Saturday, August 26, 2006
Like any service industry, the railroad gets a lot of letters of complaint. Passengers write to complain about late trains, dirty trains, hot trains, cold trains and sometimes they write about rude conductors. A lot of these letters have merit, but sometimes these letters are a bit trivial.
Dave is a fellow conductor who also happens to work as a stand-up comedian. I see him almost every evening in Grand Central. He paces the floor of the conductor’s lounge as if it were center stage at Caroline’s Comedy Club. He looks a little like Paul Reiser, but his delivery is more Richard Lewis. Every night Dave has a gripe. Whether it’s politics, the company, the union or a recent passenger. No one is safe from Dave’s rants.
Dave’s performance on Wednesday night was particularly amusing. It seems that a passenger recently wrote a letter to the railroad to complain about the way he chews his gum. The passenger wasn’t so much offended that Dave was chewing gum; it was more the manner in which the gum was chewed. The letter said something like; “ He chews gum the way a cow chews cud.”
Dave was fired up:
“Can you believe that?” He asked.
“Don’t these people have anything better to do?”
“What? Do they expect the railroad to take disciplinary action if I don’t learn how to chew gum properly?”
Just as I began to wonder if Wrigley’s had a 12-step program for excessive chewers, Pete, another conductor chimed in:
“Yeh. You think that’s bad? A passenger once wrote a letter and complained about the way I smile. She said it was sinister!”
I thought these stories were pretty funny and that they’d make a good story for this blog. I began asking other conductors if they had ever been written up for frivolous reasons. Most conductors said no... and If they had been written up, the passenger had just cause. I was about to give up hope when someone shared the following story.
It seems that a fellow conductor named Evel, (rhymes with level) had a disagreement with a female passenger on his train one night. I’m not sure what the problem was, but the passenger demanded to know what his name was so she could write a letter of complaint. Evel (ever the gentleman) obliged the woman. He even went as far as spelling his name out on a piece of paper:
He politely handed the piece of paper over to the passenger, but this seemed to only infuriate the woman further.
A couple of days later a trainmaster (supervisor) met Evel’s train at the platform in Grand Central. “Okay,” he said, “Which one of you wise guys told a woman that your that your name was Evil Morals?”