Thursday, April 22, 2010

Good Mornin' America, How Are You?

"Doncha know me, I'm you're native son...."

I am sitting writing this in what can almost be called the lap of luxury.

I have to travel today on business to Chicago, Illinois from Detroit: it's six hours each way with a six hour layover in Chi-town to see some clients.

And I gotta say I'm loving every minute of it.

Now the roads ain't that great, and it's something like 300 miles flat portal to portal, which makes it a good six hours of hard driving there and back.

So screw it, sez I, take the train.

And so I am.

I do a lot of business travel, and spent far too many hours curled up in fetal position with all the rest of the battle droids flying the hostile skies. Just a couple of weeks ago I went to DC, where Delta very kindly doubled the price of my ticket by forcing me to pay for the privilege of checking my own bags; then, having arrived a mere 29 minutes before departure of my return flight, they consigned me to perdition and told me I couldn't board the flight back. OK, fine. So I take Southwest Air Lines, who charge me $180 for a one way ticket (not bad, actually), but then force me to pay $50.00 to check my third bag.

Then they lose it.

Now, to Southwest's credit, they DID locate the bag the next day, and even gave me a $50 voucher for the lost bag: and I should not be surprised that they lost the bag, the thing was a locked file case resembling an ice chest and I'm sure that the boys at TSA wanted to make sure it didn't carry a nuke or anything. But still.

I'm sitting in coach class, where (1) I can use this lap top at leasure with nobody telling me to put it away; (2) there's an actual POWER OUTLET so I can use said laptop for the entire trip, (3) the seat actually reclines; (4) there's about 50% more leg room than on an airline; and (5) I didn't have to have TSA nazis check/lose my bags, metal-detect me, bomb-detect me, inspect me, reject me, disrespect me, or eject me simply because I'm suspicious looking. I never had to remove my belt, my wallet, my coat, my shoes, and I didn't have to put the laptop into its own special plastic inspection tray. And best of all, there's no such thing as a no-train list, so you can disrespect the present political administration in safety knowing that there is no chance that you'll be stripped search just because you came to the negative attention of some individual in Opposition Research in the Old Executive Office Building.

Furthermore, you're ON THE GROUND. When the train rocks back and forth, it's nada, trains are supposed to do that. When a plane rocks back and forth or hits turbulance or you get one of those cheery "Please return to your seats and put on your safety belts we're hitting a patch of rough air just ahead" message it's all an old aerophobe (me) can do not to lose it, or my lunch. But a train? Hell, we're on the ground, and the microscopic chance of actually going to Valhalla (do not pass go do not collect 200 dollah) does not involve a five minute wait for the crash to the ground.

Oh, and did I mention you can actually SEE WHERE YOU ARE GOING instead of being cooped up in a cargo hold with tiny little windows that only the guy on the outer edge is privileged to use without let or hinderance?

Plus, the bad guys haven't discovered AMTRAK yet, either. I suppose we should enjoy it while it lasts.

Oh, sure, Amtrak is the ultimate government boondoggle. Given the size of the United States, there is simply no way you can operate a passenger train line nationwide in an empire-sized nation like ours in a way that will make a profit when you're competing against the airline industry (and you shouldn't, really; in pure economic terms there is no excuse for a real working passenger train line).

But still. If my tax dollars are being wasted on this thing (and they aren't; my tax dollars for the last five years paid for just enough fuel to move the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan for a journey of about a quarter mile) I want to enjoy it.

And enjoying it I am.

Traveling by train simply rocks. Quite literally and pleasantly. I think I'll take me a nap now.

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Keep it clean for gene.