Monthly Archives: August 2014

Only Child on railway customer service

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren't steam anymor

Only Child loves train travel when it runs smoothly.

Last week I returned from a one and a half week holiday visiting cousins in southwestern Ontario. Holiday was great; the train trip home was not.

For this railway brat, a two-hour wait in the middle of nowhere in the dark (outside, not inside the train) did not go over very well. Remember what I said in last week’s post about the stupidity of others and how I act. I put that into action last Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.

Yes folks, a nearly two-hour train ride that should have deposited me at Toronto’s Union Station by 11.20 a.m. dragged into early Thursday morning.

It all began about 10 minutes or so after leaving the Guelph station when suddenly the train slowed to a stop. The steward quickly announced that we were waiting for a green signal to continue and it would just be a few minutes. About 10 minutes later she announced that we would be here for longer than expected. Half an hour after we stopped, the steward announced that we had to wait for the two engineers to be replaced by a new crew and it would be another hour’s wait. She walked down the aisle to answer questions, but to my question “Is one of the engineers sick?” she replied “None of my business.” (Unclear if she meant whose business – hers or mine)

I felt every anxious and worried. As much as I like train travel I don’t like the uncertainty and also not being told all. If one of the engineers was taken ill or injured, and we knew, we might have a little more sympathy. If he was drunk – no. A young guy was also concerned and started complaining to Carol (the steward) and I joined in. I said that it wasn’t their (the two stewards) fault; I didn’t know whose fault it was but VIA rail as the corporate owner owed us. I pulled my senior’s card and said I could not afford to take a cab home from Union Station and I was going after VIA Rail for my fare to be reimbursed. The young fellow and I were concerned that we would not arrive at Union Station in time to take the public transit home.

The young lady sitting across from me asked about us being bussed to our destinations but Carol said that normally they would do that but we were in the middle of nowhere with no way for a bus to get to us and no place for us to go if we got off the train.

I could not concentrate on the book I was reading and alternated between sitting with arms crossed on one side of the table and moving to the other side. VIA Rail now gives us reserved seats and because we had a business class coach, I was at the end with a table in between the facing seats (two on each side). No one else was sitting there. A lot of good reserved seats do you if you are stuck.

The replacement crew finally arrived – two hours after we stopped. And when we pulled into the next stop – Georgetown – in six minutes I was furious. That close so why didn’t the second engineer “drive” the train into Georgetown where the other engineer could get “medical” attention promptly and we could be bussed home much sooner. Somebody higher up who was on the phone to Carol and probably the engineers was giving bad decisions. And probably going by the VIA Rail rules and regulations – probably requiring two fit engineers. Sometime rules need to be bended a little for the best results for all concerned. Sometimes a little common sense is the best route.

After several calls with her supervisor, she announced that we would get 50 per cent off our next VIA rail trip if we gave our ticket number when ordering them – by phone or in person – if we travel within the next six months. I’ll do that when I go to Cobourg, Ontario in a couple of months. We were also told to see the station master in Union Station to get chits for a free taxi ride.

The train arrived at Union Station two hours and 10 minutes late. I had to ask the station master where to get the cab because off all the construction on Front Street. She said across the street – it’s always been there. Could have fooled me with all the construction you can’t see over it and the walkway is very narrow, made narrower by construction crew working on it at 1.30 a.m. I was furious and started complaining out loud. But I made it over and got a cab home.

Will I still take the train? Yes. But VIA Rail gets only a 70 per cent (and that’s generous) for damage control. What happened with the engineer is out of their control, but making us wait for two hours until a replacement crew arrived when we were just six minutes outside Georgetown is plain stupid and gets a D in my books.

My late father, who worked as a timekeeper for CNR (they had the passenger service then) is probably rolling over in his grave.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Consumer action, Holiday Travel, Only child, Problems, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child dissects uncertainty

 

 

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Lately I have been living with too much uncertainty. I’ve had lots of practice to live this way since I was 12 and my dad had cancer of the brain. This was his first bout in his head and Mom and I didn’t know if he would make it. He kept vomiting and had a constant sharp headache. The doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital didn’t think surgery would help so they tried the other prong of the then (early 1960s) two-prong cancer treatment – burn. They blasted him with radiation regularly while back at home, Mom and I, joined by her eccentric older sister, “Gretchen,” waited and tried to cope with the uncertainty.

I have never learned to cope with all the uncertainties in life. Don’t know if it goes back to dealing with Dad’s cancer or is a sign of getting old(er) but the number of uncertainties seems to be larger now than 30 or so years ago. Back then I suffered from depression. The depression has long gone way past over the rainbow. Now I get angry and worry a lot as I have blogged previously. And I seem to live in constant anxiety.

I wonder if uncertainty about the outcome of all the worries and problems has a lot to do with it. I wonder if I knew for sure exactly what the outcome would be if the worry, would be a little less… or at least more focused on a definite result and how I will deal with it. Instead of various scenarios galloping throughout my head with a nebulous ending in sight – or more likely also chasing around in my mind.

So I have tried various ways to deal with uncertainty. The journalist in me immediately goes into research mode to collect all the info I can about the problem. That includes Internet research, talking to experts, or in the case of utility billing or service problems, talking to the utility company. As some of you may know I am not the most polite and patient person if I believe the “other guy” (utility company for one) has messed up and I’m the one getting the result of what is often their stupidity. But I am persistent and I push until I get what I want, i.e. the mess-up corrected to my satisfaction.

I also like comparing situations with my friends. Misery loves company, but I might learn something from their experience.

And I have even tried praying – but results from that also are in the uncertain field. Like with the weather and whether heavy rainfall will cause water to get into my basement.

Back to Dad and his brain cancer. In my memoir I write:

Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.  

