Not too long ago, I traveled to Boston via Amtrak on an extended business trip. I am not accustomed to traveling by train. I much prefer to add to my frequent flyer miles and travel by airplane. However, I’ve never had much luck traveling to Boston by plane. For some inexplicable reason there is always an issue or delay with my flight. I usually drive to Boston. I enjoy the ride listening to a good book on Audible and I make it a habit to stop at a favorite shopping outlet on the Massachusetts Turnpike along the way. However, on this trip, circumstances necessitated that I take the train.
My journey started in New York City at Penn Station. I am in my sixties. I purchased a Business Class ticket and used the services of the station’s Redcaps to help with my three pieces of luggage (which included my laptop computer travel case) and the general navigation of a very large station with multiple platforms. Using the Recap service ensured me of a seat since Recaps can access the train just a few minutes earlier than the general rider public. I was on my way to Boston comfortable and without a care.
My return to New York City was much more of a misguided adventure. I returned from Boston via the Back-Bay Train Station. There were many lessons learned along the way. For instance, I did not realize that Redcap services were not available at every train station that Amtrak used. So, there I was with my three pieces of luggage, my handbag, and my dinner in a shopping bag that I had purchased at the hotel trying to make my way to the lower level platform for boarding. Praise god, the elevator was working, and all of my luggage was on very cooperate wheels but nonetheless, I found myself longing for the curbside check-in of my beloved airports.
I do well in airports. I glide through airports. My car service driver drops me off at the curbside check-in where a gentleman with a broad smile helps me with my bags, prints out a boarding pass, places my suitcases on the conveyor to my flight and wishes me a safe journey. I enter the airport and casually walk to the Pre-TSA Security line. I smile at the TSA Agent, thank him or her for their service and casually work my way through the security check point within minutes. Once through security, my biggest challenge is to decide to have something to eat, do some shopping, or just head straight to the gate and work on my phone. I move like a swan in airports.
Once on the train platform in Boston, the misguided adventure continued. The train to NYC pulled into the station and I clumsily, but successfully, made my way to the train’s door. I did not anticipate the eight-inch gap between the station platform and the train. So, there I was loaded down with luggage and a crowd of inpatient commuters behind me trying to decide how to board safely when a twenty-something young man offered to assist me demonstrating that chivalry is not dead in Boston. I have no doubt that he regrets getting involved with me on the platform to this day. He helped me and my luggage onto the train and stepped on behind me. To my horror there was not a seat, let along a place for my luggage in sight. I had not fully appreciated that Penn Station was a large commuter hub for my Amtrak train. Many travels from DC and Philadelphia disembarked in NYC which explained why there were so many seats available when I boarded. My return train started out from Rhode Island and stopped at several stations along the way before arriving in Boston. Now the available Business Class seating was very limited.
The memory of me trying to make my way down the train aisle with my luggage in toe conjures up a scene in my mind that can only be described as a cross between a Carol Burnet skit and an episode of I Love Lucy. Did I mention that I have red hair! Seated passengers looked upon me in horror and silently prayed that I would keep moving without injuring them. Every time I moved, I hit some poor soul in the head with the shopping bag carrying my dinner. I figured my best bet was to get off the train and either rent a car or throw myself on the tracks.
Just then the train conductor, concerned about the inability of passengers to board timely started yelling, what’s going on here, who’s holding up the line. I tried to hide but he found me. “You, the lady with the red hair, what’s the problem?” He made his way toward me and took the situation in hand. “Follow me he ordered.” He grabbed the larger of my suitcases and stowed it I the handicapped area as all eyes were upon me. He pointed an authoritative finger at an empty aisle seat and instructed me to sit. I tried to explain that I would rather throw myself on the tracks, but he just glared at me and placed my other suitcases in the overhead storage.
Reluctantly, I sat in my seat feeling old, clumsy, and very much like a swan out of water. I found a place for my shopping bag and stared down at the handbag sitting on my lap. I assure you, I was so mortified that death would have been welcomed. Suddenly, the train jerked forward, and we were on our way. Slowly I picked my head up. The man sitting next to me gently shared, “lady, that was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while.” The four guys sitting across the aisle from me agreed with him echoing how much they enjoyed my dilemma and we all began to laugh. Now that the tension was gone, I vowed never again.
Of course, I needed to return to Boston the following month. I had visions of being on some No-Boarding list similar to a No-Fly list used by the airlines. As I was buying my ticket online, I decided to look into and ultimately purchased a first-class ticket. Let me share the virtues of a first-class ticket on Amtrak:
- Yes, a first-class ticket is more expensive but there is a senior citizen discount.
- You are now able to pre-select your seat in first-class just like you do on an airline. So, there are no seating hassles.
- You can choose between a single or double seat. All have access to a table for dining or working convenience. The WiFi is decent.
- There are a least two conductors assigned to First-Class.
- They are available and happy to assist you with any boarding or disembarking needs.
- They respond to your requests just like your favorite airline flight attendant. Their system is seamless.
- Menu selections are varied with something to appeal to most. Your meal, snack, beverages, or alcoholic drinks are included in the price of a ticket.
- There are large, accessible lavatories that are surprisingly clean.
- If there is Redcap service available at your destination, they will notify that station and arrange for the Redcap to be on the platform when you arrive.
I was sold. Going forward, anytime I need to travel by Amtrak it is First-Class for me. I don’t glide through my train travels like the swan that I am in an airport but, neither do I travel like a lame duck. Bon voyage!
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