My Hometown and simpler times

I was remembering my hometown tonight when I sat down at Steak and Shake with my friend Omar. We sat and talked about how things have changed within the past 30 years or so. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago called Bartlett, Illinois. Not much ever seemed to change. Of course over time we made new friends. Some stayed in our lives and some well I never knew what happened to them after I left.

I grew up in Bartlett until I was about 13 years old. I seemed to grow up on a very simple block, everyone knew everyone, and families always seemed to know where we were because they all communicated with one another almost on a daily basis. Our block was nice but most of the boys on my block were all older, and growing up some of them took us under their wings. They taught us how to skateboard, or they would throw the ball around with us normal boy stuff.

I had mainly friends who were girls in my neighborhood because those were all the kids around my age. I had my Friend Dina your typical girl who was kind of the smart ass athlete though. She was more a tomboy growing up with our group. She played baseball, running bases, soccer, sometimes even a football game with us. We would ride our bikes up and down the block, play on each-others swing sets. We really never worried about getting injured when we played.

We would go to the park right down the road. The parks back then were not these plastic parks you see now. We had the cage rocket ship slide made of metal, swing sets and monkey bars also made of metal. If we got hurt we went home got bandaged up and were right back at the park in 5 minutes. Like most kids we were a bit reckless and our parents knew where we were, and knew atleast one of us if not all of us were coming home with bumps, scrapes, and cuts. We understood doing stupid tricks might cause injury but we were kids. We did not want to sue the world because the playground was metal, or because we got injured just being kids.

The park was divided by a creek with woods on one side where many spring and summer days we spent playing war in the woods trying to build forts, and finding wood to build bridges to cross the creek. My first kiss was by that creek and it was with a girl named Melanie. Across that creek was a field with hills we also used to play tag and war and hide and seek. At the back of the field was an old rusted out propane tank apparently once meant for a house of some sort. but it was long abandoned and we used it to sit inside of and have juvenile conversations, Probably conversations to those similar to the conversations in the movie Stand By Me.

Another few girls I grew up with were Scooter, Sissy and Robin all sisters. We all kind of had our own cliche and knew almost what one another were thinking at times. I once climbed a tree in Scooters backyard and they had and old jeep body leaning against the back of their garage the branch snapped and i fell onto the jeep body. I am sure I probably cried but in 5 minutes we were back to playing.

Many summer nights were taken up by us playing baseball in the street, many times we played until we could no longer see where the ball was. Many times we would hit the ball into the “Old Geezers” yard. He was an mean old fool of a man who rented the house across the street with him and his wife. We would run quickly into his yard trying to avoid being seen so we did not experience his wrath and he would tell us how we should not hit the ball into his precious yard and yell and scream and throw a fit. Of course like the movie Wayne’s World, we had to move every time a car would come down the road. Most of the times those cars were neighbors returning home from shopping or work and would always wave to us kids. About half way through the baseball games in the evening the ice cream man would come down the road where each of us had a dollar for ice cream, My ice cream of choice was almost always the screwball with the gumball at the bottom.

After it got nearly dark our parents were usually by this point yelling for us to come in for dinner. We had no cell phones no pagers just good old fashioned loud parents who made their voices heard. We seemed to always rush through dinner on a summer night when we did not have school the next day. We tried to get back outside because it was time for the fireflies to come out. then afer that we would usually play a few rounds of ghost in the graveyard.

Some summer days we spent riding our bikes to Lizzie’s which was the local ice cream parlor and gag gift store, I bought my first can of fart spray there and I sprayed it on Dina’s bicycle seat, Her father Wayne did not find it so funny. Wayne could be a smart ass but we as children respected him because he had a very authoritative voice . He actually made me clean her bike… Funny thing years later I went to my Junior Prom with Dina.

