I love taking the train. Early in my career, I would take it to NYC for work on Wall Street (Smith Barney, Gruntal & Co, Quick & Reilly - anyone who worked in finance in the late 80s knew those names). Later on, I would either go to Boston for my old/current employer, or to DC for my previous employer. The vibe on these trains are totally different. Now, when I had a lower per diem, it was Metroliner all the way - with parents, students, working folks. Then, when time became more of a premium, the Acela became my transit of choice.
I love the Acela - 90 mins to NY, 90 mins to DC - it was great. The trips from Philly from DC were always most interesting. I've shared many a commute with Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Spector of PA, current VP candidate Joe Biden and on the rare occasion, Governor Corzine of NJ (he tends to drive). I've sat with many lobbyists, junior office workers and software geeks like myself, trying to sell more software to the Department of Defense (weirdo seeing that I am a pacifist).
Today I'm heading back up to Boston to start back at my old/current employer. It's a long, now boring story on why I left, I'm just glad to be back. My point here today is the ride. It is the most civilized way to travel on the east coast. When you're a lucky enough camper to get the first class bump, it's as close to what I've read train travel was like in the 30s, 40s and maybe even 50s. You get redcap service. I've done the Acela route so many times, to both Boston and Philly, the redcaps recognize me and ask after me. There's no promise of extra service and that's not the point. It's the pleasantry, the politeness of the process that makes it so human (when was the last time anyone asked anything polite of you on an airline????). You get a drink, cocktail or otherwise and a menu. There is linen service and its human. If I got a PBJ, that would be fine because of the civility of the whole process.
I ordered a small bite, which was a wonderful smoked fish platter. It was fresh, the lemon was fresh - incredible. Looking out the window, I see Trenton fly by and in no time we're in Newark - which, if you ignore the grime, is a beautiful old station. There are exposed gothic beams, the flipping station numbers (anyone who stood in Penn Station knows that rat-a tat-tat sound of the train information rolling up the station board). Then you go over the Hudson River and into New York. it's not beautiful here, the industrialization has taken the natural beauty away, but the industrial workings here has a beauty of its own. It may be a New Jersey thing.
Connecticut is flat our beautiful. Your cell phone won't work - maybe its the income level ratio to cell phone tower, but forget getting a call in CT. Doesn't matter because the view outside your window is lovely. Lots of water, boats and it fills your mind with preppy thoughts. I would love to live in the flats down there, seeing water out of three sides of the house - it looks peaceful. Rhode Island, more of the same, then 20 minutes later, you're in Boston. You can work the whole way, if you have a mobile card, you're connected just about the whole way. With more then half of the flights between Philly and Boston delayed or canceled, why travel any other way?