Saturday, July 02, 2011

Captains and Conductors

I was on a plane that was flying to Philly. The plane was an hour late taking off. As I was not on a specific traveling schedule it didn’t really bother me that it was an hour late taking off. What bugged me was that it was an hour late taking off and I had to get up at 5 a.m. to catch a plane that was going to leave at 8:30 am instead of 7:30 am. Had I known that this would be the case I would have slept in a bit. The flight crew, apparently, thought better of the early hour and decided not to show up for the flight at all. I understood completely, since I was pretty sure my brain was still in bed.

The funny thing about Monday morning 7:30 a.m. flights to Philly was that apparently many of these flyers were going someplace important, or to a meeting. Had the flight been on time, all would be well. Since it was not, people were missing connections, meetings, and the random minutia that made up their lives. People with schedules get righteously pissed off when someone else decides to interrupt their schedule. I knew exactly how they felt as I didn't like it when people interrupted mine, but I felt a bit bad for the flight crew that got boos and catcalls coming into the concourse carrying McDonald's breakfast in hand. On board the captain asked us to please reign in our ire as they were actually the afternoon crew who had been called to come in early to help out with our missing flight crew situation. The flight, once in the air, was uneventful.

Being that I was now in Philly I needed to get a connecting train to 30th Street Station to get to my final destination on another train. I made calls to let people know when I would show up and mentioned that I was at the mercy of the train as far as that went. Then I asked several dozen times if I was in the right place for the train and still almost got on the wrong train until a friendly conductor informed me that the NEXT train was the one I wanted, and then continued to wait for the next train for Philly.

Something at this point should have been bugging the back of my brain or tickling my synapses to think about something other than getting to point B. But my synapses were clearly focused on  reading my book and finding just the right song on my MP3 player for the train. It was not until I  boarded the train and started to look around at small pieces of parchment stuck into seats that my brain put the brakes on.

My brain had a little conversation with itself:

What is that little piece of parchment?

That one right there, with the numbers on it?

Yes, that very one.

Why, that is a ticket.

A ticket, yes, to indicate destination.

Indeed. You need to purchase one of those to get to Philly.

Of course.

Oh shit.

Oh shit.

At this point my brain was catching up with the fact that I had not stopped at any point this morning to get cash. The blame for this rest squarely on rushing to catch a flight that was an hour late. Had I not rushed I might have had coffee, had I known the crew was not going to get there till eight, I might have had coffee. Had I had the coffee I might have reminded myself to get cash.

If I had cash I would have been able to easily buy a train ticket. It played out, however, that I was sitting in a seat, suddenly realizing that I had nothing but credit cards and some change, no idea how much the ticket was, and a pit in the bottom of my stomach of getting kicked off the train. I watched with dread as the conductor walked toward me. I flipped open my phone, seeing my 10 a.m. alarm announce my ride to Chicago and realizing why I didn’t think about getting a ticket: I always had one for my more normal commute, but this was not my normal commute.

As the conductor approached I dumped out every hidden and secretive nook and cranny I could find looking for change. I rejected all the Korean Won and Japanese Yen to come up with a grand total of $2.38. I was pretty sure that was not going to do it.

The conductor stopped.

“I forgot to get cash. I’m really sorry. I have $2.38.”

“How much is that?”


The conductor looked at me for a moment, shook his head and said he would come back for me.

I sat on the train feeling like an ass. We hit the next stop and I do not get ejected from the train. I was waiting for it when the conductor called out for 30th Street Station, Philly. I gathered my bags and walked off with the rest of the crowd. As I left I caught the conductor’s eye and said Thank you. He smiled and nodded and moved the rest of the passengers along.

One end of my trip may not have included the best service, but I cannot complain at all about the kindness of the conductors on the Philly airport transit line.


linda said...

What a great blog entry!
I really dislike the sense of entitlement of airline passengers. No matter what, booing the oncoming flight crew? Really? Eww. I'm glad the captain pointed out their mistake. But grr.

Maladaahn said...