Alot of days we also took our bikes to the Baseball Card shop on almost a daily basis. We collected baseball cards for a very long time and well trading cards with the other kids on the front stoop of the shop kinda became a staple of everyday life. The people who owned the shop always welcomed us in and never said a cross word to any of us. After the baseball card shop we would sometimes go to the drug store get candy and garbage pail kids. The hot dog joint Annie’s was right next door and we always went there for fries or a drink. Tcby was in the same complex for those who do not know what Tcby is it means the countries best yogurt it was a frozen yogurt shop and sometimes we would go there to, I stil know of one in chicago if your ever into finding frozen yogurt shops.

Sometimes we would go to the railroad station and we would of course be kids watch the trains pass count the cars, but the real motive was putting pennies on the tracks and having them flattened, Sometimes it would take us a few minutes to find the pennies in the rocks after. But we had fun social media, the internet did not exist. So we actually had to physically make contact with people, go outside and play and get exercise and fresh air. I loved growing up in that era because now we hide behind keyboards and we find love online. We do not date the old fashioned way anymore and everyone wants to move to the next level in a few weeks. Kids are now trying to grow up acting like thugs on the internet, and we as parents act like well they are just being kids. We should ban them all from the internet their phones for a month I guarantee they would be different at the end and see the importance of actual human interaction.

Anyways getting tired as I am sitting here typing this and I am sure I have plenty more memories to share but these were just a few thoughts that crossed my mind… hope you all read and enjoy.





The Great Useless Amtrak Employees At Union Station, Chicago, Illinois

Normally I include a photo of some sort in every blog I write. today I am not including one, instead I want to write about the horrible experience I had with Amtrak the past day.

Last night I got to the Illinois Terminal, Champaign, Illinois about 5pm or so,I was a couple hours early due to the fact my ride had to be somewhere else that evening. My train was supposed to be in at 6:59pm Heading towards Chicago, Illinois. around 7:15 they finally call us out to the platform to wait. All the passengers including Myself waited an hour outside, until the customer service rep said it was going to be  awhile until the train would be there.

We went inside as the customer service reps and police started telling the customers they could not divulge any information as to why our train was this late. People started investigating it themselves, and found out our train that we were supposed to catch had been hit by a Tractor, the witnesses I talked to had said a Semi carrying a tractor had hit the train.

For the next 2 hours or so we sat around until Amtrak finally admitted, that their train had struck farm equipment. It was not until about 9pm or so when a freight engine finally towed the Amtrak train we were supposed to be on with the remaining passengers going to Chicago, and they let them off at the Illinois Terminal. As the Train passed I had noticed just how damaged the Engine pulling the Amtrak really was. As the Passengers were getting off shaken by this incident, Channel 3 news had showed up to interview them and get a shot of the train being towed.

We sat there until about 10:30 When the girl at the Customer Service Desk made an announcement, that all passengers going to Chicago should remain in the Amtrak lobby until further notice about the buses they had got. Around  11 pm they finally told us our buses would be there momentarily, and they had us stand outside on this island with a small roof over it as the rain came down. We stood there until 12am before any buses finally arrived.

We had boarded the buses as the bus driver started loading from the middle of the line and not the beginning of the line, and he had caused one female passenger to become irate with this, and he tried to play Mr. Tough Guy, and get in the woman’s face literally. After we boarded the buses, it was finally time to leave, but as we got further down the road, we had all realized the bus we were on had no heat. We dealt with this for about two and a half hours. We finally arrived at what we were told was Union Station in Chicago, Illinois, yet we were dropped off two blocks from the station itself, and we all had to walk in 45 degree temps through a steady rain.

We had got to the doors of Union Station, and the police were standing inside, and would not listen to who we were, and things were about to get heated. The Manager was a tall skinny, white , shaved head snob with glasses he finally listened after 5 minutes of arguing trying to prove who we all were. We kept telling him we are Train 392, and the buses just got us here, and yet he stared at us like we were zombies about to eat him. He had finally let us in, and we were all ushered downstairs and told to go to the Amtrak Lobby basically without question, as if he was trying to avoid being confronted by already Irate passengers.

