In December 2014, I accompanied my parents on a trip to the Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railroad. Although cold, only mentioned because I am such a wimp in cold weather, the trip was an enjoyable and pleasant experience. So much so that to anyone in the Williams, AZ area I recommend stopping by the Grand Canyon Railroad, even if just to visit the railroad station. It will be worth your time. I mention the trip not as an endorsement, as that is not my forte, but after incidentally coming across a customer’s critique of the disabled’s access at the Grand Canyon Railroad.
Allow me to set the scenario. For the most part my 83-year-old father is pretty mobile, he isn’t running marathons but mobile enough to ride his bike next to me when I go for a jog through their neighborhood when I visit them. My mother’s mobility, on the other hand, is very limited and why she uses a walker to get around. Most notable is when she has to clear the curb on the sidewalk, as she is unable to lift her foot high enough to clear the curb on her own. Because of her limited mobility and in order to get to point B, before the sun sets, I wheel her around in a wheelchair when we go out.
Having established that, when I read the mentioned customer’s criticism I found it interesting as our experience was not the same. Imagine that. Similar were the days of the mentioned critique and the day we were there in that it was cold. Not sure if for the critique date as well but for us it was snowing lightly and there was a hollowing wind when we were there. The emphasis because, for me, it highlights an even greater level of discomfort as already confessed I am a wimp when it comes to being cold. That discomfort of being cold alone is an easy trigger to an EXAGGERTED UNREALISTIC EMOTIONAL EXPECTATION hissy fit from anyone, but most definitely from me.
Nonetheless, this was our experience, which, as mentioned, was different from the mentioned critique. First, we actually used the disabled access versus the mentionedcriticism who did NOT use the disabled access lift but instead observed it being used. Yet, somehow that person believes to be an authority to comment, and worse, to complain about the service giving it a C grade despite that person did not use the criticized service. Imagine that!
Our experience began when my mother questioned me on how she was going to get on the train when the train arrived. My answer, “Right now, I have no idea but I am sure they [The Grand Canyon Railroad] has someway of getting you up there as they advertise handicap access is available. But, if not them, I will get you up there somehow.” The latter a suggestion my mother does not enjoy hearing but she knows I never leave her behind and I always find the way.
When I spotted the Grand Canyon Railroad staff on the train platform I asked them about getting my mother on the train and they instructed me on how they would do so using a lift for those unable to climb the steps into the passenger cars.
Then, when it came time to board the train the railroad staff called those of us needing assistance with boarding to approach the train. And while the staff was actively boarding us to the train using a lift those able to climb onto the train on their own did so through another entrance at the same time. Unfortunately, for me, because of the cold, snow and wind, it appeared as if we were taking FOREVER. However, that is my dysfunction as I always fall apart in the cold like a baby and the primary reason I bolted from New York for warmer weather but I digress. And I realize I keep repeating that but I just want to make it clear so that there is no mistaken whose dysfunction it is so please bear with me to that point.
Again, I blame the weather, not the staff, for the long time it took for us to get on the train. If anything, to the staff’s credit, once we were on board it actually took no longer than if I had stood in line to climb aboard on my own as that line was much longer. So much so that when I looked for everyone else inside I noticed my father and others in our party were still outside, in the cold, as they had waited to board until my mother and I were inside the train. That was so nice of them and reason enough why I should not be crying but damn it was cold waiting out there.
Back to the story on hand, as I wheeled my mother onto the lift an older lady, older than my mother, who was walking on her own and doing just fine, tried to climb on the lift with us at the suggestion of her family. The family behind the older woman saying to her, “Go ahead Nana [not sure if her name] try to get on there.” I, of course, turned to the family and said, “What are you doing?” The family asking, “Can’t she get up there with you?” “Ah, No,” I said and added, “Sir, in our society we have norms and one of those is there is a line and you wait your turn in that line.” After my words the gentleman asked Nana to come off the apparatus.
Surprisingly, Nana and her family simply pivoted, right there, in front of some 15-20 able people waiting to climb into the train and disregarding those people Nana and family climbed right into the train as if no else existed.
