Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thoughts About Trains and Buses

Why is the American train station symbol so complicated?  The airport symbol is a picture of a plane, the bus station symbol is a picture of a bus, but the train station symbol is a picture of a building and platform with a train on rails headed toward the viewer head-on while a person stands on the platform to board.  Also, who looks at a train head-on like that?

Getting on a train is a lot easier than getting on a plane.  When you take a plane, you have to find the right terminal, check in online or using that complicated boarding pass dispensing machine, check your oversized bags for twenty-five dollars, then wait in a security line where you empty your pockets and remove your belt and shoes and pull your laptop out of its case and put everything into those plastic bins while you try to keep your pants from falling down.  With the train, though, you just kind of go to the station and get on, and it’s really easy.

The routines of flying also get to me.  Like, the flight attendants have to explain the same safety procedures each time you fly, repeating the same motions over and over until they lose all meaning.  Or you have to watch those videos where you hear about exit rows and oxygen masks and flotation devices, which you’ve also heard about a million times, and the whole thing is so well orchestrated that no one pays attention.  The trains are different because you can tell the people on the intercoms are just kind of making everything up as they go, since the head of Amtrak hasn’t given them a script to follow.

Why do flight attendants give out free drinks on planes?  I always take one, even though I never really want a drink that badly.  Train conductors are too busy for that shit.

Flight attendants always appear extremely well-groomed and the women always wear a lot of make-up, like they’re trying to make flying more sexual.  The train workers wear uniforms too, but you can tell that the dress codes aren’t as strict since their jackets are often too loose and their shirts are untucked, since they’re really just there to work and you’re just there to get where you’re going.

I also rode a Greyhound bus where the driver took smoke breaks outside with the passengers.  He gave a long, anecdotal explanation of the bus rules, telling us not to gab on about who was sleeping with who or who said what on Facebook because it was distracting to other passengers, and warned us that if we were caught with drugs he’d pull over to the side of the highway and wait ninety minutes for the police.  This was more entertaining that listening to a bunch of FAA legalese.

Another bus driver began our trip by saying that if we were having a problem with anyone on the bus, he would come back and take care of it personally.  No pilot in the history of flying has ever said anything that badass.

A piece like this could have probably earned me the AmtrakResidency.

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