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Diatribe: Someone Should’ve Poked Tom Wagner.


I'mStillInHereAt one point in my career I found myself commuting into the Chicago Loop.  It was an exciting daily journey from the suburbs that began with a twenty-minute drive from home to the train station, where I paid to park my car.  This was followed by a ride on a commuter train into the city which, depending on the day of the week and the time of the day was either an “express” train or a “local” train that made several stops to pick up additional passengers on its journey into the city.  Once the train arrived in the city, the end of the line, at about the same time as several other trains arriving from different directions, a massive swarm of people would spill into the streets like a massive army of ants as each finished his or her commute to the office by taxi cab or on foot.

The trip home was the exact opposite with one exception.  My stop was not at the end of the line.  Each night, as I travelled home after a long day at the office and what often felt like a footrace amongst sharp-elbowed hooligans vying for pole positions on the trains bound for home, I lived in constant fear that I would fall asleep on the train, miss my stop, and end up at the other end of the line where I would have to call for a ride back to my car and deal with what I imagined would be a lifetime of embarrassment.

Like Tom Wagner who fell asleep last Friday in a window seat near the back of a United Express flight from Louisiana to Houston where he was to have a layover.  Wagner woke from his nap to discover that everyone, including the flight crew, had deplaned and he was alone in a pitch-black and cold cabin.  The aircraft’s doors were locked but, fortunately his cell phone wasn’t dead.

“I called my girlfriend, and she thought I was crazy.  I said, ‘Debbie I’m locked on the plane.  I said, ‘I’m telling you the truth.  You better go somewhere and get me off this plane.” – Tom Wagner

Thirty minutes later, workers finally boarded the aircraft and rescued Wagner.  He, allegedly, said that they wanted him to keep the incident quiet, and paid for a nearby hotel and gave him a $250 flight voucher hoping to help him overlook the ordeal.  United Express insists that its crew did a post-flight walkthrough, is investigating how this situation occurred and has publicly apologized for any inconvenience this may have caused Mr. Wagner.

I never did fall asleep on the train and miss my stop.  It turned out that I wasn’t the only commuter living with the fear of waking up at the end of the line.  Commuters, it turns out, become creatures of habit … riding in the same train car, sitting in the same seat, day after day with the same group of people … and they develop a bond, a kinship if you will, that somehow makes it acceptable to poke a sleeping stranger on the shoulder and say “This is your stop.”

Someone should’ve poked Tom Wagner.


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From → Diatribes

  1. I always take a window seat for two reasons – one I never have to get up and two, and this is the most important reason, I go to sleep before takeoff and like having the window to lean on. I always wake to get my free (sorta) soda and snack and then go back to sleep until landing. On trains I’m one of those creatures but never intentionally go to sleep. I have slept past my stop and the two times I did that was on the train that went to the end of the line (my other choice is the line that my stop is 5th to last.) The train goes an hour past my stop and they make you get off. I then had to wait for a train that would stop near where I lived and that was a 2 hr wait and another 1 hour ride. NOT FUN! This was on the Long Island Rail Road in NY.


    • You’ve lived my nightmare. If I had slept until the end of the line I would have either called for a ride or spent the night … there wasn’t another train until the next morning. I wasn’t afraid to fall asleep on an airplane until I learned of poor Tom Wagner.


  2. My travel nightmare story. When I was 13 my Dad put me on a flight to our tiny town and he caught the plane to San Francisco. We flew up in awful weather and I was sick the entire time. Twenty minutes out they had to turn around so I was sick all the way back. So about six hours of that. I got out of the plane in the huge Vancouver, BC airport and didn’t know a soul. I called home but knew my mom was substitute teaching that day and would not be home. No answering machines then. I couldn’t call the school as both of our schools burned down and the classes were held all over town. I sat down and waited for inspiration to strike. Then I heard another flight north being canceled and ran over to the counter where I recognized one of the passengers. He called some friends, they took care of me and put me on the boat. I was still worried about being sea sick this time that I stayed in my cabin until the captain had to come find me and make sure I was still on the boat.


  3. Where was Rod Serling? ….welcome to The Twilight Zone.


  4. I am the type of person who would poke a sleeping passenger to tell them it was their stop & I have done so.


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