Amtrak 1, United 0

I’m currently on a train heading towards Philadelphia. An Acela business class car, no less, and all I’d purchased was a coach class ticket on a regular train. See, there was a problem at Union Station in DC, preventing my train from Richmond from getting there. So, in Alexandria, they recommended we get off at the station, take the metro to Union Station, and board a different train there that was heading in the direction of our destinations. Our tickets would be honored, and all we had to do was pay for the metro ticket.

Here’s where Amtrak did it right. As soon as the folks on my train found out about the delay, they let us know. As soon as they knew it would be longer than the original 45 min estimate, they came through the cars again with the transfer information. Communication was excellent and timely. Then, when we all arrived at Union Station, the information desk was able to quickly route us to the right train.

That was when we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we’d be on an Acela train. Well, at least, I was pleased, because that meant free wifi for the rest of my trip. w00t!

The train is packed to the gills, but the Amtrak employees are unfazed and courteous as ever. Looking at this in contrast to the frazzled and disorganized management of my SFO-MRY canceled United flight last week, I am once again finding myself wishing for an extensive network of high-speed rail for regional transportation in the US. If a company like Amtrak, which everyone seems to expect to fail any day, can provide such excellent customer service compared to most airlines, then imagine how well they would do if they expanded into every major market.

I know I’d be taking the train more often!

consuming music

I need to let myself really listen to the music I consume, rather than (to further the metaphor) mindlessly move my hand from bowl to mouth.

Last night, I went to see Missy Higgins at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. It’s probably the smallest venue she’ll be playing at in this area, given the sold out show and the number of folks trying to get tickets that day. We ended up with seats that had a good view of the whole stage. It was a blast!

About a month ago, I had given my friend, Holly, a copy of both The Sound of White and On a Clear Night, which apparently have not left her CD player since. For Holly, it was a strange experience to be at a concert for a (relatively) unknown artist and know every single song. For me, it was a wake-up call that I have been consuming too much music and not spending enough time on any one album to get to know it as well as I used to.

Even though I’ve been a fan of Higgins for about two years, I knew maybe a third to a half of the songs she played — the rest were vaguely familiar, but not old friends like they should have been by now. What kind of a fan am I? One with too much music and not enough time to listen to it all. A blessing, but also a curse.

When I was younger, I would listen to a single album on cassette tape for hours and hours. The best piece of electronic equipment in our house (in my opinion) was the stereo that had the cassette player that could reverse directions to play the other side without having to flip the cassette around. Now that I can afford to buy or cheaply trade for new music, my focus has shifted from completely absorbing an album because I wasn’t likely to get another for at least six months to amassing as many new albums as I can as quickly as I can.

I need to slow down. I need to let myself really listen to the music I consume, rather than (to further the metaphor) mindlessly move my hand from bowl to mouth. Pay attention to the lyrics, to the layers of sound, to the complexities of the composition. One brief run through the tracks while I am doing something else isn’t going to cut it.