A Few More Random Observations After Crossing the Country on Amtrak.

There is a new Metropolitan Lounge for sleeping car passengers in Los Angeles Union Station. It’s certainly a welcome addition … quiet, tastefully decorated, and there are free munchies and an assortment of soft drinks and coffee, also free. But it’s quite small, at least compared to the lounges in Chicago or Washington. And it’s on the second floor and some distance from the main waiting room on the first floor which is where you find the best people-watching in probably the entire world. (This IS Los Angeles, you know!) Oh … and it also makes it more inconvenient to get to the Ben & Jerry’s, also on the first floor.

Most Amtrak car attendants do a good, contentious job. Some cover the essentials all right, but not much else. I had one of those on the Southwest Chief. Glen told me to pull the call button whenever I head off to dinner in the dining car and the bed will be made up when I get back. Ring again in the morning when I go to breakfast, at my roomette will be restored for daytime use when I return. But the rest of the time, he was pretty much invisible. And he failed my acid test: He didn’t come around as we neared Chicago and offer to schlepp my suitcase down to the vestibule. It’s a small bag, but it’s heavy, and with my wobbly knees it’s not easy lugging it and negotiating the Superliner’s narrow twisting stairway. The car attendants who volunteer to tote your bags down those stairs are the really good ones. Glen didn’t offer and his tip was a $10 bill instead of a twenty.
I’ve reported here that, as a cost-saving move (wink, wink), Amtrak is doing away with the little perks we used to get in the sleepers on many of the long-distance trains: wine tastings on the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder, a small bottle of inexpensive champagne when you board, a chocolate on your pillow when you turn in, and a newspaper under your door when you wake up in the morning. There was no champagne and no chocolate on the Chief, but the good news is, I did get a newspaper. The bad news? It was USA Today.