Amtrak, You Really Know How to Hurt a Guy!

It isn’t public yet – and they may never actually make a formal announcement – but Amtrak is going to do away with a number of little perks that those of us who travel in the sleeping cars are going to miss. True, we’ll miss some more than others, but they’ve all been nice reminders that Amtrak appreciates those of us traveling in the sleepers and paying top dollar for our rail journeys.

The truth is, not finding the little bottle of not-very-good-domestic Champagne in my roomette when I board won’t be a big deal. And the same with the chocolate mint on the pillow when I return to my compartment after dinner in the dining car. But there are two of those amenities that am going to miss.

I’ll be sorry not to have the newspapers slipped under my door during the night. Much of the time it’s USA Today, but often it’s the Grand Forks Herald or maybe the Dodge City Daily Globe and I enjoyed reading those small town papers. For one thing, it’s interesting to see what’s considered front page news in those towns … and to realize that it’s not all that different from what the Maui News thinks is important.

OK, so I’ll miss the newspapers. But some soulless bean counter at Amtrak has shot me through the heart by eliminating the wine tastings on the Coast Starlight. Sitting in the wonderful Pacific Parlour car, sampling a couple of reds and a couple of whites, and having interesting conversations with some of my fellow passengers … that has been an enjoyable, convivial and thoroughly civilized experience for me on each and every one of my trips on that wonderful train. (In fact, one of those afternoon wine tastings on the southbound train lasted all the way into Los Angeles!)

In the grand scheme of things, the money saved by making all of us sleeping car passengers feel a bit less special has to be chickenfeed. So, yes, I’m annoyed. But I’ve already figured out how I can make a statement … express my disappointment and frustration, albeit in a constructive way.

I’m booked from Los Angeles to Seattle on the Coast Starlight in June. Around 3:00 on that first afternoon, just after we leave San Luis Obispo and are climbing up into the famous hairpin curve, I’m going to buy a bottle of red and a bottle of white from the Parlour Car attendant. And then I’ll ask if some of the other folks there would like to join me in a glass of wine. Or maybe two. We’re gonna have our own damn wine tasting!
Whaddaya think of that,Joe Boardman??