Last night was the first time I had ever woken up in Washington D.C. and not known why I was there. Wait, wait! It’s not what you think! Let me explain…
I spent all summer at Hopkins taking classes and working at a lab downtown at the School of Medicine. By the time August rolled around, I hadn’t really been home for about eight months, so as soon as I was done with my second set of summer finals (I know…summer finals…yuck), I hopped a plane back to Houston. The next ten days were a whirlwind of friends and family. My last full day there was spent on the beach (the sandy one in Galveston, not the grassy one at Hopkins!), playing soccer in the sand and Frisbee in the 89°F water. But the time came to leave home and go back Home(wood), so I got on another plane…destination, Baltimore…
When I got off the plane at BWI, everything seemed fine. I went to baggage claim and got my stuff. I headed out the doors and followed the signs to the left, where a bus that said “AMTRAK/MARC” pulled up and took me to the BWI train station. This is where my misadventure began.
I walked into the station and asked when the next MARC train heading to Penn Station would be taking on passengers (the MARC train is preferable to Amtrak only because it costs like four dollars to get to Penn from BWI, compared to the Amtrak which costs around twenty dollars). He replied that it would be about an hour. I was tired from a long day of travel, so, having no interest in waiting that long, I tearfully parted ways with my twenty-dollar bill. He handed me a ticket. This train was arriving in five minutes. HINT: My first clue should have been the ticket.
My second clue should have been that he told me to cross the bridge to the southbound side of the tracks. But I wasn’t paying attention, because I was exhausted and I just wanted to get back to school.
The train arrived and I, a little suspicious of my whereabouts, asked the conductor if this train was heading to Penn Station. “Yeah,” he said curtly. I persisted, “Penn Station…in Baltimore, right?” “Uh-huh.” Satisfied, I got onboard and lay down across two seats. Before I knew it I was asleep. I woke up to the sound of the conductors voice over a speaker in my car. “…(unintelligible)…Wash…(unintelligible)…D.C.!” I bolted awake. “WHAT???”, I shouted, causing the girl and her mother (who were wearing matching Georgetown hoodies) in the seats directly in front of me to jump halfway to the ceiling.
I disembarked, and found myself in what was unmistakably Union Station in Washington D.C.
I looked at my ticket, lo and behold it said: “TO–WASHINGTON D.C. (UNION)”!
I felt so betrayed! I had been misled to believe that I was going back to Homewood, and there I was walking behind two Hoyas in the nation’s capitol.
I began telling my story to everyone wearing an Amtrak uniform. Luckily, Amtrak’s headquarters is at Union Station, and my story reached the ears of a corporate higher-up who took pity on me. Turns out, he’s a Hopkins alum who now works for Amtrak and teaches Marketing classes at the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business. A train to Baltimore was just leaving, and he was supposed to be on it as well. He spoke to the conductor for this train and got me on for free! I thanked him and we parted ways–him (I can only imagine) to the super-fancy-special-private car for Amtrak executives, and me to Coach.
So I guess there are a few morals to this story…
First: Check your ticket. Do it right now.
Second: B’More is NORTH of BWI; D.C. is SOUTH of BWI…if you’re on the SAME SIDE as the ticket office, the trains go NORTH.
Third: Hopkins alumni are friendly, helpful and EVERYWHERE.
Fourth: The JHMI Shuttle is your friend. It will never forsake you. Say thank you to the driver when you get off.
Stay classy, Johns Hopkins.