Good day good people! I have designated this day, Whinging Wednesday and on each Wednesday I will rant and whine and moan about anything hospitality related whether it’s crappy service or a bullshit article or practice like airlines charging you stupid little fees for everything except breathing (and I wouldn’t put it past them to suddenly have a problem with the airflow at high altitudes and needing money to drop the masks if they could;)
I LOVE to travel, hence this blog and my current field of study, however my least favorite mode of travel is by air. This is a crying shame because I used to love flying! My first flight ever was on American Airlines for my uncle’s wedding in Puerto Rico way back in the stone age or 1989. The stewardesses were friendly, the little plastic cups that you were served coffee or tea in were too cute, you got a nice fluffy pillow and blanket when they tried to freeze you out while you’re in the air and seemed to be lots of leg and arm room, you didn’t have to worry about waking up with someone’s head in your lap and when we landed at Luis Munoz Marin Airport the passengers actually applauded!
I used to get so excited getting on a big British Airways jet (I’m not a major fan of Virgin even if they are a bit cheaper) to visit my then fiancee in England at the turn of the century when I could stretch across an aisle to sleep on my red eye flight. My first flight to London I once again rifled through the cute little plastic bag handed to me by the flight attendants that were filled with all kinds of goodies like comfy airplane socks, a pen and some kind of lip balm I guess to help combat the dryness you get from the recycled air being pumped through the system. I had plenty of embarrassing moments on that flight but I didn’t care much because I was excited, young and stupid;) These moments included being so engrossed in the episode of Friends I was watching (the one where Ross had to be sedated for screaming at his boss) that when he started shrieking “MY SANDWICH!” I burst out laughing before remembering I was on a nice quiet airplane carrying nice quiet British people. There was also the time when I was handed a hot wet cloth and had no idea what to do with it followed by when I was brought a nice tray of creams, scones, coffee, cheese and fruit. Everything looked so good but suddenly I had a major problem. I had two packets that said cream but clearly one cream was for my coffee and one was for spreading on my scone thing and after a good 7 minutes I was unable to figure out which was which. After a couple of passes where I assured the flight attendant I was fine I finally buckled and explained my dilemma which after a chuckle she helped remedy. Good thing too because I absolutely had it wrong!
So to me flying was an adventure and I loved it. I didn’t mind going through security and I loved how over the years technology has brought TV and radio to the airline passenger (Jetblue is my favorite airline:). However, I’ve long wearied of having to choose my seat when buying my ticket only to get to the check in kiosk and find I’m given a completely different seat, then stand on a long ass line to hand over my luggage to stand on yet another long line to give a free strip tease and go through super special extra screening because I’m just brown enough for the TSA to think I’m a potential terrorist and finally wait for someone to arrive at the gate to change my seat BACK to my original choice! Then I sit and watch every passenger hover by the door DESPITE the fact the attendant is announcing rows that clearly, unless these people are sitting on each other’s laps or perching on each other’s heads, not everyone standing in line belongs in those rows! Finally, I’m squeezed into an itty bitty seat where the clown in front of me will lower his seat ALLLLLLL the way back to the point where I’m thinking of asking him to pitch in for the price of my ticket!
Anyway, although Amtrak isn’t nearly of the same caliber of train travel in Europe and Asia, I actually like traveling by train and apparently I’m not the only one. Today, the New York Times reported that 75% of travelers between New York and Washington DC travel by train rather than dealing with the hassles and high prices of airlines. Over the years I’ve taken the train from NY to Maine, Niagara Falls, Seattle and down to Florida. In fact, my husband and I are currently en route to our brand new home in Florida via yet another military transfer and will be taking the Auto Train this weekend. Yes my friends, there is an auto train. Although it doesn’t travel nearly as far as I would like and is not available everywhere, but you can board a train in Lorton, VA and ride in comfort all the way to Sanford, FL without adding the extra mileage to your car. You get the option of riding in a coach seat (which I don’t recommend if you have a bad back as I discovered during our journey to Seattle when we rode in coach during the first leg of our trip before switching trains in Chicago) or a selection of bedrooms from the cozy but tiny roomette to the large and roomy bedroom with your own bathroom. Price includes a fairly decent meal (you get an option of dining times when you first board) and while you’re away the staff turns down your bed. Depending on the train and season you get to watch a movie or two in the lounge car or you’re treated to a kind of guided informational tour about the region you’re traveling through.
Yes, it can take longer to get to your destination by rail than flying but there’s far less hassle, for the most part it’s a lot cheaper, and the ride is much more pleasant and relaxing. There have been attempts to revive the days of train travel to its former glory and revamp this country’s rail system however Congress has been far from accommodating. So if you’re like me and would like to see train travel restored so that the US can at least match the rail systems in the rest of the world, drop your Congressman a line and talk his or her ear off about it!