Thanks to winter weather closing half the airports in the America, we headed out of South Station for Baltimore by Amtrak a few
weekends ago. Train travel, in case you’d forgotten, is wonderful. Slower than
planes sure, but from your total travel time you get to subtract the treks to
and from airports, the hour (minimum) sitting in a waiting room at your gate
listening to CNN blaring unwelcomely at your back with no representative of
your carrier in sight, and the seeming eternities sitting on the stuffy plane
on runways. Plus delays. Airlines measure their delays in increments of two
hours; trains generally get where they’re supposed to be within 15 minutes.
Add to that the fact than no other service industry in the world
abuses its customers with as much verve as the airlines do (need we enumerate
the lies, inconvenience, stonewalling, disrespect, crap food, artificial class
system, and discomforts?), and you’ve got a strong case for going by rail.
Plus the train is comparatively comfortable. You can bring your
own food and water. You can use your phone or laptop even when the train is
stopping or starting. You can keep your luggage — loaded down with as much
toothpaste and aftershave as you like — with you. And there’s easily four times
a much legroom in the meanest seat than on any airplane. Train cars can be
noisy, but they aren’t pressurized. When you arrive at your destination
(usually located inside a city), you don’t feel as if you’ve been beaten up.
Of course time and comfort isn’t everything. Taking the train
also allows you to discount the aggravation of standing in the security line
being bossed around by a bunch of tin gods in cub-scout costumes who, but for
the post-911 political environment would be stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.
How comforting to know that the War on Terror requires paying
customers to be treated like criminals.
“Papers, please. . . . You may pass,” were words never meant to
be spoken in America.
They can search you luggage when you get on a train, but they
usually don’t. This is not because a well-place explosive device detonated
under, say, Grand Central Station, wouldn’t be horribly destructive, but
because the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has been ordered to
make a show of things at airports, leaving the comparatively low-profile train
and bus stations to the equally effective application of common sense — not to
mention common decency. It’s all propaganda, of course. They don’t really
expect an elderly woman in a wheelchair to smuggle a pipe bomb onto an airplane
tucked under her stash of Depends. They just want to scare everybody, so they
give her a hard time.
And with that, we offer this video — a thoroughly fitting tribute
to the guys and gals in the TSA. Your government’s thugs and the only proof we
need that the terrorists have won.