Making Friends in an Amtrak Diner.

A couple of days ago, I received the following email from a reader:
When dining, do we get a table or booth ( 2 of us ) to ourselves or do we share a table with other folks. . . could be OK or very awkward . . . My wife and I are taking the train from SLC to Washington DC this summer ( surprise trip for her ) and I’m very excited about our first time train experience.

Amtrak dining car people tell me that there is someone on almost every trip who asks if they can be seated by themselves and, if not, they have the car attendant bring their meals to their sleeping car accommodations for the duration of their trip.
I’ve frequently written here that Amtrak’s policy of “community dining” is one of the best things about long-distance train travel. It is quite true that I look forward to every meal when I travel on Amtrak and it’s not knowing who you’ll be dining with that makes the experience so interesting.
Here are a few of the people I can recall dining with over the years.

  • Breakfast with a history professor from Yale whose specific field was America’s western expansion. At the time, we were on the Southwest Chief and the original Santa Fe Train was right outside the window.
     An American Airlines pilot who said he takes the train whenever he travels for pleasure.

  • A man who restores and repairs very old priceless pipe organs. He was on his way home after spending two weeks working on the organ in Vienna’s Saint Stephen’s cathedral.

  • A couple who own and run a bed-and-breakfast in a 200-year-old house in Granby, Connecticut, immediately next door to the house where my father and grandfather were born.

  • A published Irish poet and his wife who is an executive with a health insurance provider.

  • A fifth generation rancher from Wyoming, who was involved in the effort to prohibit the killing of wolves in western states.

One of my old friends in Honolulu, Jim Becker, spent many years working for the Associated Press all over the world. He told me once that everyone has at least one interesting story to tell. “The challenge and the fun,” he said, “is finding it.”