Not being a fan of the airlines or airports, I decided that when it came time to move to Oregon from Texas, that the train would not only be a good way to go, but a pretty one as well, having the chance to see a lot of country I had never seen.
I left Houston on October 3rd and made it to El Paso without incident. The ride was actually kind of fun - I spent time in the lounge car watching the scenery and meeting new people.
Upon getting off the train in El Paso for a smoke break, however, I was met with not only harassment, but racism as well. There was a group of three of us standing not too far from the train, smoking our cancer sticks and talking. Whilst we were in the middle of a conversation, a Hispanic Amtrak employee walked over to us and demanded to inspect our burning cigarettes. He claimed to have smelled marijuana coming from our direction. We obliged and handed our lit cigarettes to him. When he was satisfied that we weren't the ones smoking pot, he walked away.
A few minutes later, a Caucasian Amtrak employee came our way and asked the same question. He had on a little blue hat and wore a really nasty attitude. He demanded, "Who is smoking the herbs?" When we told him it wasn't us, he marched over to an African American Conductor - the only one that would give me any part of his name - Spencer B.
Spencer B. proceeded to inspect our cigarettes and when he found nothing to be illegal, he got angry. I told him I was starting to feel harassed and then the *** hit the fan. He pulled me aside and said, "You see that man over there? He will say whatever I tell him to say. If I say you were smoking herb, then he will say you were." I was astounded and disgusted. I haven't had any pot since I was in college, JEEZ! He went on to say, "If I have one more problem with you, you are off my train." I told him there would never be a problem because I haven't done and would not do anything wrong. After one more cigarette with my new friends, we re-boarded the train.
After many hours of travel, we arrived in Tucson, AZ. Located directly off of the tracks is a specialty wine store, so I decided to buy a bottle of Cabernet for my aunt whom I was going to visit in Salem. When I tried to re-board, Spencer B. told me, "You ain't gettin' on my train wit dat wine." I pointed out the Amtrak policy to him that was stated in my ticket folder (you can transport wine, beer or liquor as long as it is not consumed unless you have paid for a sleeper cabin - this is strange because they will sell you all the wine, beer or liquor you want at hugely inflated prices). When he realized he was wrong, he looked at me and said, "I don't give a *** about Amtrak's policy, this is MY policy, and I ain't lettin' you on with that wine." Disappointed, and still having plenty of time before we left, I returned the wine to the store and made my way back to the tracks.
I saw another passenger I had met smoking a cigarette, so I wandered over to talk to her. She asked me what happened and I told her, explaining how ridiculous it was that one man can have so much control and have the ability to circumvent Amtrak's own policies. Well, Spencer B. overheard my frustration and came over. He said, "I don't like tha way you talkin'. You off my train. Go get yo bags." I was flabbergasted. I pleaded with him to let me on and so did my passenger friend. I had done nothing wrong and yet here I was being ditched in Tucson.
They kicked me off at ten o'clock at night with too many bags to carry by myself and not knowing where I was or where to go. As I was on the phone with my family explaining what happened, a Union Pacific Police Officer pulled up. Spencer B. had called the cops on me saying I was trespassing. The cop, luckily was very cool. He told me that he had had similar incidents with that conductor before, and that I was not causing a disturbance, but that since an Amtrak employee called on me, I had to leave the property. He helped me move my bags to a dark street corner and left me there. I could easily have been robbed since I had two large rolling duffels, a laptop bag, a guitar and a backpack - by the grace of the Gods, a local helped me carry my bags to the hotel across the street.
I was immediately on the phone to Amtrak to report this gross behavior by one of their employees, but I was instantly treated like the bad guy. When I told them that I had bought the extra travel insurance to cover hotel stays for unexpected delays, they treated me even worse. I was hung up on repeatedly and when I asked for the employee's names, they said that there would never be a way to find out who they were and even if there was, it was company policy not to give out employee's full names. When I told her that I was going to sue, she said, "Go ahead, you won't get anywhere, no one ever does."
When I tried to redeem the same ticket I had for the next train two days later, they told me that I would have to buy a new ticket to LA for $66.00. Furious, but tired, I did it. Luckily, the ticket from LA to Salem was still valid.
I really liked riding on the train - my fellow passengers were interesting people and the scenery I got to see was beautiful. However, the employees and the company in general operate no better than that of Greyhound, which should have their ability to do business taken away from them.
We, the people, actually own most of Amtrak, seeing that it is owned mostly by the Federal Government. How can this company allow people like this to work for them. My advice: if you are an *** and can't find work, apply to Amtrak. They'll love you. It really burns them bad when you tell them that you own them, because you do. We, the people, own the government - and the government owns Amtrak - don't ever let them forget that.
I have filed with the BBB and am doing what I can to find out who these racist swine were. I say racist, yes, because Spencer B. made it painfully obvious that he didn't like the fact that a white person (me) was hanging out and having so much fun with black people. Even one of my new black friends on the train, a Mr. Robert Taylor, told Spencer B. that he was being hateful because I was white.
If I travel Amtrak again, it will be after they have rectified the situation and paid me the damages I deserve.
Product or Service Mentioned: Amtrak Train Service.