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Via Fail

Well, I just got a check from Via Rail. Nothing great but helps with groceries and expenses. I think a little blog about how it came to me is in order, because there is always a need for more examples that sticking to one's guns, not taking crap from abusive jackasses, usually pays off in the long run.

I had planned over a year earlier to attend the Basic Income Canada Network congress in Montreal June 25 to 29th. I was even involved in planning the conference. I made arrangements to travel to and from Montreal by train two months in advance.

In early June somebody from Via Rail called me. She spoke poorly.. It was not about an accent, but just poor enunciation and grammar, an unorganized mind. I got the impression that she discovered she was looking at the wrong file and had not needed to phone me at all. It seemed that all that was changed was the seat number I was being assigned on the return trip. After assuring me that everything was fine, and not to worry, she ended the call.

I thought that was a very odd call. I did not worry about it but I kept it in the back of my mind. I made the trip to Montreal without incident. I spent four days at the conference. I remained at the conference on the last day to help with some communications business.

I checked out of my residence and arrived at the Via terminal at about 5:30 on the 29th. I expected to board the train at 6:30 as it said on my ticket. I went to the departures lounge and asked a Via rail employee who was standing around where I would board the train.

He had an obnoxious attitude. He laughed at me and said the train had already left. I showed him my ticket with the 6:30 departure time on it. He said he did not know that train number and showed the ticket to another Via employee.

This employee was less obnoxious and said that this train had been cancelled. He brought me to the ticket counter. He got one of the ticket clerks to look at the ticket. I did not see him again.

I was pretty sure of what had happened but I expected Via to simply find me another way home that night. Instead this clerk looked something up on his monitor and announced that I had been informed that the train had been cancelled and I had been assigned to a five o'clock train.

I told him that, first of all, I had not been informed, and second, I expected Via Rail to get me home that night.

He just repeated again that somebody had informed me by phone that my return trip had been rescheduled. I told him that I had got a call from Via Rail but the person was not very clear and never said that anything had been changed. I also repeated that I expected Via to find an alternate way to get me home that night.

This person became agitated and said, "what's the matter, don't you understand what I am saying"? I was obvious to me that trying to be "nice" about it was getting nowhere. I told him to get a supervisor out here immediately.

He refused to do so and started the "you're being rude to me" thing. I have zero tolerance for that kind of nonsense. I had more patience with this jerkoff than I usually do with such people. Their attitudes were outrageous, as though I deliberately missed the train or that I should just go away.

I told him to "shut the fuck up, you totally sickening puke" or words to that effect, and bring bring out his supervisor, now! The woman next to him started the infantile, "you said dirty words" thing and announced that she was the supervisor, and something about this does not need to go any higher. She said she was calling the security and picked up a phone.

I waited for the two security people to show up and told them the situation. I made clear that I expected Via rail to make the situation whole. One of them asked he if I told somebody to fuck off. I said yes and so what?

The two clerks had disappeared. One of the security people found another Via employee, a short fat woman with blonde hair. She was initially a big less insolent, but was strange. She seemed to have the idea that I did not understand the Via rail phone center person when she called because she had a French accent. I said I did not think that was the main problem. Then she said "well, they are all from Monckton anyway". Huh?

I suspect that the idea of these strange statements was to try to frame me in her own mind as somebody prejudiced against French Canadians. She announced she would refund the return fare. I told her that this did not solve the problem.

She handed me seventy dollars. I again told her that I expected her to make alternate travel arrangements for me. She asked, "where, Greyhound, Megabus?" Then she walked away through a door. The security people would not let me follow after her. I insisted they bring her back because I still had no way of getting home.

One of them said that I had seventy dollars, so I could get home. There was a megabus terminal two blocks away. I asked how much the fare is on this megabus and when does it leave. They said one left at seven o'clock and the fare was $67. I asked if that was tax included. They shrugged.

I also told them that I had only a few dollars left in my pocket and in my bank account. They just shrugged. They said they could show me where to get to the megabus. I told them that if I found that the megabus cost more than $70, I would be back.

These two were not very bright, and they seemed to be intimidated by the Via people. They did seem a bit disturbed by the situation, and acknowledged that it was entirely Via's screw up.

I went and found this megabus depot. I was not impressed by this megabus, which looked unsafe to me. I found that the fare was $80 with tax. I started going back to the train station, but got lost.

I was likely just going to get more abuse from these people, and I would have money in my bank account the next day. I hailed a cab and went back to my residence, and booked in for another night, using the $70.

The next morning I withdrew money from Le Guichet Automatique, got a cab to drive me to the Greyhound depot, and bought a fare to Toronto. I had to connect through Ottawa and arrived at 7 pm that evening. I do not find greyhound seats as comfortable as when I was younger and skinnier.

Next day was Canada day. They day after, I had end of month errands to run. On July 3rd, I got hold of the customer service department of Via rail. The receptionist took the basic information and decided she had to "accelerate" this one.

