Unscheduled Stop

It’s June 24th and I’m at Union Station in Chicago between trains. I’m headed for New York City for Sunday, then to Washington DC for Monday through Wednesday. Depending on if the train is on time back from DC Thursday morning, I may be able to catch the bus that leaves for Holland at 9:45, otherwise I’ll wait for the evening train.

This morning I was present when someone was put off the train at an unscheduled stop in Hammond, Indiana. She was unhappy about it.

I hadn’t noticed (because I had earphones in) that the woman in the seat directly in front of me had a constantly chirping bird with her. She also had a dog in a basket. Now, dogs are allowed so long as they stay on the floor at your feet and you pay $25, which, apparently, she had done. However, birds aren’t. The bird must’ve been silent when the conductor scanned her ticket. I heard him say something about the dog, for which she had paid.

Later, someone complained about the bird to the conductor (not to the passenger).  Train crew visited her for a little talk, and she kept trying to change the subject.  When the conductor mentioned the bird, she said nobody had talked directly to her, so there was no problem.  The conductor was adamant about someone having been bothered. She asked the woman sitting beside me if she was bothered, and the answer was “yes, but I don’t like birds.”  The conductor went away for a few minutes, then returned with the news that the train would stop at a station where it doesn’t usually even pause to put her off.  When he wasn’t standing there any more, she turned to the woman at my side and angrily said, “Thanks, Bitch!”

At that point the accused woman got up, took her two sons across the aisle, and went to the cafe car. A lower-ranking trainman came to sit nearby. After the “bird lady”detrained, the others returned to their seats and we rode on to Chicago.  I calmly mentioned to the woman who had been accused of being a Bitch that I thought she had handled things well and had taught her sons a valuable lesson in defusing conflict. That’s when I learned that she hadn’t been the one who issued the complaint about a bird on board in the first place.

Arriving in Chicago and getting off the train, I also commented to the conductor that things had been handled well.

Had she resisted detraining, I suppose we’d have waited for Amtrak police to come out from Chicago. Had there been no station at which to stop, she’d have won (or been cited upon arrival by the Amtrak cop who would have met the train.) In the end, this episode was  a little dark cloud on an otherwise pleasant morning train trip.

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