There are many reasons to take the train, and getting from one place to another is chief among them. Also, you don't have to wait in a security line, which is a terrific bonus unless, of course, your fellow trainmates happen to be crazy (more on that in a minute), and then you kind of wish there'd been some kind of metal detector, or at least a crazyometer of some sort, before you boarded with your two young kids. Also, trains are retro in a pleasing, nostalgic kind of way, and watching your kids watch the scenery is bound to make you love both your children, and the passing hills and valleys, even more than you already do. So take the train!
Just pack a meal. And earplugs.
Seriously, and sorry, because I don't want to make any enemies here, and therefore I will write the name of the train I took in backwards-code so the Googlebots trolling the blogosphere won't alert a burly conductor somewhere that I was making fun of the food on Kartma.
But first a recap of the announcements, which were piped into our little car at a deafening volume:
11:30 a.m. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, if you’re holding an 11:30 lunch reservation, please make your way to the dining car at this time.”
11:33 a.m. “Come to the parlor car to get that cheeseburger and Heineken you’ve been thinking about."
11:45 a.m. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, if you’re holding an 11:45 lunch reservation, please make your way to the dining car at this time."
11:47 a.m. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are still waiting for 3 people with 11:45 lunch reservations to show up in the dining car. If you don’t get here in the next three minutes, we will give your table away.”
11:50 a.m. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is your last call for the 11:45 am lunch reservation. You will not, I repeat, will not be able to eat lunch until last call if you fail to show up for your reservation.”
11:52 a.m. “In the mood for a Blue Moon beer? Come to the parlor car to get a cold one.”
Our reservation wasn’t until 1:00pm, so if you extrapolate the frequency of these announcements over time, you’ll get a sense for how many we had to listen to. But finally 1:00 arrived, and we headed to the dining car. I nibbled an adequate black bean and corn veggie burger and my kids were served that classic combination of spaghetti, meatballs, and potato chips. I don't remember what Colin ate, which says more about his meal than my memory.
An 80-something man sat at the adjacent table with his 70-something wife. They shared it with a slightly less ancient couple. Communal dining means if you travel in parties of fewer than four, you have to share tables, even if the rest of the car is completely empty.
The old man ordered a drink. “I’ll take a Dewar’s, no ice. If the bartender reaches for the ice, slap his hand away," he told the waiter. "I’m serious. I’m a rich old man and I like my drink the way I like my drink.” Good times on the train!
The waiter returned with the drinks. “My wife’ll have the burger. Bring her some bacon on it. She loves her bacon though she’d never admit it herself.” The wife giggled.
Just then a 40-something guy entered the dining car and began to sit at one of the unoccupied tables, of which there were several. Mind you, the whole dining car was about three feet long, so it's not like waiter would've had to go out of his way to serve him.
"You can't sit there," the waiter barked. "It's communal dining!" He motioned to a table with a wide-eyed couple. The new table pretty much touched the table where the man had sat down.
"You don't have to talk to me like that!" the single man barked back, not budging.
"IT'S COMMUNAL DINING!" came the reply.
And then the single man went up to the waiter and pushed his shoulder, and they started going at it like a pair of pit bulls. (Sorry, pit bull people -- don't get on my case.) Suffice it to say "security" was called, the man shuffled away, and I was left wishing someone had made both the single guy and the waiter walk through a metal detector before boarding because they were both, obviously, bananas, and who knew what would happen in the ensuing eight hours of this illustrious journey?
At 9pm that night we disembarked in Los Angeles, after hearing the call for dinner about 87 times at 15 minute intervals, along with multiple invitations to come to the parlor car for a Blue Moon beer and some cheese.
I like flying.