I've read lots of articles and blog posts in recent years lamenting how awful it is to travel on a commercial airliner these days compared to the golden age of the '60s and '70s. That's because it is, indeed, pretty terrible to fly on an airplane today, and passengers are so fed up they're taking matters into their own hands. Did you hear about the airplane passenger who recently used plastic clamps on the seat in front of him so that the woman sitting in it wouldn't be able to recline back and infringe on his personal space? Yeah, it caused a huge ruckus but can you blame that guy? Forget flying the friendly skies--they just simply do not exist anymore.
But for all of the comparisons I see writers making about airline travel then and now, it's surprising that no one has mentioned how comfortable and relatively unchanged train travel is compared to flying. I absolutely love riding a train. Granted, taking a train for a long distance isn't that convenient for most people...it can take days to reach a destination compared to hours by flying. But, if you can do it, I think the pros greatly outweigh that one glaring downside. Dare I say it, train travel is nearly just as romantic as it used to be back in its heyday, especially compared to today's typical airport experience.
I was going to rehash my experience during my last trip, but why bother? You all already know what they're like...the long lines to check luggage with unfriendly clerks...another long line for security...the fact that you can't bring food or beverages of your own onto the plane...extra fees for everything from headphones to additional checked bags. Plus a claustrophobic plane ride where five inches of precious space separates your kneecaps from the seat in front of you.
Instead, I'll recount what my train trips from Boston to New York were like. I park directly at the train station (which has plenty of spaces.) I go into the station which is a quick walk and out to the platform with my bag, with no security line to get through. I can take whatever kind of food, beverages and liquid toiletries I like with me. Inside the train, I can sit wherever I want. The seats are pretty comfortable and I have plenty of overhead space for my bag, as well as room for my legs. I can get up and walk about during any part of the ride. There's a dining car that serves pretty decent food and snacks for reasonable prices. Both passengers and train employees seem fairly relaxed. If the car I'm riding in gets noisy for whatever reason, chances are the train has a "quiet" car where mobile phone usage and crying kids are not allowed. Plus you really can't beat the scenery, depending on where your train is going. The Boston to NYC route takes you through Rhode Island and Connecticut, and it's pretty nice.
If you need to sleep, it's actually doable on a train; much better than being on a red-eye flight with a screaming baby a couple of rows back (which was my experience once coming back to Boston from San Francisco.)
I don't know why, but riding on a train always make me think of the WWII and post-war eras...maybe it's the Glenn Miller songs "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo."
During my last train ride, which was returning to Boston from NYC, a man in the dining car struck up a conversation with me and we ended up chatting for hours. Although nothing came of it (he was married) it does seem like train passengers are easier to talk to and more willing to get into conversations. It must be because they're less stressed.
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