Back around Christmas, Steve and I went home to see my family. We took Via Rail, and I wanted to make a couple of observations about the experience.
First, to the people who think unmanned Via stations are acceptable: they suck if anyone needs a little bit of extra guidance or assistance. Yes, you can request assistance on your ticket, but that assistance only starts when the people on the train see you. They won’t see you until you make it out to the platform where the train is, which you may not find if you’re in an unmanned station and don’t happen to catch another soul who is willing or able to help you. Sound familiar? By the way, they still have no plan. The guy I spoke to thankfully informed me that the station was unmanned but his helpful suggestion was “Maybe your cab driver can stick around until your train gets here.” Um nope. Have you taken a cab lately? Failing that, do you have the time to clock off for a half hour to help someone with something unrelated to your profession? Probably not.
When we got there, the place was surprisingly desolate for Christmas time, for obvious reasons. So, our troubles began. There are several doors leading to lots of different parts of the outside, but how to know which door to hit? I know, listen for the other folks making it to the train and follow them like a sheep. But some people might choose to be dropped off outside and just walk around to the platform, which means there’s no shepherds to follow. Plus, in usual times, you have about 30 seconds or so from the train’s arrival to find it, find your car and get on. I don’t want to be starting that journey from the inside of the station.
Luckily some folks showed up, and I struck up a conversation with one. She was helping her mom get on the train. Her mom would need a bit of extra help, but I think she was newer at this whole disability thing, so thought she could just ask the station attendant for that. Hahahahahaha! Nope nope nope! There is no station attendant! She showed up repeatedly for days before her train and “there was no one around!” The poor lady. So we started to realize that this poor woman might not get the help she needs because she banked on talking to a Via staff member that doesn’t exist. I didn’t get to see her again because we were in different cars, but I hope she got what she needed.
Second, it was weird being on a train full of people and hearing less coughing than usual. In a group of people, there seems to be a trail of “ahems” and coughs and clearing of throats. There was hardly any of that here. I would feel guilty if I ever had to cough.
Third, I felt a little sorry for the Via staff and the things they had to tell us…over and over again. I’m sure the reason they say everything they say is because of experience. One common refrain was something like this: “Masks must be worn at all times unless you are actively consuming food or a beverage. Our mask protocol is more strict than that at a restaurant. If we may make a friendly suggestion, if you no longer have food but are still consuming a beverage, remove your mask, take a sip of your beverage and then replace your mask. Repeat these steps until there is no further beverage to consume.” Seriously? You had to say all of that? It wasn’t enough just to say that their rules are different than restaurant rules and unless you are actually eating or drinking, masks must be worn? Either someone is very detailed, or Via Rail staff had had many confrontations with passengers about how they have a drink in front of them so they should be able to take their mask off. I’m sadly going for column b. Gees!
All in all, once I got on the train, it was a wonderful experience and they took good care of us. But I can’t imagine the stupid they have to deal with every day.