Nov 13, 2004

Good Conductor, Bad Conductor

We train commuters are creatures of habit, taking the same train every morning, and some of us the same train every afternoon, even the same car. When conductors are reassigned, which is every few months, the chemistry changes.

Until about two weeks ago, we on the 4:06 train from Suburban Station enjoyed a conductor who watched us getting off the train without fail, cheerfully admonishing us "All three steps! No skipping steps!" He was always close enough to catch us if we fell. The new conductor stands back far enough to avoid having to help anyone who falls, and maintains a stony silence.

The old conductor teased people who didn't have their Trailpasses out on time, roared goodnaturedly at passengers standing in the middle of the aisle, remembered the "regulars" and knew who could take some ribbing on a Friday, knew how to make an official announcement with just the right undertone of irony and topnote of optimism. The new one doesn't talk except to utter a gloomy "All passes and tickets out at all times," which he told me when I had been busy talking to a friend. It was the first day I had ever forgotten; don't I get ANY CREDIT? It figures that he is also one of those people who frowns momentarily whenever he sniffs.

Small slips of paper left on the seats yesterday informed us that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) is running out of money, again, and the state says they're not going to make up for the shortfall. SEPTA is threatening to cut out all weekend routes and trim back on weekday schedules.

On second thought, give me a grumpy conductor any day.

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