Davis to L.A. in the Parlour Car.
Julie (Amtrak’s automated reservationist) reported that Train 11 would be a scant four minutes late arriving at Davis … and she was off by an hour. To be fair, that was just before I left for the station, so she may well have corrected herself as Number 11 got bogged down in rail traffic just north of Sacramento.
Let me note for the record here that the female station agent at Davis is savvy, personable and obviously likes her job.
I positioned myself on the platform where the sleepers would be spotted and, once the train arrived, waited for the car attendant to open the door. And waited. And waited. The station agent finished loading the checked luggage into the baggage car, headed back toward the station, then appeared startled to see me still standing on the platform. She picked up her radio and contacted a conductor who apparently used the train’s PA system to let the attendant know that a passenger was trying to board his car. Moments later, the door opened and I climbed in. I didn’t see the car attendant again until I left the train in Los Angeles.
I tossed my bag into my roomette and headed for the Pacific Parlour Car for my ritualistic Bloody Mary. The attendant there confirmed that the little garnish–three olives on a toothpick–would not decorate my drink because someone had deemed olives an unnecessary expense and, therefore, an opportunity to save money on the Parlour Car operation … even at seven bucks a pop for a Bloody Mary.
At breakfast, I sat opposite a couple from San Juan Capistrano, who were taking their first overnight Amtrak ride. They were astonished to find so many passengers on the train. In fact, the wife had walked through all three coaches and confirmed that the train was, for all practical purposes, full. They, as well as the couple traveling with them, had been under the impression that nobody rides the long distance trains.
At dinner, I was joined by an Australian man who said that, at the suggestion of the Amtrak reservations agent, he had paid an additional $100 to upgrade his coach seat to “business class”. It was only after the train had left Emeryville that he discovered he would only be permitted in the parlor car for the wine tasting for which he would have to pay an additional $7.50. Except that today there was no wine tasting. He was surprisingly cheerful about it all … a helluva lot nicer than I would have been. Bottom line: This is a rip-off even when there is a wine tasting. Amtrak should dump this scam as soon as possible.
And finally, according to a little notice posted at the bar in the parlor car, one of the wines featured in the wine tasting–if there had actually been a wine tasting–was a Malbec. More than a dozen passengers would have been sampling a wine from Argentina while passing through the very heart of the California wine country.
Who comes up with these dumb ideas?