Why I’m Disappointed in the Philadelphia Amtrak Train

Yesterday,  über-edgy news outlet VICE published a writer’s racial cry for help in the form of the thinkpiece Why I’m Disappointed in Mindy Kaling. The long-winded rant boiled down to the fact that Kaling, the actress/creator of “The Mindy Project”, was not being Indian enough for the author’s liking.

I’m glad that there are websites that will gladly post the self-loathing of people on their payroll. And in the spirit of making that money, I solicited the Hunter S. Thompson-wannabe content generator with my own thinkpiece about a recent news story. Enjoy!

Why I’m Disappointed in the Philadelphia Amtrak Train

May 16, 2015

by Genial Black Man


The Philadelphia Amtrak Train and one of its many unsafe journeys practice the unsafest thing of all: a high-speed trip

I should preface this by saying I don’t want to hate the Philadelphia Amtrak 188 train. I want to adore and cherish the railroad. I want to watch the news coverage and website video it stars in and think, “Isn’t it great? It’s great, right?” I want to ask a friend over text if they want to go watch the new breaking news story it is in, and for them to say, “Fuck yes, I do.”

Why? The true glee of watching the first locomotive to have killed more people than the Boston Marathon bombing is truly novel, and more importantly, historic.

But when I found out that the wreckage was cleaned up this week, I let out a big, “ZOOP-E-DEE-DO! This is great news.” To my chagrin, the FBI announced it would “investigate” the crash yesterday, and has ordered a look into whether a flying object may have caused the tragedy. Foiled again!

I’ve seen every single piece of news footage of the crash, which ran a short one week, half hate-watching and half leaning in and enjoying the fact that I was witnessing a train who looked like a 1940s party wagon gone horribly wrong. It was a confusing week.

The news coverage is the televised footage on which the Philadelphia Amtrak train plays the Northeast Corridor trainwreck coffin, and essentially, other than being a metal death container, the stories hinge on it being as unsafe as a bareback gangbang. The few times they address that fact, by having other news outlets call it out on its wrecklessness, it recalls the time it was totally safe: “I haven’t had a crash in 28 years!” Nice, Philadelphia train. Here is why it sucks.

Reason 1: Amtrak 188 doesn’t care to comment about being unsafe
Unfortunately, Amtrak 188’s inability to speak about safety follows it outside of the burned-out husk it plays on television. Amtrak 188 has been asked on a number of occasions to comment on its presence in a predominantly safe space and its status as a pioneer for scrap metal cadaver creators specifically. Like a grumpy old safe trains, Amtrak 188 counters, “I’m a fucking unsafe train who has his own fucking graphic package on the news, OK?”

Not only does it scoff at the safety identifier, but passenger comfort as well. In its first breaking news coverage on CNN, No Plane Disappearance; Just a Train Derailment, it preemptively asks, “Why didn’t you talk about whether trains are safe or not?” Its answer: “I just thought that by commenting on that in any significant way, it would be explicit approval of it as a serious topic, which it isn’t.”

Reason 2: Amtrak 188 doesn’t care about passenger comfort
I agree with Amtrak 188. It shouldn’t be a topic; trains are safe. But why is the engineering crew of Amtrak made up of engineers (with the exception of Joe Biden)? And why have most of its passengers deceased due to weak bodies?

Reason 3: Amtrak 188’s strange love for unsafeness
I expect more responsibility from Amtrak, especially since it is also a train of safety in the Northeast Corridor and its dual transportation and carbon-friendly roles are realities for a lot of trains created and ridden in North America. It has acknowledged that it has faced safety probes in the industry, and yet refuses to comment on whether or not it is safe. I think part of the frustration lies in Amtrak 188’s less than intersectional passenger comfort. Amtrak 188 seems to be more driven by traditional notions of unsafe and crash-prone relationships. Viewers are bombarded by unsafe depictions of train crashes  with every new bombastic news piece Philadelphia Amtrak is in. Its pursuit of and desire for unsafeness is reflected in the loud coverage on countless occasions. In the Atlantic article “The Aftermath of the Amtrak Crash,” Philadelphia is caught speeding at 106 miles per hour around a 50 mph curve and hands its life to the nearby field, saying, “OK, I know that my life says that I’m safe” with automatic speed control, positive train control system with transponders yet to be activated. My philosophy is that a life should be aspirational.”

Reason 4: I need Amtrak 188 more than it needs me
OK, fine, I know, safety is not an easy goal to achieve. It requires a lot of work from everyone involved. But just because Amtrak 188 is a train of unsafeness who leads a news network’s broadcast, doesn’t mean it gets a pass on the safety issue. All of that work is undone when you avoid questions about a lack of safety and insert safety-based gags into your coverage, such as “… Philadelphia Amtrak hates not being the only unsafe train in the news.” These attempts to poke fun at safety are lazy because they are not properly taken up in the news: they are simply inserted and forgotten about. Amtrak 188 uses safety when it works, and conveniently avoids it when it does not. In an interview with NBC it shares: “I was just born in this track, so it’s not something I think about while I’m careening ’round corners.” Just when it’s newsworthy, right?

I’m yearning for trains like Amtrack 188, because they are not readily available, which makes it ultra disappointing that it doesn’t recognize her complexity as an unsafe caravan. Amtrak 188 instead completely rejects these aspects of its identity, and chooses to implant visions of safe ideals, in an industry that is already saturated with Thomas the Tank Engines.

That is why I hate Philadelphia Amtrak 188.


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