Perspective on People: Philadelphia Business Journal
by: Karen Friedman
Welcome to Philadelphia. Or maybe not. Arriving at 30th street station to catch the Amtrak to Washington DC should be a welcoming experience especially if you’re visiting from out of town. Fortunately I’m a resident and have come to expect a certain amount of rude behavior from Philadelphian’s assigned to help.
Wondering what track my train typically arrives on, I inquired at the information desk.
“The train isn’t posted yet” she said.
“I know,” I responded. I was just wondering what track it usually arrives on.
“Ma’am…we have late trains to deal with that take priority so if you’re train is not late; you’ll just have to wait.”
“My train isn’t late.” I said pointing to the big information board above her head. “It’s the 8:17 that says on time to DC. I just want to know what track it’s expected to arrive on so I can sit by that track.”
“Ma’am, I told you we are quite busy with late trains.”
I looked up at the board again and in the status column, every train read “on time”.
Well, I remarked, “I was just asking a question.”
“Which I answered,” she spit back.
So I sat down and looked around at the early morning travelers, many who were standing looking up at the information board clearly trying to determine where to catch their trains.
So I did a quick poll asking people where they were from. Boston. Baltimore. Pittsburgh. Rhode Island.
“Excuse me,” said a Boston bound passenger to me. “Do you happen to know what track the train to DC is on?”
Thinking better of sending her to the information desk, I told her I didn’t, but eventually it would be posted on the board.
I’ve written about this before. Taxi drivers, information desks, tour guides, street workers or park rangers are our visitors’ first impressions of Philadelphia. If you’re not up to a warm smile, helpful hand and friendly approach, perhaps you should do the city and public relations effort a favor and find a job without public interaction.
As I looked around, I noticed people starting to line up at track five. The Boston passenger was in line too. Assuming it was my train heading for DC, I got in line behind her.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you again,” said Boston, “but do you know if this is the line for the train to DC? I asked the lady at the desk and she said it was late so it didn’t have a track yet.”
I glanced up at the board. Train # 2107 to DC was still on time leaving on track five.
“Yes, you’re in the right line,” I said pointing to the board. Then I had an idea. I asked Boston to hold my place for a moment and I walked back up to the information desk.
“Excuse me,” I said, “Does train 2107 to DC have a track yet?”
“I told you it was late, “she said, “without looking up to meet my eye.”
“Well, it’s not late, “I said pointing to the board. “The board behind you says it’s on time at track five so perhaps you should look at it so you can help people,” I offered.
She looked up, this time silently staring at me. Then she said, “Next”.
“Next,” I asked, “What does next mean?”
“I’ll take the next person in line,” she said.
So I stepped aside. Welcome to Philadelphia.