A Tough Job Just Got Tougher.


I have frequently written about Amtrak onboard crews … about their jobs and how they perform their jobs. And I don’t think I have ever failed to add that, when done right, they’re tough jobs—several days in a row that start early and end late.
I got an interesting email the other day from a former Amtrak employee who recently retired as an LSA (Lead Service Attendant). The LSAs preside over the café cars on the shorter haul routes and function as hosts in Amtrak dining cars—announcing times of seatings, showing passengers to their tables, collecting for any alcoholic beverages that were ordered, and pitching in just like one of the other servers. At any rate, he asked an interesting question which, with his permission, I’ll quote to be accurate:

I was just wondering if the LSA working the Silver Star “cafe-diner-lounge” has an assist? It is a grueling 30 hr.+ tour of duty . . . and even more if train is late. The LSA is also expected to remain open, I think, until 11:30 or midnight, back open by 5:30 am, keep car relatively clean en-route (bagging trash, cleaning tables, etc.) . . . I know the coach attendants will help out, which I’m sure is happening if the LSA is alone. Back in the late 70’s & 80’s, there was an assist in almost every cafe car that left the [Northeast] corridor, if not for the entire trip, at least partially so.

Well, I checked with two NARP people who have each traveled overnight recently on the Silver Star, but at different times. Both report that the LSA working the café car on the Silver Star has no assistant. So here’s someone, the LSA on the no-dining-car Silver Star, who is on duty for two 18-hour days–less a few 30-45 minute meal breaks–and the only help he gets is from car attendants who may or may not lend a hand when the LSA is rushed.
Hey! Here’s an idea: since Congressman John Mica (R-Florida) never passes up an opportunity to get his name in the paper at Amtrak’s expense, let’s see if we could get him to pinch hit for one of the LSAs on the Silver Star . . . just for one trip. He could board in Winter Park where he lives and ride all the way up to Washington, stuffing frozen dinners into the microwave, wiping off tables and picking up the trash—taking care of some 400 passengers all by himself. I wonder if, after that experience, he would still be demanding that Amtrak break even on its food service knowing that they’re trying to do it by having one person do a two-person job.