Over coffee this morning . . .
. . . I was telling my wife about a few of the interesting things that occurred during my recent cross country train ride. In particular, I tried to remember some of the people I met over a dining car meal or in the parlor car on the Coast Starlight . . .
. . . or on the platform of the amazing restored Denver railroad station. That where, for the first time, I met a relative of mine and her husband, who live in Denver. These folks got up early on a Saturday morning just to meet me. Ann had bought a copy of my book and she emailed me wondering how close our respective branches might be on the family tree. Quite close, as it turned out. In fact, we had a couple of old school chums in common.
Over dinner on the Coast Starlight, I sat across from a young couple from England who are in this country for the summer under some kind of program run by the Disney people. They had spent a month working at Disney World in Orlando, then traveled through the South living for a few days with local families in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. They were both very discreet in talking about their experiences, but did say that they were astonished at the quantity of food served at virtually every meal. And they both hated grits.
My car attendant on the California Zephyr, a woman named P.J., was terrific. Several times I found her cleaning the lavatories during the trip and she scored 100-percent on my unofficial Ideal Car Attendant Check-List. The attendant in my car on the Coast Starlight flunked. He was nowhere to be found when I tried to board his sleeping car at Davis, and he was invisible during the entire 14 hour ride. But you may be sure he was on the platform in Los Angeles to receive any tips that might be offered.
Speaking of tips, I once again ran into several people who had no idea what to do about tips, either for their car attendant or for the people working in the dining car. Amtrak does a poor job informing passengers about the tipping protocol on their trains. That’s too bad, because most passengers really want to know. Personally, I use the menu prices as a guide in the dining car and tip as I would in a regular restaurant. I tip $10 a night for a really good car attendant like P.J. For someone who does the bare minimum, but is pleasant–$5 a night. The bozo on the Coast Starlight? Zippo!