Amtrak experience sends train connoisseur off the rails

This weekend found me traveling on Amtrak once again. Something keeps me coming back to America’s favorite (and perpetually slowest) railway company, whether it’s the cushy but slightly stained seats, the empty coffee cup always present when you sit down or the opportunity to bond with the window-seat passenger by snaking your charger across their knees. It’s hard to describe, but just as hard to forget. Train travel is environmentally friendly, safe, and almost never involves invasive and yet strangely sensual full-body patdowns, so what’s not to like?

The first Amtrak train departed from Washington, D.C.’s Union Station in 1971 and, despite some minor equipment-related delays, is certain to arrive at New York Penn any minute now. Since then, Amtrak has been delivering train service to all parts of the United States, with regular trains except on Sundays, holidays, alternate Thursdays, when Mercury is in retrograde and if the layer of rat droppings in Penn Station gets too thick for travelers to fight through. If this miniscule amount of uncertainty is still too much for you (you wuss), you can simply insure your Amtrak trip for an additional $377.29. This provides you with an incentive not to simply hop off the train and walk, which is almost always faster, but also very dangerous. Safety first!

Due to intergalactic laws outside of Amtrak’s control, all travelers, even those from Houston to New Orleans, are required to transfer in New York, with a layover too awkwardly short to do anything interesting but much too long to spend hanging around the Moynihan Train Hall. This means that you will likely become familiar with the area of New York just outside Penn Station, famous for its fascinating sidewalk stains and for drivers who, if they see you hurrying across the street, will actually speed up in an attempt to transform you into a Midtown specialty: dollar pizza. Incidentally, this same dollar pizza makes an excellent snack to enjoy while your train is delayed. Due to its method of production, you can be assured that it is a completely renewable resource.

But how do you keep yourself entertained on the train? Of course, classic train games are always entertaining, like guess-what-state-we’re-delayed-in (answer: New Jersey) and Mommy-what’s-that-man-doing-by-the-side-of-the-tracks, but you can also connect to the blazing slow Amtrak WiFi to enjoy some web surfing. If you attempt to load an even moderately resource-intensive website, such as the promotional page for the smash-hit movie “Morbius,” it will finish downloading at roughly the same time you pull into Penn Station. This, in turn, will occur at roughly the same time that the Earth is consumed by the Sun—but watching the little progress bar fill up is entertainment in itself, right?

Another thrilling activity is to take in the sights along the way. Simply by looking out the window, you can see the many and varied cities and car dealerships of New Jersey, though why anyone would choose to do so is beyond me. One thing that’s sure to pique your interest is observing the architecture of the train stations you pass through. For example, Washington, D.C.’s Union Station features large galleries and girthy, vaguely fascist columns, and Penn Station itself is famous for being the largest building in the world designed by rats. Just keep your eyes open, and you’ll see all kinds of fascinating things!

So that’s traveling by Amtrak for you. There’s no better way to begin your journey from Poughkeepsie than by getting onto one of their trains, although unfortunately doing so does have the drawback of ensuring that said journey will never end. Still, you’re sure to encounter all kinds of amazing things, things you’ll want to tell your grandchildren about. Of course, to have grandchildren, you’ll need to meet someone nice first…so try to drape that charger just a little more teasingly across your seatmate’s knees. After all, life is just like Amtrak: you never know where it’ll take you!

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