats suddenly didn’t seem to apply) I called customer service.

    I wanted my money back. Not all of it mind you, just the 30 or so extra I paid for the privilege of not having to hump my gear and a seven year old to another train.

    Let me say that the person at customer service that finally picked up the phone to help me was a unique individual whose level of indifference to my anger at having thirty dollars stolen from me was unable to be measured by any instrument yet made.

    And it turns out that Amtrak doesn’t refund tickets that have already been traveled on. They do however issue credits, good for applying to a future trip on the Official Train of the Second Level of Hell.

    Now at this point I am furious, and the last thing I want is a credit to ride this shitbox again. They may as well send me a roll of used toilet paper. At least then I could decorate an Amtrak train.

    It should be pointed out that several people were angry before this point, mostly due to delays.

    Now once we left San Anton things proceeded smoothly…for awhile.

    By “for awhile” I mean about three hours. Down the way at another station we picked up about 70 people, mostly kids, as in under the age of driving kids. As fate would have it they would not be with us long, as at Austin they whisked away in taxicabs to make a connection that our train was suddenly unable to get them to in time.

    This of course was just before the announcement stating that we would be sitting in Austin for a couple of hours and would be getting out of there around 2:30. Several people at that point went to the store down the street. The kids I was sitting with had decided to go also, and I took down one of their cell numbers just in case, which is a good thing because about 20 minutes after they left the announcement came over that we were pulling out in 5 minutes.

    I went down and let the conductor know that there were people still off of the train, and he said “Then they’re staying off, cuz we’re leaving.”

    Great customer service huh?

    I called the kids and they literally dropped their items while standing in line at the store and ran back, barely making it onto the train, breathless and sweaty, but others weren’t so lucky. About 4 people were left behind. One, as I understand it, was given a ride on a freight train to catch up with us. The others were given a taxi ride two stations ahead to wait on us. They were waiting for three hours.

    So we left Austin and proceeded a couple of miles up the track and stopped there instead, right out where we could sit on the train going nowhere but not get off and smoke. So instead of waiting at the station we went to sit up along the track…. I am still not sure why. Up ahead was a derailed car, and nobody was getting through, but there we sat.

    Finally the derailed car was moved and we set out, again, and again things proceeded smoothly….for a short while.

    Then we stopped again and were told that a couple of locomotives were “on the ground” and we would be waiting for that to be cleaned up.

    At this point jokes were flying and now mottos were being thought up, and one fellow even talked about buying some horses and covered wagons to compete with Amtrak.

    Imagine our surprise when we finally got underway. By now the sun was going down and the word was that we were about 7 hours behind. This meant I would be into Malvern sometime around dawn. That would leave me plenty of time to get showered and off to dialysis, which was scheduled for 1 PM in Little Rock, although the dialysis unit had called me the night before and asked me if I could come in early. If we had been on time I could have, and then I would not have had a shortened treatment and spent three days of my vacation feeling crappy.

    We blasted through the night, wheels clacking and the train swaying and finally, FINALLY it seemed as if we had an actual train trip going. I should have known that would not last. About 4:30 AM we pulled into Texarkana, a town obviously named by people on the border of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana that seriously lacked imagination when it came to place names.

    I called my dad at that point to let him know we hit Texarkana, which gave him about an hour and a half to get to Malvern. I rolled over and went back to sleep, figuring that it would be an hour or so more before we got close to Malvern, my destination

    What a surprise when I awoke an hour later to find that we were in…… Texarkana……and the train was quiet…almost too quiet….in fact it was stifling. That’s when I realized the AC was out. I made my way down the train and found the kids I had been hanging out with, (in all fairness they weren’t actually “kids”, but at my age anyone born in a year you can remember qualifies as a “kid.”) and found out we had lost the generator to the train, and we had no toilets either.

    I called Dad back and caught him about to leave for Malvern. Shortly after that we started moving again, after an announcement about the dead generator and some ephemeral plan about getting another engine hooked up from another train.

    Had I known then what I know now I would have taken myself off of the train in Texarkana and waited for a ride. Not too long after dawn we stopped on the tracks as the crew tried to hook up another locomotive to ours so we could have flushing toilets and AC once again.

    Finally they succeeded in that endeavor only to inform us that we now had no brakes.

    At this point the crept up the tracks, finally stopping seemingly within longbow distance of Arkadelphia, a town named by people that apparently thought names like Texarkana to be too sane.

    It was at this point that I saw one man bail from the train to wade through a ditch full of water and escape in a car that had pulled up on the road alongside of us. I was in contact on the cell with my Dad at this point, and knowing I had to get to my treatment he wandered up and told the conductor my problem. Dad was wearing his “Retired Air Force” hat, and the man he talked to, retired AF also, seemed more than concerned and helpful, from what Dad said. I was paged to the diner car, where the conductor talked to me, got the info and said he would see what he could do about getting me off of the train to get to dialysis.

    Yeah that never happened. I paged the conductor again and never got a reply. About an hour later we moved up the few hundred yards to the station, where I met my Dad and headed to dialysis, with the train more than 14 hours late and having to get off of the train one stop before the stop I had paid for.

    I can still turn in my unused ticket, and get a refund of 90% of the purchase price, which is what I plan on doing. I am losing money on the train tickets, and will spend more to fly home, but at this point I don’t care.

    I will never, EVER ride Amtrak again.

    Amtrak absolutely and completely sucks balls. They don’t care if you are happy, their coaches are ugly and falling apart, the food in the dining car is shit (it is actually worse than Denny’s food) and the only bright point on the trip, Kevin, who ran the snack bar in the lounge car, was running out of supplies earlier than I believe he should have.

    Amtrak basically screwed me out of about 30 bucks, plus the cost difference between Malvern and Arkadelphia, plus the 10% they won’t refund, and they don’t care. So be forewarned. The service sucks, the cars are old and crappy and falling apart, and Amtrak employees could give a rats ass less about you once they have your money.
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