Some Semi-Related Thoughts and Concerns.
I’ve traveled between Seattle and Vancouver three times in the past three years and have yet to do it by train. On all three occasions, there have been mud slides somewhere along the route and each time the result has been a four-hour bus ride. And I hate bus rides!
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Canadians like most Americans as individuals. But there are just too many things—little things, mostly—that keep Canadians from really embracing us collectively, as Americans. Back in the early 1970s, for instance, the U.S. announced that we were going to give up on feet and inches and pounds and ounces, and switch over to the metric system. That prompted the Canadian government to say, “Wow! If our single biggest trading partner is going metric, we had better do it, too!” And so, some 30 million Canadians went through all the hassle and inconvenience necessary to make the switch. And then we didn’t! Americans didn’t even try to go metric and finally the government just gave up. So now, when a Canadian told me that the temperature was minus 30 degrees when we arrived in Toronto, my reply was, “What is that in Fahrenheit?” Is it any wonder that they grumble amongst themselves about us?
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The quality of the Amtrak dining car experience seems to be slipping. There are fewer menu choices, of course, but other short cuts are also being taken. Cheaper cuts of meat, maybe? Cheaper, less tasty canned tomato sauce? A dollop of strawberry topping on my cheesecake instead of the much more generous amount I remember from a year ago? Coffee and juice served in paper cups? A 15-dollar half-bottle of wine poured into a cheap plastic cup? Last year, it was a real wine glass. It’s worrisome.
All of this just underscores the different approaches being taken by Amtrak and VIA Rail with both railroads under pressure to generate more income. The new head of VIA Rail, appointed by Canada’s conservative government, says VIA should focus on customer service in order to generate more ridership and thus increase revenue. Do you think members of Congress like John Mica (R-FL) agree with that enlightened approach? Hell no! He and the rest of his ilk only talk of cut cut cut! Small men with small minds. What I would dearly like to hear is an Amtrak executive objecting to that … publicly and loudly and repeatedly!
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Finally, add the following to the endlessly long list of faux-journalism foisted onto a lazy and gullible audience by Fox News: a video clip of snow swirling around inside the vestibule between two Amtrak coaches while the news anchor bemoans the awful conditions passengers are forced to endure when traveling by Amtrak. Seriously?? Don’t bother looking for a correction, let alone an apology. That’s not what they do at “fair and balanced” Fox News.