Every story starts with a journey of some sort. Whether it be mental or physical, there is some development, some movement, that forces one to change either their position or their mindset.
Well, my story has ties to SEPTA so you can probably imagine that this excursion was about as dynamic as the night life in Kansas.
I was travelling with my roommate who was new to the area and had never experienced the wonder that is Philadelphia public transportation. By the time we’d dragged our bags up the broken escalator (or stairs as they could be quaintly nicknamed) we were informed that there was an express train going to the exact same area that would get us there six minutes faster. We decided that six minutes was not nearly enough time to justify another two flights of “stairs,” so we remained.
For those of you who are blissfully unaware, SEPTA has found faults in all of their newer cars and had to decommission them — forced to replace them with the older, more “experienced” model. They naturally had less of these cars because they were outdated and seemed only useful for sitting in junkyards by the hundreds. The fewer numbers meant that the schedules were adjusted so that the trains ran half as often, were twice as crowded and felt four times as frustrating.
The journey started innocuously enough, the train was delayed by its traditional five minutes before we even managed to board the pinnacle of 1900s travel. We managed to get seats right by the door that were facing each other so we could put our bags up and not face backwards while the train moved and were immediately pleased to learn that at every stop the door would swing open just inches from our faces.
The train stayed at the station for about five minutes before moving off at a speed that will heretofore be known as reluctant shuffling. Almost immediately, before even getting to Suburban Station, the train slowed to a stop, dragging its carcass along the tracks until it slowed by pure exhaustion. For 15 minutes we waited for a sign from the higher powers of SEPTA that there was some reason for the delay, that they had everything in hand and knew what they were doing — but to no avail. Finally, the ancient speakers crackled to life to announce that the air conditioning in the third car did not work and that they were attempting to fix the issue. Generally when there is a problem with something on the cars that is not exactly life threatening (air conditioning) they simply move people around, pull the car after the ride is over and fix the issue. In this instance, they simply proceeded to Suburban Station and let their engineers get on (who by the way managed to not only be completely unsuccessful in their attempts at alleviating the situation, but also managed to delay us by another ten minutes).
Every single stop was the same story, five minutes of nothing followed by a half-hearted apology and a brief glimpse into the motion that the train could achieve when in its prime: the early ’40s. By the time we pulled into the Lansdale train station, my roommate looked at me with desperate, almost heartbroken eyes, “Why in the world do you do this to yourself every other week?”
I looked into his eyes and mirrored his hopelessness, but didn’t answer. I just told him that we had two stops left.