Memorable Holiday

We arrived at 30th Street train station on Christmas Eve, to discover that our entire reservation had been cancelled because we were late for our 7:00 AM train.  This was bad news: our itinerary said our train was at 7:25 AM.  It turned out that our train had been cancelled and we had been shifted onto the earlier train, but we had not been informed (on neither of the two e-mail addresses and neither of the two phone numbers we had provided to Amtrak).  First I got yelled at by the ticket agent for my bad attitude (showing up at 7:10 for a 7:00 train) and then the only way to get to Buffalo in time for my parents to pick us up and take us all out to the Seneca reservation for dinner with my aunt and uncle and sundry cousins was to get the next train to NY, which happened to be an expensive Acela Express train.  So we had to buy a whole new itinerary for twice as much as the original ticket cost.

Upon arrival in Penn Station, I got on the phone with Amtrak, and waited on hold while Greg went to buy a breakfast sandwich, came back and ate the breakfast sandwich, went to the bathroom, and came back from the bathroom.  Finally I spoke with Lorna, who investigated, opened a case, and said I was entitled to a refund.  I would need to call back once my travel was completed (i.e. once we were back from Buffalo) and I needed to save all the ticket stubs.  I spent several minutes looking for my ticket stub from the first leg of the trip, to suddenly recall in horror that I had put it in my wallet…and I could not find my wallet!

First we went to Lost and Found (which despite the posted hours of 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM was not open), then the Baggage Claim, and finally to Customer Service, where Vivian S. determined we’d been on the 2100 train, it had terminated in NY, and had been taken to the yard.  She contacted someone who walked through the train and found the wallet.  Unfortunately, we had to go board our next train and had to leave Penn Station, so I left Vivian my phone number and she called my cell phone to tell me that she had my wallet and there was $195 in it, and she was concerned since I had written down that I had $200.  Vivian assured me that I could get my wallet on Monday the 28th, since that was when we’d be returning through Penn Station.

So I tried not to worry.  The rest of the train ride was uneventful, we arrived on time, we had a lovely Christmas.

Then on Saturday night, we tried to buy movie tickets through Fandango.  Luckily, we used our joint Visa card, and it was rejected.  Greg called the bank, and sure enough there had been hundreds of dollars charged on my card at Macy’s on the 24th.  So we cancelled the Visa, and the joint debit card too just in case, and I checked my other accounts online.  Nobody had tried to use my personal Visa or my personal debit card, so I relaxed again.  This week we should get an affidavit from our bank to sign, and our new Visa should arrive in a few days.  We used a different card to buy the movie tickets for Sunday, and I tried not to think about it anymore.

Monday morning there were no problems getting on the train to NY, and happily nobody tried to check my identification, since my driver’s license was in Penn Station.  However, our train was late coming into the station due to track-work delays and whatever else delays trains.  We pulled into Penn Station at about five minutes to 4:00, and went straight to Customer Service.  We were told that everything in the safe gets taken to Lost and Found, and I would have to come back tomorrow to get my wallet!  Remember, Lost and Found closes at 4:00.  Or maybe in fact it closes at 3:45.  We heard that too.  After some persuasion, the woman at the desk called a stationmaster (who had a lot on his hands*, as we found out during the 45 minutes we spent in Customer Service) who had handled the wallet with Vivian, counted the money, and would get it for us.  The reason it took him so long was that once Lost and Found is closed, there’s no opening it until “Bill” returns to work, as he has the only key.  Apparently stationmasters, maintenance, and janitorial staff cannot be trusted with the Lost and Found key.

Somehow, a key was found, and stationmaster Ken R. of Philadelphia returned my wallet, my $195.25 ($100 of which I put in an envelope with a thank-you card for Vivian), and put us on another Acela Express back to Philadelphia that left 10 minutes earlier than our scheduled local train.

So here I am writing this on the train, in the quiet car (ah, blessed quiet! I could hear the women behind me talking the entire way from Buffalo to New York even through the music on my earphones.  If only regular trains had quiet cars!), moving fast and looking forward to my home, my cat, and my bed.  Acela trains have comfortable seats and tables you can work at while you ride.  Unfortunately, though my computer seems to think that there is “free public wifi,” there is in fact no signal, so I am actually posting this to the blog from home (Where we arrived a good hour earlier than originally planned!)

*Other things going on in Customer Service while we waited there Monday:

The woman looking for her friend Jonathan, at first unable to figure out which train he was on, later unable to find him, and coming back a third time after paging proved unfruitful

The girl looking for a train to Ridgeway, NJ by way of Secaucus

The large family looking for bathrooms

The call over the walkie-talkies about the person having a seizure on track 5

The woman and her son who had missed their delayed train (not because they weren’t there for it, but because they were expecting a page that never came until it was too late) and couldn’t get a seat on another until Thursday

The British-sounding couple concerned about credit card fraud and their receipt (or lack thereof)

The family needing to take an elevator down to their train platform

The lost bag delivered by an employee – the same thing that happened to me happening to someone else, though they found the bag and tried to page the woman.

UPDATE: Oh, Amtrak DID inform us that the train on Christmas Eve was cancelled.  They called our home phone at about 8 AM that day.  Not exactly helpful to get that message upon returning home.

5 Responses to “Memorable Holiday”

  1. Doris Says:

    You didn’t say if anything else was missing from your wallet, so I assume everything except the one card was there. And I would say that, except for failing to notify you of the scheduling change on the first day, Amtrak (through some very kind and diligent employees) did a great job of safeguarding your wallet, responding to your concerns, and doing what they could to make it up to you for all your problems (although posting inaccurate hours for customer service). Thank goodness for Vivian and Ken R! I’m glad you made it home safely…and we miss you guys already. Love you!

  2. teawithbuzz Says:

    Indeed, thank goodness for Vivian and Ken! And yes, nothing else was missing from my wallet.

  3. Keiko Says:

    I finally got home to Walla Walla (1/2/10)..and read this.
    Your holiday break felt a lot like mine… :)
    At the end, everything turned out okay tho, right?

    You know about Jackie and Samwise… then I got some infection on the 23rd and ended up at the emergency room (and to skip forward, the nurse from the emergency room was calling my home phone every day since… to tell me that the medication they gave me would not work on my infection which they discovered after doing some kind of sensitivity study—except I didn’t hear it until yesterday. I was wondering why I was feeling crappy and the mediation wasn’t working. Then there was a flat fire scare between Walla Walla and Pendleton. I had to sit at Les Schwab in Pendleton for over an hour with my two dogs, wondering what gives. Then 4 hr delay on my flight home from Carmel-by-the-Sea. And next day, a bad snow storm in Portland. Then Jackie’s surgery.. I’m just glad to be home.

    Hopefully 2010 will be a much better year.

  4. teawithbuzz Says:

    All’s well that ends well! Yes, here’s to a better 2010!

  5. little sister Says:

    whoah. what an ordeal! I’d have been freaking out over the wallet the entire trip. I’m glad everything ended up working out tho!

    so thankful there are people with morals like Vivian and Ken R out there to help the world run honestly.

    happy 2010!

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