Thursday, August 6, 2009

From Boston to Baltimore Along the Northeast Corridor

After four nights in Boston – and three games between the Red Sox and the Oakland A’s at Fenway Park – I hopped an Amtrak train at Boston’s Back Bay station, headed for Baltimore where the Sox would begin a three-game series that same night with the Orioles.

The fare for one of the high-speed Acela trains was only $20 more, but I opted for one of the “Regional Service” trains. It would take about 45 minutes longer, but I was in no particular hurry and would arrive in Baltimore a full three hours before game time anyway.

Whether it’s the high speed Acela service or the more conventional Regional Service trains, both offer a choice between a regular reserved coach seat or a seat in Business Class. The upgrade for the Acela train was $70, but just another $31 for the “regular” train. What the heck … for another 30 bucks, I upgraded to Business Class.

Essentially, what I got for my $31 was what seemed to be a bit more legroom (it was perfectly adequate in the regular coach seating) and free non-alcoholic beverages from the CafĂ© Car. Business Class did appear to be somewhat less crowded, however. Still, I won’t bother with the upgrade the next time.

However, I would make a bee-line for the second car in the consist, located right behind Business Class car at the front of the train. That’s the Quiet Car, where cell phones are not allowed and conversation must be at a minimum and carried out in low tones. The Quiet Car is available to anyone on the train.

As it happened, the guy seated right behind me in Business Class was on his cell phone for much of the trip. Most of his conversations – unfortunately I could hear his half very clearly – were with a business colleague and dealt with the impending closure of the company. This guy was sick of his job, sick of his co-workers and, most especially, sick of his immediate superior, who had had the nerve to ask him to suck it up and put in a few extra hours in an effort to keep the company afloat. Also, there were six – count ’em, six – lengthy calls to someone named “Gorgeous.” (I will not relate any of the content of those calls lest a child under 12 might stumble across this blog.)

The Quiet Car is a boon to travelers and, unless you have important business to transact, or happen to be acquainted with Gorgeous, my advice would be to run, not walk, to that car the next time you hop an Amtrak train in the Northeast Corridor.

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