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Want to Hear Some Amazing Stories? Just Ask Your Car Attendant.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder has been running late; often many hours late. The reason, I’m told, is the recent burst of activity in the oil fields around Williston, North Dakota and the resulting increase in freight traffic has raised hell with the Builder’s on-time performance. I was, therefore, prepared for a late arrival this morning into Seattle, but we arrived 35 minutes early. Ya just never know, do ya!

We had a great on-board crew, too. The attendant in my sleeper was cheerful, hard-working and attentive without being in the way. And she was funny, too. At a couple of the refueling stops, we had time to chat and she regaled me with some would-you-believe stories. 

Knowing that many people traveling on the long-distance trains are senior citizens, I asked her if it was unusual for people to die en route. “It happens,” she said with a shrug, “and you deal with it the best you can.”

Then a mischievous look came over her and she said that the attendant in the next sleeper had an interesting story on that subject. “Ask him to tell you about the guy who died in La Crosse,” she said. 

I found her co-worker collecting linens as we neared Seattle and he grinned when I asked about the dead man in  La Crosse.  

“He was 80 years old,” he said, “and was traveling with a woman who was probably 45. She came to get me when we were just about to La Crosse. She said the old man had just died, but she didn’t seem particularly upset. When the paramedics removed the old man’s body from the train, I assumed she was getting off, too. But she said she was just his ‘companion’ and would stay on the train. Then she very nonchalantly gave me the name and phone number of the guy’s wife. “

We were approaching Seattle and I never had a chance got find out who had to call the wife, but it must have been an interesting conversation.

All Amtrak car attendants have stories: some heart-warming, some funny, and more than a few quite bizarre. Next time you take a long-distance train, just ask. Trust me: you will be amazed!

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