Monday, December 28, 2009

Photo of the Day December 21st

What a difference between our train trip to Beaverton for Christmas two years ago and this one! While it wasn't completely free of frustration (more on that later) it was a dream compared to the last time we made this trip for the holidays. In 2007 I brought then-two-year-old Sophie, a car seat, a stroller, and our luggage by myself on the train to visit family for Christmas, and while the travelling part of our trip was fine, our experience at the Toronto train station was terrible. I asked when we first got on the train if we would be able to stay in our seats during the stop-over at Union station and had been told we would, so when the train emptied out in Toronto we stayed put, our assorted toys, snacks and other 2-year-old entertaining toys scattered around our seats and Sophie and I walking up and down the aisle of our empty car. Shortly before the train was due to be boarded a VIA employee came along and demanded to know what we were doing on the train - after explaining to him that we were staying on through Oshawa he very angrily told us that we couldn't do that, that we must have understood the person we asked about staying on the train earlier, that we weren't to stay on this car of the train anyway, and that we had to take all our stuff off the train and move about four cars down. So I, carrying Sophie, had to pack up all the items in our seating area while new passengers got on the train (and it was packed, so naturally someone was standing there waiting for me to hurry up so they could have our seats), and like a fish swimming upstream try and unload the stroller down the stairs, get Sophie strapped into it, get our car seat and luggage, and somehow carry it all down the platform to another car. The employee who yelled at me earlier not only didn't offer to help, but when he watched me struggling actually gave me a dirty look, like it was my own stupid fault that I was in this predicament in the first place and I would just have to live with the consequences. By the time I was down on the platform trying to figure out how to get everything to and onto the other (now crowded) car, I was in tears. Thank God for the very kind passenger who stopped and offered to bring my luggage and load it onto the proper train car while I pushed Sophie and carried the car seat - I think I may have had a nervous breakdown without his help. Despite that experience being 2 years ago, I obviously remember every painful, stressed-out moment clearly... and wanted to do everything in my power to make sure we didn't repeat it this year. Now, our circumstances are quite different - Sophie's four and doesn't need either a stroller or the large eight-point harness car seat any more so we had much less to carry - but I still went out of my way to book a train that allowed checked baggage and pre-checked all our luggage except a small carry-on full of snacks and books, and our portable DVD player. When Toronto came we had everything packed up and ready to go, and after talking with a (much kinder) VIA employee we were instructed to simply walk through the almost empty train to the car we were supposed to be travelling on through Oshawa. Smooth sailing - right up to when we arrived in Oshawa and were waiting on the platform for our luggage, only to watch the train pull away without unloading it. I and about five other passengers stood there stunned, trying to explain to the VIA employee who normally unloads the luggage that the train needed to be stopped so our luggage to come off, but it was apparently too late, and we were left in Oshawa while our luggage went on to Colburg. They removed it from the train there, and sent it back to Oshawa on the next train heading in that direction - but it still meant waiting for an extra two hours for our luggage to arrive before heading to Beaverton. We spent that time having a light lunch and chatting with Mom - but with an hour plus drive ahead of us it made for a very long day of travelling indeed... I wonder if when we try this Christmas train trip again in two years it might actually be error free?

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