La Serpiente crawled into bed about 1am, demanding to know how many minutes remained until the sun came up. She asked the same question for the next hour or so, in between fidgeting and arguing about whether she’s ever visited LAX in the past (she has not). Finally, she conked out, shortly before an earthquake shook Seattle. (La Serpiente, having a phobia of tectonic activity in general, was perhaps psychically aware of this before it happened, hence her restlessness.)
As a result, I was feeling quite punchy when we got up this morning at 5 to go to SeaTac, and more so when I made the mistake of checking work emails on a day off. But never mind that, I had a train to Portland to catch!
To confirmed Eurotrash like me who’s lived in Singapore for years, the random inefficiency of America is hilariously quaint.
If I book a ticket online for a train in the UK, I get a seat assigned in advance. My ticket is emailed to me and the ticket barrier can automatically read the barcode contained and admit me, and then I get on the train. And if I ordered a taxi to take me to the station, I’m dropped off at the station entrance.
I booked a ticket online with Amtrak. It told me I needed to bring photo ID with me, and boarding had to occur 30 minutes before the scheduled departure. I took an Uber from our apartment and the driver dropped me somewhere across the street from the station, ignoring the instructions his GPS had just said to him, because (I assume) he didn’t really give that much of a shit.
I had arrived about 90 minutes before departure, so I sat around for an hour. About 30 minutes before departure, a garbled announcement was made that people should line up for seat assignments. A vague line formed, and then people were given pieces of card with random numbers stuck to them. Then everyone lined up again, following an unclear bit of yelling from a ticket inspector, before people milled about, lined up again, had their tickets scanned by the inspector, and then wandered onto the train.
All I’m trying to say from this is that I’m sad I couldn’t choose a window seat, so I’m in the aisle while the hipster who has got the window seat is ignoring the view and spending his time looking at his phone, which is the sort of hypocritical complaint I can make by typing into a phone screen that I am also using to ignore the view from the window.
I do admire the attempt to maximise employment (unlike the slash and burn approach to jobs the UK rail service has taken that leads us to automated barriers rather than people) but you have to admit, it does feel oddly socialist in a country that’s ostensibly all about free enterprise.
And nobody has asked me for any ID yet, so perhaps that’s also some strange prank with a pay-off somewhere down the line… At least there’s more of a view than from an airplane window…