I am so mad at Amtrak!
For many years I have taken the train between Eugene, Oregon, and Tacoma, Washington, where I get on a ferry for Vashon Island to visit my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. I loved that ride, which crossed grand rivers and traveled through marshlands and woodlands after it left Portland, and then—the best part—traveled along the Puget Sound, with islands offshore, ferries chugging through the water, and, when the weather was fine, a view of snow-topped Olympic Mountains across the sea. When the train passed boathouses and houseboats, I imagined what living on water would be like. When it went past waterfront parks, I watched people walking along the shore and children playing on swings, water birds stalking along beaches, water softly lapping not far from the train tracks. Then the beautiful, long, graceful Narrows Bridge arched into view, with its double span, one green, one gray. After that, vision shut down in the dark tunnel just before the train arrived at the Tacoma station.
I always made sure to sit on the left side of the train, the water side. I loved that journey.
Once on the way back from Tacoma, after the train had left the Puget Sound and was traveling through marshes and woods, one of the conductors came on the intercom to apologize for our having stopped to let a freight train pass. Then he started reminiscing. He had wanted to work for Amtrak ever since he was a kid, he said, and watched the train go past. He had been on this train for forty years. He had seen cougars and bears and foxes in these woods. Eagles. Egrets. Ever since then, I have looked and looked for that quick glimpse of an animal from the train window, but I have never been so lucky.
And then—dumb Amtrak! Stupid, unfeeling, efficiency-blinded Amtrak changed the route! The train no longer goes along the sound. There is no more expanse of water to gaze at, snow-peaked mountains to contemplate, lapping waves to meditate on, leisurely walkers to watch in the waterfront parks. The route is all inland now. Instead of seas and rivers and parks, it passes industrial ugliness, trashy yards, urban clutter.
I am devastated.
Amtrak has turned a spiritually uplifting experience into mere transportation. Just get there. Never mind the loss.
I would forgive Amtrak, I think, if the new route were made for environmental reasons—to preserve the habitat for those animals the conductor had seen. Or for social justice reasons or safety reasons. But the point was speed. The reasons were economics and efficiency.
Bad, bad choice!
Who cares if it's a faster route? Who cares if we no longer have to wait for a freight train to pass? How did Amtrak weigh efficiency and speed against beauty and solace? How do they measure satisfaction from some passengers against a great sense of loss from others? Did they ask us? How did they know we would be glad to make the sacrifice of scenery for speed?
We so much need to slow down and immerse ourselves in beauty. Amtrak gave us that opportunity. Now they, too, have succumbed to get there-get there-get there.
I am sorry for the people who made this decision. They have no soul. And I am sorry for those of us who have lost a beautiful ride in this beautiful country that not enough of us see enough of, anyway.