Tired of airport drama, yet not wanting to drive, I decided to take Amtrak to New York.
North Carolina was feeling like a prison sentence. I desperately needed good conversation… preferably while drinking a good cup of coffee.
Trains are different than when my father wore heavily starched white tunics buttoned with bright “gold” buttons. His hair was always cut and his face smelled of Mennen aftershave.
Diners were served on immaculate white table cloths and they ate from heavy silverware.
Quite different from Amtrak.
The trains are a bit quieter these days–but they are far less clean. Gone are the men who labored under less than desirable conditions to bring travelers a high quality dining experience. Most of those “colored” men were veterans of WWII and Korea. They were the cream of the crop because in the 30s, 40s and 50s, working for the railroad was a high status job for many in the African American community. They were paid substandard wages and silently suffered through racist Jim Crow abuses. Most railroad workers have always drank…
Today’s Amtrak workers come from all ethnic backgrounds. Rumors about hard drinking continue. Women make up a large segment of the train staff. But their unhappiness shows. Today’s train riders feel their belligerence, un-professionalism, and rudeness. Their uniforms aren’t always clean, and the conditions of the first … snack bar car was disgusting. It was simply filthy.
While I wasn’t forced to remove my shoes and continually remove everything from my pockets just to get from one place to another, I doubt if I’ll ride the train again. I’ve seen cleaner city buses.
- Find the Red Cap location inside the station.
- Arrive before your train departure time and ask the Red Cap to board you early so that you can get the type of seat you want … i.e. in the Quiet Car, or next to a window.
- Tip him a couple of bucks. The rude ticket taker inside will see this and think you are family or have some type of inside connection.
- When buying your ticket, ask the agent if the train has WiFi.
- If you have ANY sort of physical disability, let the agent know so it’s put on your ticket.
- Be prepared for crying babies that are being changed in the seat nearby.
- Be prepared to exercise tolerance.