This is a copy of the email that I sent to Amtrak this afternoon:
Before I began this journey, from Grand Junction, Colorado to Albany, Oregon...I had a conversation with Amtrak Customer Service. The individual listened to my concerns and took notes. She promised to cover my needs and I believe that she meant it. She did a good job. The ticket agent at the depot in Grand Junction, Colorado did an exceptional job, too. The problem started when I was handed off to a woman who, I believe, should not work for your company.
I was recently released from the hospital after suffering complications related to a chronic heart condition. That means that I get winded easily. Furthermore, I am sometimes unsteady on steps.
Customer service understood this and told me that I would get assistance. I was also promised and I paid for a lower level seat.
At the start of the journey, the woman that I am referring to was fully aware of my situation. Both the Grand Junction ticket agent and I made her aware of what my needs are.
So she has no excuse.
As the train rolled on into the evening, everything was fine. And then we stopped at a station point and an elderly couple boarded the train.
I was sitting in a seat at the back of the lower level car and suddenly the Amtrak woman walked in and told me that I had to move.
I blinked and scrambled to get my belongings together and moved up to the next seat as she had directed me to do. The elderly couple went down to where my seat had been and sat down. The woman sitting next to me, while older, didn't appear to have any of the disabilities that I have. And to make matters worse, she didn't like the fact that I had "invaded her space" and told me so. Suddenly I was put in a very uncomfortable position. And I thought to myself, "This is what I paid for?"
After awhile, I went out of the car and spoke to the Amtrak woman and she offered me the option of MOVING TO A SEAT ON THE UPPER LEVEL.
I struggled and finally got upstairs and the Amtrak woman was right behind me and saw firsthand just exactly how much trouble I was having going up those stairs.
But she waited until I got into a seat and left me there.
Awhile later she came back and I quietly told her what I thought about her decision to make me move. I had been texting a friend of mine who advised me to get myself back down to the lower level, somehow. She was upset about what happened and so was I.
The Amtrak woman tried to say that I had the decision to move out of my original seat voluntarily. Oh no!!
She told me to move up. She never told the woman sitting in front of me to move upstairs. In fact, the woman in front of me was left out of the equation, altogether.
I am the one with the disabilities and that woman was never asked to do a thing. I was.
Whatever was going on with the couple was not my concern or responsibility. I should NOT have been asked to move anywhere beyond the lower level cars. And when the woman in front of me started to squawk when I did what I was told and moved into the seat next to her, well then I think that it was she who should have been told that she would have to either chill out or move herself up to the upper level. NOT ME!!
Hours later, in the middle of the night, after talking the situation over with the conductor, I finally WAS ALLOWED BACK DOWNSTAIRS.
I was tired and so I just sank into the seat that finally became available. It was a train ride ruined, by that time, as far as I am concerned, for me.
And let me tell you, when I stared back down that set of stairs, I could tell that had I decided to go to the restroom...and I had been on those steps...and the train had made a sudden lurch or turn...I would have gone flying down those steps and most likely would have been injured.
I am disgusted with the "pick-and-choose" attitude that the woman worker on the California Zephyr has toward the customers. I understand that the couple wanted to sit together...but that in no way should have involved me and cancelled out equal consideration for my limitations. And when it became obvious that the woman in front of me didn't want me to sit next to her, the Amtrak woman should have offered that person a choice: Either be courteous to me or move to another part of the train. A disabled person is a disabled person and should be left seated properly for the duration of the trip. The musical seat game that the Amtrak woman subjected me to last night was played to a very bad tune.
Now I am facing yet another ride on an Amtrak train...I am going to board the Coastal Starlight at midnight tonight from here in Sacramento, California and am taking it all the way up to Albany, Oregon. And I am wondering how things will transpire when I am on THAT train tonight. A copy of this email is going to published in my blog, on Facebook and will be sent to several other entities that look out for the needs of those with disabilities.
I will appreciate a written response to this letter.