Railroading North America

27/ Seattle

13-dsc06739-usemeDAY 27
Los Angeles, California to Seattle, Washington
Amtrak Train #8, “The Empire Builder”
Saturday, November 15, 2008

I will fly back to Seattle this morning, and will catch the Empire Builder east to Chicago late this afternoon.

People, it seems, are going to irritate me today.

As I turn in my rental car, I cannot find my frequent flier number on the contract, although the rental company charged me eight bucks. I mix it up with Assistant Manager-Trainee Kimberly who cops an attitude.

She reprints my contract to showing my frequent flier number and she has remorse over the friction. I invite her for Thanksgiving Dinner. She has other plans.

Los Angeles International Airport is not busy. I check no bags, and carry toiletries but they are not in a clear plastic bag. I fess up. TSA sends everything through the x-ray anyway, and I roll on.

What. I no longer look like a terrorist?

In the waiting area an aging cowboy from Reno is acting like it is his first day with a cell phone. He is making non-stop calls so loud that even after I move across the terminal a few rows, I can still hear him. He is very excited to be traveling and is calling everyone to tell them about it. Others try to stare him into silence. People like this never notice and cannot be stared into anything.

His constant use of the word “pard-nuh” is driving me nuts. I count: In three minutes this man uses the word “pard-nuh” twenty-nine times, an astounding nine times a minute or once every five-to-six seconds. I check my math. Can this really be true?

It is true. And, actually, I am impressed.

Someone or something is tripping the alarm at Gate 11, Terminal 1, LAX. It gets turned off, only moments later to start beeping again.

27-2-reno-sea-swa3802-111508-dsc06746-usemeIn the forty minutes I am waiting for my flight, the “beep,beep,beep” sounds roughly a third of the time. It is so loud for a while it drowns out the “word “pard-nuh” forcing me to have to turn around to make sure my guy is still there.

Of course he is.

As I am trying to figure out whether this is a full Moon or just the start of the End of Days, a woman plunges into the seat next to me in the waiting area, upends my computer with her elbow and sends it scooting off my lap. Desperately, I grab it and somehow keep it from thunkering across the floor.

She apologizes and apologizes and apologizes. She just doesn’t shut up.

Finally, I say, “Madam, you are drowning out that man behind you who is trying to say ‘pard-nuh’.”

She actually turns and looks.

I am returning to the worse railroad station I will see on the entire trip. Besides Washington, DC, and Montreal — both very good train stations, indeed — this will be the only station I visit more than once. I suppose two out of three isn’t bad.

At Sea-Tac Airport, I take the 194 Bus to the King Street Station. It costs $1.50, but I’m buried in the middle of a packed bus, cannot see out and cannot hear the driver announcing stations. I ask a guy next to me to help me, and he cannot be more helpful. He knows the area and will tell me when to get off.

But later, the geography doesn’t look right to him. We have not gone through “The Tunnel”. He flees forward to the driver and discovers I am past my stop. The bus stops. I get off and begin a long hike back to the station. My drop-off seems closer to the station had I walked from Sea-Tac Airport, but who knows.

I’d like to be pissed, but the guy who promised to help me was such a nice guy. He said he was a Republican from Nevada who voted for Obama because he was so insulted by Sarah Palin’s stupidity. He is also black and we have a great conversation going and I really want to hear him some more.

Unfortunately, I have a long walk ahead of me, and a train to catch.

The only restaurant near the station that seems to be open is Zeitgeist. Free wi-fi. Good coffee. Good food. More than vaguely New Age. It works for me. They plenty of open plugs to charge my computer and cell phone both at the same time. I set up shop in the front window after intriguing interfacings with Amtrak personnel at the Station.
27-3-wenatchee-wa-dsc06848-usemeI have checked my large bag at the station. The Empire Builder originates in Seattle (and Portland). It becomes one train somewhere to the east in the middle of the night. Will the Seattle portion of The Empire Builder leave on time? Yes. The Seattle train is in the yard after arriving this morning and raring to go.

The intriguing interfacing begins when the Amtrak ticket agent begins to communicate with me.

“Be — here — at — four — fifteen — pm. — The — train — will — leave — at — quarter — to –five. That — is — the — same — as — four — forty — five.” I go to the Men’s Room and check myself in the mirror. I do not look more retarded than usual.

Next, the baggage clerk speaks to me.

Do I want to check the bag through to Chicago? No (maybe I should use longer words, or several words in my answers?).

“So — — you — want — to — keep — THIS — bag — with — you — in — your — compartment.”

“Yes. Because it is filled with things that I need, and I figure that …”

27-4-baggage-car-2-dsc06825-useme“Do — not — forget — to — come — back — and — claim — your — bag — BEFORE — you — get — on — the — train,” he says. Otherwise my bag will stay in Seattle and I will be in Chicago without my bag. Sounds logical.

“RIP!” He hands me my half of claim check.

This slow, careful explicit speech is like thumping on someone’s head and saying “hello, in there! You ARE stupid, but you DO have things important to remember this afternoon!”

I decide Seattle’s Amtrak personnel must be dealing with some really low IQs.

(Photographs: Southwest Airlines Gates 11 and 13, Los Angeles International Airport Terminal 1, Saturday, November 15, 2008, 9 a.m.; Southwest Airlines Flight 3802 Los Angeles to Seattle, Saturday, November 15, 2008, somewhere north of Reno, NV; street side view, Amtrak Station Wenatchee, WA, November 15, 2008, 9:05 p.m.; empty baggage car between the Engines and the crew’s Transition Dormitory Car, The Empire Builder, November 16, 2008)


Amtrak Train #8, “The Empire Builder”
Distance: Seattle, WA to Chicago, Illinois
2,206 miles / 3,550 kilometers
Trip Distance Total: 9,722 miles / 15,646 kilometers

Contents and Photographs in this blog, copyright 2008, jointly by Seine-Harbour Productions and Peter M. Crow.


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