Somebody Somewhere MUST Have a Reason.
My schedule today: leave Toronto on Train 97, the Maple Leaf, at 8:20 a.m; arrive Buffalo, NY (Depew Station) at 1:20 p.m.; depart Depew at midnight on the Lake Shore Limited for the overnight trip to Chicago. There are a couple of things worth mentioning from the first leg of that itinerary.
For one, according to the VIA Rail representative at Toronto, it was 31 degrees below zero when we boarded this morning. (That’s in Celsius, however, so it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. In Fahrenheit, it was only minus 24.)
We departed on time and as the young woman in the café car was pouring my coffee, I learned that she is a VIA employee and would be serving us until we reached the U.S. border. During the two hours when the Customs and Border Patrol people were doing their thing, she would pack up her stuff and remove it from the train. Then the Amtrak crew would board and the new café car attendant, an Amtrak employee, would restock the cabinets and refrigerators with all the sandwiches and snacks and drinks passengers would be consuming en route to New York.
Well … that’s the theory, anyway.
The VIA Rail lady did indeed depart at 10:30 and the Amtrak attendant, a stone-faced woman in her sixties with a gravelly voice, arrived minutes later. By the time Train 97 rolled out of Niagara Falls at 12:30 p.m., the café car was re-stocked and certainly appeared to be ready for business.
Several of us from the Business Class section of the car were eager for something to eat since the cafe car had been closed for two hours. With two other passengers, I stood at the counter studying the posted menus for a minute or two, expecting the new Amtrak attendant to swing into action momentarily. She, however, was having her lunch at one of the tables in the lounge section of the car and made no move to get behind the counter. Finally, she looked up to find all three of us staring at her.
“We’re closed”, she said.
I confess I was at a loss of words. After several beats, and clearly to fill what had become an ominous silence, she added, “… but we open up at Depew.”
We were due there at about 1:20 and that was, of course, was where I was getting off.
After I climbed down onto the platform at Depew, I stopped for a quick word with one of the conductors.
“Did you know that the cafe car has been closed for the last several hours?”, I asked.
“She has to re-stock,” he said. “But she’ll open up when we leave here.”
The Amtrak people usually have credible reasons for policies and procedures that seem strange, or even crazy, at first blush. I wonder what their reason could be for having the Maple Leaf’s café car closed through the entire lunch hour.