I realize it was the holidays and everyone was in the holiday spirit. But the lifting apparatus could barely fit my mother in her wheelchair and me standing behind her and there was no way Nana would have fit on there with us. Not to mention, there was another disabled person in line behind us before Nana showed up. So when I noticed this third-party lady giving me the “stink eye” I stared right back at her. But did not say anything although the thought in my mind was, “What!?!”
Could my mother have stood up from the wheelchair and stood next to a folded wheelchair and me so that Nana could get on too? Absolutely. However, the platform space was so small I would have to unloaded my mother from the platform, get her to stand, and then help her climb up the metal, wet, ramp to climb onto the platform. After that, then I would have to get off the platform, fold the wheelchair and carry it onto the platform just so that Nana could get on with us. Of course, in the spirit of the holidays, I could have done that. But Nana also cut the disabled line where there was another person in a wheelchair behind us.
Once we were loaded onto the lift, the staff manually, YES(!), MANUALLY, IN THE COLD, cranked the lift, to raise my mother and I onto the train. Once at the top we got off the lift and to our warm seats. The staff then lowered the lift, MANUALLY, and lifted, MANUALLY, the second person waiting in the snow and wind. That is pretty remarkable of the staff to MANUALLY crank that apparatus as far as I am concerned. And at no point did I not trust the staff as they lifted us.
Once everyone was boarded we left the train station for the Grand Canyon. And once on the way my cousin and I went to the diner car to get something to eat. While in line a gentleman I did not recognize said to me, “I am so sorry back there. I didn’t know my mother did not fit on there with you.” Not knowing who the gentleman was I guess he must have been the gentleman telling Nana to climb onto the lifting apparatus with my mother and I. My answer, “No big deal. But there was a line.” And in the spirit of the holidays I left it at that. As it no longer matter but I wanted to add, “There was a line to get onto the train as well,” as Nana had cut that line too. And that is leaving out the fact that Nana despite her age she was able to climb into the train on her own, yet, the family encouraged her to take advantage of the disabled lift she did not need. Once again, the EXAGGERATED UNREALISTIC EMOTIONAL EXPECTATIONS of some.
At the Grand Canyon the staff manually, again, MANUALLY, winded us off the train, in the cold, when we got there and winded us back on, in the cold, again, when it was time for us to head back home. At the rail station the staff manually, once again, MANUALLY, winded us off the train when we got back to the Grand Canyon Railroad Station. And although still cold at least by then it had stopped snowing and the wind had stopped blowing. And again, every time we put our trust in the hand of the staff lifting and lowering us without thinking about it and they did not let us down.
All in all, the staff operating the lift did their job and we very much appreciated it. Because, although with some effort, like a fireman’s carry, I could have gotten my mother on the train I do not believe my mother would have appreciated it. Thus the lift and those operating it were much appreciated.
All that said to say this, not that I am a wimp in the cold as I do not shy from that fact, but that at no moment, as the mentioned critique commented, did I perceive any negative vibes from those operating the lifts, a lack of trust, and much less, did we apologize or feel we had to apologize to any of them for any reason. Again, if anything, we were very much appreciative of the staff assisting with getting my mother onto the train regardless that is their job and what they get paid to do.
Was the staff elated of doing what they were doing? I have no idea and could not care less because regardless, if they were elated or not, they did their job and my parents and I were thankful and none of us saw reason to be apologetic. But just to satisfy the staff’s critics let’s just say the staff did not enjoy operating the lift. However, now that I think of it, after the fact of course, I was not elated that they needed to assist my mother in the first place as I wish my mother could get on the train herself but she cannot. However, because she cannot she was not diminished to a lesser category despite we did have to wait until others can help her to do what she is unable to do on her own. Nor did we feel uncomfortable or feared the worst as we were putting our security and safety in the hand’s of stranger. Actually, it was because of the staff at the Grand Canyon Railway that my mother could enjoy this activity with us regardless if the lift staff enjoyed their jobs or not and I would NOT hesitate to have them assist us again.
So rather criticize the staff at The Grand Canyon Railroad my mother and I would like to say thank you, a million times, as we appreciate your assistance. Thank you.
The point, just because someone complains/critics/comments about something does NOT mean their comments are worthy and much less that they are subject matter experts or have any idea what they are complaining/critiquing/commenting about.