Monday, June 30, 2008

Sometimes the Basics Are Overlooked

As I write this, I am heading south out of LA on the way to San Diego. I’m in Business Class on the Pacific Surfliner, which Amtrak touts as its second busiest route … second only after the extremely busy Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston. Amtrak also promotes the scenery on this run, and that makes sense because, after you finally pass the urban and industrial sprawl south of LA, the train does run right along the Pacific Ocean.

I was not able to secure a window seat on the right side of the train, which is where the view of the beaches will eventually appear. That matters little today, though, because the windows are dirty – brown streaks and a milky build-up of some kind that seriously detracts from the view. Hazarding a guess, I would say these windows haven’t been washed in many days, probably weeks. What a shame!

Furthermore, the inside of the window is also dirty. In fact, there is a fine layer of brown dust or dirt covering the narrow window sill ... enough to darken a corner of the paper napkin I used to wipe it away.

There can be many things that irk Amtrak passengers, most of which Amtrak cannot control ... delays caused by freight traffic or the midwest flooding, for example. But dirty windows are reason for legitimate complaint.

Adding to my indignation this morning is the fact that I paid $14 extra to ride in Business Class. For that I get a cup of coffee and a cellophane-wrapped muffin or danish which I fetch for myself. There is a Business Class attendant in this car, but so far all I saw from him was a shrug and a smirk when I offered the thought that clean windows would be nice on this scenic run. Meanwhile, little old ladies are dragging their own luggage on and off the train while this guy is nowhere to be seen.

Note to future Pacific Surfliner riders: forget Business Class. Definitely not worth the extra fare.

Ah, but my mood brightens when I remind myself that I've just completed some 8,000 miles of travel around the country on Amtrak, all of which was quite enjoyable, and tomorrow I return home to Maui! What could possibly be wrong with that!

1 comment:

Mike said...

Well put, Jim. Clean equipment and courteous, helpful train crewmembers ARE the basics.

I wish some RSG (Real Smart Guy) would invent a drive thru train wash for Amtrak. For the most part the interiors have been in pretty good shape in my experience.

And thanks for the heads up re the LA to SD train.