Friday, May 25, 2012

On the Way to CA...

Better late than never (~.^)...

Wow, where should I begin? Maybe with this: I’ll be writing several posts over the next week about my trip to California; this is the first of those.  I’m writing this from the train home, and am currently in Lordsburg, NM.  While I’m having a lovely, quiet trip home I’m reminded of my not so lovely trip to California. It was miserable, actually, and I’ve never been so happy to arrive anywhere when I finally got to Palm Springs.

A bit of context, I’m a pretty serious agoraphobic. There was a time when I could hardly leave my house, let alone go anywhere alone. There were days when I did leave my house that I got where I was going only to turn around and go home. In fact, I still struggle to go into any store alone, particularly grocery and BigBox-type stores, like Wal-Mart. Matt usually has to go with me, otherwise I’m stuck in the parking lot trying to talk myself up for 20 minutes. Very basket-case, I know. But, you can see why it would be really hard for me to get on a train, alone, so when the trip was so miserable it really fed into my fear and set off my anxiety.

The train was an hour and a half late getting into Temple, where I got on. Not really a huge surprise, trains rarely run on time. I’ve taken Amtrak four or five other times, one of which I was alone, so I knew what to expect. When it did arrive, I realized it was so full that I had to sit beside another passenger, which was fine since I’d only paid for one seat. No big deal. The passenger I happened to land beside, as there were no other empty seats, was drunk. He smelled strongly of beer and kept asking me where I was going. I think I answered his question a half-dozen times. Then, he started telling me about his son who has cancer, which made me feel really bad, except that the guy was creepy and frankly, it was an over-share. He told me Matt and I should move to AZ, where he lives, and that we should go to work in the copper mines, which he didn’t make sound all that enticing. When I told him that I could never get Matt, nor would I, ever to move to AZ he freaked. He started shouting at me about “stupid fucking democrats” and telling me that “Arizona is the land where men are still men and work for what they’ve got, unlike all the stupid fucking democrats” and that he didn’t want people like us in AZ. Wonderful. I was happy to get away from him after only two or so hours. Amen!

Then, when we got to Austin, I think, I got a new seat-neighbor. This one was drunk too. Very drunk and unlike the first guy he got onto the train drunk on booze he hadn’t bought on the train. He had vodka in his bag and kept openly tipping it back, which is against train policy. He kept touching me, even when I asked him to stop, kept putting his head on me, and kept putting on his iPhone and making me listen to his music. All the while telling me what a great writer he is and how he could be published but he didn’t want to jump through all those hoops just to “sell out.” Wonderful, then he starts telling me about his tattoos, his girlfriend who “like [me] is beautifully thick” (*eyeroll*), and how she won’t sleep with him. Frankly, I didn’t feel sorry for this guy, he creeped me out in every possible way. The also guy tried, repeatedly, to give me pills! He also tried to get me to get off the train with him in San Antonia, like that would ever happen, and when I refused he acted like a jerk.

Turns out he went into San Antonio during the 4 hour lay over to get more drunk and he got beat up in a bar. When he finally got off the train in El Paso, the next day, they found four empty vodka bottles under his chair. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he first said that I “clearly didn’t care about being pretty” and then when he was rambling on incoherently and I told him I had no idea what he was talking about, he said, “you’re cute but you’re obviously not very smart.“ Jackass. Fortunately, I wasn’t sitting with him the entire time. When he got off in San Antonio I reported his behavior to the Conductor who, rather than doing anything but move me to a new seat, shamed me for not telling him sooner. That was impossible since the guy wouldn’t let me out of the window seat and the freaking conductor was nowhere to be seen.

My third seat-neighbor didn’t have a ticket. He mumbled to himself the entire time, kept looking at me and when I’d look at him he’d look away, was dirty, and had something on his jacket that resembled blood. He got off in Alpine, TX, though he had told me previously that he was getting off in AZ. I was quite happy when he got off the train. After that, I was alone for a long time and the most exciting thing that happened was the guy who was sitting in front of me being put off the train in Lordsburg, NM and taken into police custody for not having a ticket--apparently, he’s a train hopper, but was caught this time because the train was so full. My last seat-neighbor got on in Maricopa, AZ and was a very nice lady about ten years older than me. We chatted a bit, she worked, and when we got to Palm Springs she helped me carry my too-heavy suitcase down the stairs. A nice way to end a rather appalling trip.

The worst part, I think, is how unhelpful Amtrak was in resolving these issues. Not only would the conductors not do anything about drunk #2, but all Amtrak would do to make up for my horrible trip is offer me a $50 voucher for future travel on the rails (which expires in a year). I refused the voucher, I’m never taking the train again, because what I really wanted was a full refund, which they rather rudely refused me before hanging up on me. I’ve never been hung up on by a business before and, frankly, I was insulted. I’m going to report Amtrak’s shitty service to the Department of Transportation and throw a massive fit about my safety because I’ve never felt more unsafe in my life.

Thank goodness the trip home has been quiet and uneventful so far, where the most exciting thing that’s happened is sleep and sitting beside a rather nice, if overly stinky, older gentleman.

Finally, special thanks to Dramamine, without which this post would not have been possible while trying to kill time on the train. Nor would it have been possible for me to finish Fifty Shades Freed--God I loved the Fifty Shades of Gray Trilogy!! Motion sickness is not my friend, thankfully Dramamine seems to be!