The next day, after some telephone tag, I got someone called Erik on the line. He looked into this and found the person in charge of this call center which had contacted me. He confirmed that I had indeed been given wrong information. What he offered to do was to refund the cost of the cab fares and the Greyhound fares and emphasized that this was something Via rail did very rarely.

I pointed out that there were several elements of this which he and Via seemed to have a brain gap about. First of all is my having to spend an extra day in Montreal. Second, is the mental stress I was put through, worried about being stuck in a strange city with

no money, and the possibility of being arrested just for standing up to their sickening little bullies.

I am now almost 60 years old and I have serious physical disabilities. I live on a disability pension. If I make an overnight trip I must pack an expensive "positive air pressure" machine around with me, so that I do not choke in my sleep. I have arthritic and muscular problems and I am vulnerable to physical attack, despite being fairly big.

About all I can do with such people is tell them to fuck off. If I was twenty years old and in good condition again, I would have done a lot more to this individual who said to me "don't you hear what I am saying" than tell him to fuck off. There are increasing numbers of this kind of jerkoff around and I think the biggest problem with most of them is the lack of a good old fashioned down home shit kicking.

Erik thought Via employees were supposed to be trained to deescalate situations but such people generally ignore such training. I have done some internet search of people who have had trouble with Via Rail employees and there is a lot there. It derives from the same narcissistic mentality I encountered in Montreal.

That there was been some labor troubles at Via Rail recently is also going to be a factor. This is one of the things I do not like about unions. Protecting employees who harass the public does not help the cause of unionism. I have had plenty of run ins with creepy, entitled TTC operators. I also fondly recall long ago trying to get across Canada via a strike and "work to rule" bound Greyhound.

The saddest case of abuse from Via employees, which I found on the net, was of someone who was homeless being kicked off a train in the middle of nowhere. I do not know how he came to be traveling via Via. He put some food in the refrigerator which it seems Via maintains for passengers who want to pack their own provisions.

He complained that somebody stole it. The Via staff stopped the train and got the local cops to throw him off. The passengers on the train tried to intervene on his behalf, stating that the employees were greatly overreacting. Even the mounties who showed up seemed to think the whole thing was chicken shit but felt they had no choice because the via people were so adamant.

The most interesting thing was that when one of the conductors walked back into the car, she had the gall to ask why everybody was so quiet. Somebody told her, duh, we don't want to get thrown off the train.

Another recent Via Fail was when one of their engines broke down and they just abandoned people. As one commenter noted, there was no recognition that they had made a contract to get people someplace and had a legal obligation under common law. Or that is how the theory goes. This was the same problem I had, a flat refusal to take responsibility and correct the situation.

You could say that Via Rail needs to screen their employees better, but we are in the age of narcissism and it is hard to find people who do not have that kind of mentality. They absolutely do not want any responsibility for anything and get very aggressive when made responsible. I and many others say that the big problem here is current ideas about "socialization" which take the narcissist and invert narcissist personality as the norm.

As I said, the cure for a lot of this asshole behavior would be a few good swift kicks up the asshole. But this is hazardous as there does not seem to be much recognition by the justice system anymore, of the old principle that you cannot treat other people with contempt and go off whining that you have been "assaulted" or even stood up to and told off.

But I still have some means of getting some satisfaction for being treated like an inferior person and then targetting for standing up to it. I am concerned with the ineffectiveness of the court system in Canada. I have done some study of the basics of civil law and natural justice. Canadian laws have some strange gaps which always seem to work against the victims, especially ones without lawyers. However, I have developed some methods of using courts, especially small claims courts, as means of getting modest money settlements from abusive institutions.

As well, as I explained to Erik, I can be pretty good at creating negative publicity. I have run several web sites and blogs. I know something about creating traffic to a site.

At first Erik thought just refunding me the receipted expenses if I mailed him the original receipts, would mollify me. He did not like it when I called him a twit or something similar. Of course, his problem was that Via Rail does not like the idea of having to actually compensate people. It is a typical old style crown corporation.

I got him to also recompense me for the extra night's lodgings, but I needed something more than that, for the abuse, stress, and inconvenience. Finally he sent me a travel voucher, good for one year. It was fully transferable. This was the only way he could get around his boss's restrictions.

So, the voucher came first and I got on kijiji. I soon found a buyer, who I had to meet at Union station. It did feel a little weird, like I am a scalper.

There is one more detail to this; a serious reprimand to the jerks who caused this in the first place. Erik assured me that they would not just brush it off, my complaint would be read out to them and they would get demerit points and some sort of retraining session. Oh,good! That will fix them!

But that is the end of the story. I do not want to discourage people from traveling Via rail. I wish the country would get serious about going back to rail transit, for environmental, infrastructure/competitiveness, and even social reasons.

It really is a nice way to travel. I would like someday to make a trip back out west by train.