Sunday, August 07, 2005

Top Rack, Set to Broil

My train departed last night from Chamartin station, the most inaccesible station in town, owing to metro repairs. After a few hours of waiting for the train to be prepared, I finally saw the announcement and headed to board, expecting to climb into a comfortable couchette for a night's sleep. Instead, I found that I had paid for a place on the top rack under the broiler in an inhumanely hot tin can. There were 3 bunks in my cabin and I was in the top one. There was no ventilation of any kind and none of the windows could be opened. After just five minutes, I had sweat pouring from every pore and I pulled the attendant aside to tell her that if I stayed up there, that I would be dead by morning from dehydration. Her response was that I should just go sit all night in the cafeteria car and that I can buy water there too! It was then that I mentioned that I had AIDS and that her response was not only inhumane but also inadequate. She shrugged and walked away.

I spent the night in this cabin full of strangers in the extreme heat, waking every few minutes. I also stripped down to my skivvies as any other clothing was too much too bear/wear. It wasn't my fault that the same-sex cabin I was promised came with one elderly wife and a young girlfriend. I was glared at all night by the young boyfriend for practically baring my all, but that is almost too sad for me to contemplate that he might have been embarrassed for his friend.

When our train arrived in Barcelona this morning, I filed a formal complaint with the train station and will also do the same when I get home and can write to Eurail. It is one thing to put up with the discomfort of travel. It is another thing entirely to be dessicated to death.

(Editor's note: the complaint was filed and I was told I would receive a refund. On returning home, 2 month later, I received a letter stating that I had to provide copies of my boarding passes in order for my request to be processed...and I had tossed those long before.)

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