My phone rings out this morning and a man says in a raspy, “Hello?”
“Is this Pete?” I ask.
“Yes, this is Pete,” he replies.
“Hi, Pete. This is Mary Jo Doig. I’ve called three times during the past ten days but hadn’t heard back yet. You probably have messages telling you I left my car parked at the Amtrak Station on March 2nd, the day of the nor’easter. I punched into the toll machine that I’d be gone five days and it charged me the weekly rate of $50.00. I’m calling because I couldn’t get to my destination and returned home the next day.”
I hear shuffling of papers. “I know the name,” he says, pronouncing name in the Southern way, nam (as in Viet Nam). “And I know what you’re going to ask,” he adds, then launches into a litany of the huge numbers of cars that use the lot, how hard it is to keep track of who comes and goes, and much more. Patiently I listen. In the climate of our present-day rudeness-and-crassness, I refuse to participate. I will be respectful of him.
He pauses to inhale. “Yes,” I say, taking advantage of the break, “I’m calling because my credit card shows charges for a week and I would ask that you kindly charge me for just two days.”
He jumps right in again. “Do you know how much work that would take to be on top of all that for every customer?”
“I can only imagine,” I replied. “But you remember that Friday of the Nor’easter, right? How we stopped and started four to five times on the way to Union Station and it took eight hours to get there with all the downed trees, and then Amtrak cancelled all trains north? The next morning I went to the train terminal to see what would be better, trying to move ahead to New York or return home. I decided to come home, and that was another eight hour, instead of three hour trip.”
He started to talk about how the nor’easter had fallen so many trees on his property he was still sawing them up. I said, “Me, too.” We launched into this common ground for a few sentences, then I said, “So, you know that when I returned, my card was billed on day three, not day five.”
“I don’t usually do refunds,” he said, but I thought I detected a tad of softening in his firm voice. “I used my credit card,” I said.
“Well, let me look it up in the system.” He snorted and grumbled as the computer worked slowly, then found me after I told him when I parked and when I left. “What’s your parking spot number?”
“Forty-one,” I said, adding that I’d remember that number for the rest of my life because I’d had to walk twice to it during that howling, frigid Friday morning.
He chuckled. “Okay, here you are.” He asked additional questions and then said, “Okay, I’m going to refund you for two days.”
“That would be very nice,” I said and thanked him.
He grumbled some more, but less crankily, at the computer as he clicked keys. “Okay, I’m doing the refund now. It’ll be done in a minute.”
I thanked him again.
Silence filled the phone line for about a minute and then I heard a sound something like a growl. I waited silently until he said, “M’am, I’m sorry you had such a tough two days on the train, and to make up for that I’ve refunded you the entire $50.00. Maybe one day you’ll come back and ride the train again.”
“Wow, that’s very nice of you, Pete. I’ve had a few really nice experiences, like this with you today, and with a ticket lady at Union Station, and, you know, I think I will ride Amtrak again,” then added, “but not until summer.”
He chuckled. “I’m glad to do this for you. Watch your email and the refund will show up there shortly.”
Once more, I thanked him.
Later, I found the below in my email:
I wrote a reply:
Thank you. Your kindness was a lovely ending to a long-anticipated journey interrupted by Mother Nature.
Mary Jo Doig