Day 1 – Amtrak Limbo

So it turns out that 30th Street Station is completely insane on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The problem is only made worse when the schedule board at the Amtrak information desk is out of order.

Also, never sit between the pillars to the sides of the main hall at 30th Street. It turns out that there is a total acoustical dead zone there, such that you cannot hear PA announcements. I know I wasn’t just zoning out, because I was with a group of other Swatties, none of whom heard the announcement. I missed my train and had to wait an extra 2 hours. I guess I should have harassed the guy at the info desk more often, or milled around in the middle of the station for a few minutes longer.

For me, the one (and nearly only) thing that really gets me stressed consists of two parts: first, having to rely on someone else, and second, having no information on their status. In this case, I was relying on Amtrak for a train, but I had no way to know when my train was arriving. I really prefer the controlled environment of an airport, with proper gates, to the morass of humanity that is 30th Street.

After a short wait in the ticketing line, I got a rescheduled ticket for no fee. At least that went smoothly.

I actually got on a slightly earlier train, because someone I was waiting with was told that we should just try to get on the first train to Washington that we could get on. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear about this until the train immediately before my rescheduled one, but it still saved me about 30 minutes.

I noticed on the trip down that we had to slow down or stop to allow freight trains to pass. Is this why Amtrak is always behind schedule, because the trains have to give right-of-way to freight running on the same line?

I finally arrived at Union Station in D.C. and met my parental units (who had flown in) and my sister (who is interning at Bread for the World this semester). The D.C. Metro is very nice – everything is very clean, and the stations have a consistent and retro-futuristic all-concrete design.

The security at my sister’s dorm is ridiculous. She has to fill out a form, get it signed by all of her roommates and her RA. I have to give up my ID to get the overnight pass. On top of that, I could only stay with her for 3 nights, and (not that this is relevant) a given individual can only stay 5 times in a semester. Also, the security guard was ornery. You’d think that they could have a little more lax system for family members.

I’m always amazed at the bureaucracy that Boston University (where she attends) has in comparison to Swarthmore. I understand that at a bigger school you can’t have as much individualized attention, so you need paperwork to keep track of everyone, but I don’t understand why the rules need to be draconian as well. If a roommate’s significant other is visiting too often, that seems like an issue that should be solved among roommates, or at worst, involve the RA. It certainly doesn’t require a strict procedure and duplicate forms. Maybe it’s just the libertarian in me sneaking out.

At any rate, Wednesday became a long day, even though it only started at noon. Thankfully, the extra time gave me the opportunity to finally read a lot of System of the World, the third book of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. I had barely started it when I received the book for my birthday, and I was nodding off at the time, so I decided to start over. It’s really, really good so far…


2 responses to “Day 1 – Amtrak Limbo”

  1. I really prefer the controlled environment of an airport, with proper gates, to the morass of humanity that is 30th Street.

    You’ve obviously been fortunate enough never to have them change the gate your plane will be taking off from twice within the last half hour or so before boarding, each time to a different wing of the airport….

  2. Yes, that is why Amtrak is chronically delayed. It’s worse on the West Coast.

Nurd Up!