On a fully booked train, the fight for the best seats was on. Amtrak took no chances and its personnel herded customers like cattle to their wagons. No opportunity for independent responsible judgment.
Single file – no skipping – twenty at a time. Follow orders.
It was opposite of what I remember boarding a train in Europe feels like. Even during rush hour, most people are courteous and polite, realizing that through collaboration, we can achieve a common goal – on-time departure and a safe ride for everyone
All the seats were reserved on the train; every customer had a ticket for a reserved seat – but there is not a single seat assigned to a reservation! Each employee had to create her or his own system of assigning the seat in the wagon they were responsible for, remembering company policy, and making new rules on the spot
Amid this process, there was a father with his three little girls who paid for the required tickets and who was assured upon booking that even the two-year old would have a seat. He installed his very well behaved and tightly reined back girls for the twenty-hour overnight journey.
They were sitting timidly, when an older man with a cane came to claim one of the window seats with an irritated voice. This is my seat – no this is mine. Strangers get involved, voices get raised, and finally enforcement gets brought in
The promise for the toddler seat assignment was a hollow one that was never communicated from the sales associate to any other employee in the rail company. The father lost his case despite his very caring attitude and polite, but firm stance.
Hours later, the father takes all his girls to the dining car for a meal. The pillows are neatly arranged in the vacated seats. A young woman casually strolls by and installs herself in the seemingly available window seat.
“These seats are taken!” says the older man with the cane and the rough voice. “The folks went to the diner for a while.” He sternly insists on the point until the woman reluctantly gets up and wanders off again into the darkened isles of the long train.
For the remainder of the trip, the old man did not interact with anybody. The young woman got apprehended by the train personnel and evicted from the train at a whistle stop in the middle of the night. The three girls and their dad squeezed and huddled together on two adjoining seats. The girls were sleeping, and dad kept a watchful eye on them and his smart phone until breakfast time.