At the Champaign, Illinois Terminal WE WERE TOLD THAT AMTRAK WOULD PUT US UP IF WE MISSED OUR CONNECTING TRAINS BACK HOME, AND WE WOULD BE PUT UP IN A HOTEL. I told the Manager at Union Station this, and I was told this is my final destination this is where I stay. I then proceeded to tell him I have been stuck in Champaign, Illinois for 6 hours, some of us brought just enough money to get back to our destinations, and we are hungry and just want a place to lay our heads. He vehemently denied Amtrak ever telling me this although this was a guy in Chicago telling me what someone in Champaign said. I finally had had enough. I went to Customer relations to ask to use the phone, because mine was not working, and I was told I could not use the phone, and Mr. Tough snob manager came out and tried to confront me again. This time I told him we want accommodations or I want a cab back to my mothers house which is 75 miles away. He refused again telling me he cannot get me a cab because them getting us there this late was not their fault and this is my final destination and this is where we will stay until our trains in the morning.

After Awhile I went back in and told him again look this is not our fault and should not have to pay the consequences because of the mistakes of Amtrak. He had then told me he was gonna call the Police. I said fine call the police because I think this whole thing is gotten way out of hand, and the fact you will not take care of your customers but instead refuse to listen or even provide a cup of coffee for that matter for the weary travelers which you refuse to help.

The police arrived listened to both our stories agreed my story was the more compelling argument but he could not do anything, and he left. The manager then passed the buck to !-800-USA-RAIL the customer service line, I said I did not want to speak to a representative on the phone. He then asked me why I left Champaign If I knew I was going to be stuck here in Chicago for the night, I explained to him once again, We were told we would be put up in Hotels for the night, He then Proceeded to tell me, and mind you this was now past 2:30 in the morning that he had just called the Illinois terminal and they never said that Illinois Terminal usually closes completely for the night before then. So I knew he was blatantly lying to me right there and then. He then proceeded to ask me why didn’t i just stay there in Champaign and have my parents come get me because that is where I was headed for the weekend. I told him I live 240 miles from my parents they are not going to travel 240 miles at Dam near 11pm at night to come get me to bring me up. Mind you my father is well into his seventies, and does not walk to well anymore. He then said well why didn’t you call them and ask for a ride when I got to Union Station, We got in about 2 am and my parents are still 75 miles from that point. I was getting mad at his why didn’t you questions, because he acted as if it were just that easy.

I waited until about 6 in the morning as I finally nodded off in an Amtrak lobby chair for about an hour maybe less, it was not comfortable, and I did not sleep well. I went to customer relations to try to use the phone again, because Amtrak does not have WiFIi like they claim in Union station it is only for those who are using sleeper accommodations . i explained I was part of the 392 debacle, and my phone does not work right now I would just like to call my parents to let them know what time to meet me in Fox lake, Illinois this morning. She  snipped at me I need a ticket to prove that because we normally Do NOT DO THIS! I said here is my ticket and you and your managers have already put us out, I need a phone!. She let me use the phone, and afterward told me my ticket was no good since I did not take the train into the station. So I had to go get a new return ticket, because If you do not Check in on the train, they do whats called a forced check in and your ticket is no good. Mind you some of us never got checked in on the train because we got bussed because of this fiasco. I went to the customer service lady at the ticket counter, she actually called customer service to clear the force check in. and was the nicest lady I encountered all night that worked for Amtrak! I even told her that.

I suggest that if you take Amtrak read their small print, and buyer beware if a train gets in a wreck before or while your on the train you may experience some of these same problems with bad customer representatives of their company. If this ever happens again no matter how I will find a way back home to my own bed before I try to go on ! It is not worth the hassle and the problems you encounter. These guidelines for the way they treat people need to be rewritten for them at Amtrak.

Sorry for the rant I just wanted to get this all off my chest as I have now been up for almost 24 hours with maybe an hour or so of sleep or a power nap. I would like comments on this ! and tell me your views.

Thank you,