St. Michael’s Hospital radiates a friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.

“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says.

  (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – deconstructing the demons, copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

Apparently prayer worked then…for a time. Three and a half years later the cancer returned to another part of Dad’s brain and it killed him.

Maybe that ending has a lot to do with why I have so much difficulty living with uncertainty. I can hear some people asking “Don’t you want to be surprised?” Well, of course, but pleasant surprises, even surprises that challenge me to do better or to go through another learning curve.

But I want them to be positive experiences. Otherwise it might be nice to know what the actual outcome will be for the nasty things that pop up in life. If I or someone close to me gets ill, will we pull through? All this uncertainty tends to detract from dealing with the outcome because we are dealing with the issue – and the issue can have many more prongs than the old slice or burn cancer treatment.

How do you deal with uncertainty? Does it work?

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Anger, Anxiety, cancer, Cancer Treatment, Health, Mom and Dad, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncertainty

Only Child says delete

 

Only Child  contemplates deleting extra chores

Only Child contemplates deleting extra chores

Hitting the delete button is common with computers. We also need a “delete” button for all the flotsam and jetsam in our lives – something I’ve decided to apply.

Life is not as simple as when I was growing up – although back then I did not think life was simple. But I suppose with my Dad dying of cancer, being bullied, and turning into Worry Wart #2 (my late Mom gets the prize for Top Worry War), that is understandable.

When I start misplacing items – or in some cases items go missing and turn up in strange places (more on this in a future post), I get angrier than usual at so-called “little things,” I am not getting enough sleep so I can’t think and function normally, bingo – I’m in overwhelm. It’s time.

Time to take a look at what exactly is happening in my life and hitting the “delete” button for some things.

Off the top of my head, I know I have to make the word “no” into a very big word. I need to stop helping every Tom, Ken and Susan who wants my help. A lot of it happens in the writing department and I’m not referring to paying clients. I have reached the point where I use the “delay” tactic but I think I will have to say “no” upfront. It is good as an experienced writer/writing teacher/ and editor to help more newbie writers – but somewhere in there you have to draw the line at how many and for what.

Then there is this business of suddenly finding housework (some of it daily routine) to do after the 11 p.m. news. Or as one of my writing colleagues put it “no more dusting late at night.” I don’t dust late at night and my house is lucky if I dust it once a month. Yes, I have my priorities right there.

No, what I do late at night is empty the dehumidifier, shut the basement windows (those two in summer), fill the coffeepot ready to turn on in the morning, and sometimes finish washing the dishes, dump the recycling newspapers, etc. in the big bin I keep just outside the side door, and lock that door and the front door. And I haven’t even started on the personal get-ready-for-bed rituals.

Why can’t I do all this stuff earlier in the evening? If I’m watching TV, except for a couple of channels I watch, there are commercials. I used to laugh at my friend Diana who would rush into the kitchen during the commercials to do dishes, etc. Well, it’s a good idea and I do it for washing the dishes and most of the time they at least get done. So why not for other daily evening chores?

Other things in my life can fall under the delete button. I use a Plan A, B, C and D for what is important. The A box is “Have to Do; want to do;” B box is “Have to do; don’t want to do” (dusting goes under thus one); C box is Don’t have to do; want to do” and D box is “Don’t have to do; don’t want to do.”

Guess which one is the easiest to list.

How do you deal with too much to do? Do you have a plan? Or do you not have too much to do in your life?

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Balance, Burnout, Mom and Dad, Only child, Overwhelm, Sharon A. Crawford, Worrying

Only Child on flooding and other extreme weather

Only Child  contemplates the weather and its ramifications

Only Child contemplates the weather and its ramifications

You know what the late great John Lennon wrote and sang about the rains coming and people running and hiding. It sure applies to all the rain and flooding we have been getting this year and it doesn’t matter where you live in the world- rain and flooding are the new norm. Even parts of southern California got flooded out this past weekend. In southern Ontario, Canada, the city of Burlington got flooded badly. The city’s mayor was interviewed this morning on The Weather Network and flooding and he said his house got about five feet of rain and some of it got into his main floor. For videos on this flooding mess and interview with the mayor go to

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/flash-flooding-sweeps-burlington-more-storm-chance-tuesday/33328

 

There is nowhere to run and hide

 

Why is this happening now? There are many theories and I’ve mentioned this briefly before. I am convinced that whichever religious group predicted the big flood to end the world in October 2012 have something right – they just got the date wrong. But it is coming…soon.

I was discussing this recently with a friend who is a born again Christian/Catholic, so you can guess how she went on about it.

Actually, we are in agreement about a lot of things with this flood business. We agree the end of the world is coming soon, just not all the details. She talked about The Rapture and how the good people will be swept up in it and into heaven.

I don’t think there will be any Rapture. Why? Because the floods, hurricanes, etc. are too widespread and hurting (sometimes killing) good as well as bad people. At this rate, there may not be many or any “good” people left.

And just what constitutes a “good person” these days (from God’s point of view)?

Whats behind all this? It is my opinion (and this is just me) that either all these extreme weather conditions are caused by God or at least he has a hand in them (and global warning has something to do with it) OR as a few of my church-going friends say when I blame God for something – “God is too busy with other things to be bothered with our concerns.”

They may be right. I mean if we are praying to be spared from so many of these extreme weather conditions and that doesn’t happen, then God is busy with other things. Maybe these “other things” are his agenda. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – God gave us all free will. What if he doesn’t like what we are doing with that free will and he is acting accordingly?

I’m just saying. And as posted before, there is no such person as Mother Nature. Every time I hear that euphemism I cringe.

That’s my opinion, anyway.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Burlington flooding, End of world, Extreme Weather, Floods, God, Rain, The Rapture