Grammar, Tips and Flying Freight Cars.

My dear mother was merciless when it came to demanding the proper use of the English language by her kids. Even after I had grown up, moved to Hawaii, and raised a family, she would castigate me for every grammatical error or incorrect use of a word in my letters home. I’m glad to say, most of it stuck … notwithstanding the occasional lapses that manage to find their way into these posts.
Last week, when Amtrak’s train #20, the Crescent, was a few minutes from stopping at Alexandria, Virginia, the conductor came on the P.A. system and reminded passengers to “gather up your personal belongings and be ready to de-board the train.” Mom would have tracked that guy down and whacked him with her purse!
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I had dinner with a couple from the U.K. on the Sunset Limited two nights ago and the subject of tipping came up. The Brits, like most of the rest of the world, are confused by and resentful of our system. They don’t understand why we should all be obligated to thank a server with a monetary contribution for performing a service he’s already being adequately paid by his employer to do. Of course, I pointed out that he isn’t … to which the Brit replied indignantly, “Then he jolly well should be!” And he’s jolly well right!

For the final leg of this trip, I’m taking the Sunset Limited from here in San Antonio to Los Angeles. The train is due just after midnight, so anyone boarding here and wanting a minimal night’s sleep hopes for an on time arrival. That is not to be … not tonight anyway. Just after the Sunset left New Orleans this morning, a freight train transporting empty containers was proceeding over the Huey Long Bridge which spans the Mississippi River. Sudden high winds blew several containers off the rail cars and over the side of the bridge onto a highway below. The Sunset Limited had departed New Orleans on time, but by the time enough of the mess was cleaned up for the Sunset to proceed, it has lost 3 1/2 hours. Since then it has apparently lost another 45 minutes. One more example of an Amtrak train being many hours late through no fault of it’s own.