By now everyone has heard of the horrible Amtrak train derailment outside of Philly. I'm not here to talk about the unthinkable tragedy that befell some of the passengers or the failure by our Congress to maintain our country's infrastructure. I'm here to talk about what happens when the busiest passenger line in the country is shut down for a week. Usually something like this wouldn't affect me, but it just so happened that I was supposed to visit my parents for the weekend via, what else, Amtrak.
A lot of my friends and family think I'm a snob for taking the train instead of the cheaper alternative, the bus. But as I've discussed before, the train comes with a bunch of perks -- more leg room, multiple bathrooms, and of course, its an hour faster than the bus. There's also the added benefit of not getting car sick. Oh and also, if I don't like my seat mate, you best believe I'm changing seats or even cars. Bottom line, there's a reason its more expensive: it's better. And if you get your ticket early enough, it's just $10 more than the bus (although I'm thinking that might change soon with the new mandatory safety improvements to the track).
When the train derailed last Tuesday, I had to scramble to find an alternative route to Baltimore. I stupidly thought that NJ Transit and SEPTA might still be running around Philly and that I could somehow take a route that had me transferring between three to four trains (that is how much I loathe the bus). Unfortunately, all trains share that track around Philly, so taking the train was really out of the question. That left me with renting a car (which was now $100/day) or taking the bus. I sucked it up and joined my fellow stranded Amtrakers on Thursday.
Most people I was in line with had literally never taken the bus and didn't understand the group system. This made for a super chaotic boarding experience. Once on the bus, my seat mate proceeding to talk on the phone. FOR THE ENTIRE 4.5-HOUR TRIP. Obviously his phone died around Hour 1. Luckily for me, our seat didn't have an outlet so he switched seats and bothered someone else for the rest of the trip. After that, the ride was relatively painless.
I had a relaxing weekend with my parents in Delaware and had an optimistic feeling about the bus ride back. After all, it would only be a 2.5-hour drive back to NYC… or so I thought. The trouble started when there was no bus at the pick-up site when we were supposed to leave. Keep in mind that there's only one bus that leaves from Delaware to NYC on Sundays and with the trains still not running, I had no backup plan. Thankfully my parents stuck around in case it was a no-show. Ten minutes later, a Megabus showed up. Unfortunately it was going to Richmond, VA. Everyone around me in line started panicking. Then a Monmouth University bus pulls up. The drivers claimed that it was the Megabus to New York. Uh…ok? Since there didn't seem to be any alternative transportation arriving, everyone in line rushed onto the considerably smaller bus. Unfortunately, NINE paying passengers didn't make it on and were literally left stranded there. After about 15 minutes of them yelling at the clueless driver, they gave up and started calling management. I hope they were able to figure something out. We left for New York and got stuck in hours of standstill traffic.
It took me nearly five hours to get home to New York. I actually ran out of podcasts. Since I get car sick, reading was out of the question. I started losing my mind somewhere around Secaucus where we were driving around in circles in an effort to detour around traffic. It was basically a living nightmare. The only thing missing was a screaming baby (I guess I can thank the universe for that).
Am I nervous to ride on Amtrak again? A little. Nervous enough to take the bus again?