Friday, October 5, 2007

Sometimes, my job's not so bad

The trip back was one of the most enjoyable of the year. There were some fun people in my car, with whom I got on famously. The trip wasn't all positive. The steward in the dining car next to my dome-car pissed off quite a few people with his rude, abrupt manner. A lot of my job consisted, therefore, of what we call in the biz "service recovery." Fortunately, I'm pretty damn good at it. If anything, the contrast between my friendliness and the steward's rudeness, just made me look better. I got lots of praise from both the customers and the Service Manager for my work. Which I have to say does have some impact on how I feel about the job.

One of the things that made this group enjoyable was, I think, the fact that there were several people travelling alone. In an earlier post after my last trip, I mentioned how much I despise people in tour groups. They seem to behave, for the most part, like a herd, and they can be very demanding. But the solo travellers on this trip were making quite genuine connections with each other and with other passengers who did have travelling companions. It was quite lovely. My interactions with the passengers was more peer-to-peer than server-to-customer. Although they kept me quite busy at the bar, it didn't feel a whole lot like work.

This morning one passenger, a delightfully assertive older woman from Hamilton, asked where she could find a copy of my book. I always have a copy or two on hand, so I said she could get one from me. She bought one and proceeded to read two poems, "Rip Rap Reprise" and "Mussel Mud," aloud--quite well, I should add--in the dome. Another passenger, a travel agent from Nanaimo, said she wanted a copy too, so I sold her my last one. Had I had a half-dozen, I could've sold 'em all, with no prompting from me. The other passengers present took down the information and said they'd be ordering it from Amazon. Which they may or may not, probably not, but it's heartening nonetheless. It just serves to reinforce my belief that the only thing that poems and their writers need do to find a general audience is not turn their backs on that audience. If people can see, in a natural spontaneous fashion, that poems are the extension of a life lived--or its exhaust and ash, as Leonard Cohen has said--and not some kind of riddling obscurity, they will "get" what's going on pretty readily, even if not on the same level as the expert reader.

One of my former co-workers from Via Halifax got on the train in Jasper. I didn't see much of her, as she was honeymooning, but we did have a brief chat in which I found out that the new hires in Halifax only got about a month of work this year. Not a good sign. This is the second year in a row that new hires have barely worked because of low ridership. Start taking the train, people! Before it's gone, eh...

Speaking of which, my job's being abolished on the 23rd, so I have one more trip, hopefully (I could get "bumped" by someone else who's abolished before me), before going on the spare board for a week or so until my layoff. Pretty good luck on the whole. Had I stayed in Halifax, no way I could've held an assignment all summer.

Rachel and I are off to Osoyoos, in the Okanagan Valley, for the long weekend. I'm hoping to score some of that delicious "Flame" aperitif from the Silver Sage Winery in Oliver. One of my passengers told me that the owner of the winery died a couple years ago in a freak accident; overcome by CO2 fumes, he tumbled into a vat and drowned. Which is goddamn awful, but if a vintner's going to go, could there be a more appropriate way?

Happy thanksgiving.

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