Oh, Amtrak, how could you?


Oh Amtrak, how could you?


Dear Amtrak,

I thought that we had worked things out; I thought that we had arrived at an understanding. I would forgive you for your egregious behavior this summer on The Lake Shore Limited when you consigned me to a “deluxe” compartment with neither air conditioning nor working toilet. You would make it up to me, you promised. You would never disappoint me again. You promised, and I believed you.

I had faith in you, Amtrak. So, I held my head high, accepted your apology and a $1,000 travel certificate refund, and made reservations to go to New Orleans. All was forgiven; we could start anew. That journey in July, well, that just never happened. We could stand hand-in-hand and look forward. The past was past.

And now, what do I find? You have betrayed me again. You promised me a trip to New Orleans. Yes, you promised. I have it written down; I have an e-ticket with your name right at the top. And then you email me to say that there’s a problem. I should call.

My heart sank when I saw your missive. I knew that it wasn’t a love letter. And then I learned the news. I could ride as far as Atlanta. But then…. but then…. the truth came out. You weren’t going to continue to New Orleans. No, after you promised. I, you said, could take a bus. And, to add insult to injury, you told me to be sure to pack breakfast, lunch, dinner and any snacks I might want, for this express bus was not going to stop.

Really? A bus to New Orleans? After all we had meant to one another.

Well, Mr. Amtrak, no soap. A girl has to keep her dignity. If you don’t want me, if you would hand me over to a bus, I say, we’re through, all bets are off. Oh, I know you say it’s not your fault, and perhaps this time it’s not. But I’ve heard that too many times before. It is just too painful to continue with you.  I must consider our relationship severed and I am under no obligation to remain faithful.

Oh, Amtrak, you have once again wounded one of your biggest boosters. How could you?


Cynthia Strauff, author of Another Sunday.  cynthiastrauff.com


You Can’t Go Home Again, but if you do…..

oak_park_mapThomas Wolfe is right. You can’t go home again. But just in case you do, be sure to take a map.

Our train trip included a return visit to Chicago where we had lived for ten years. We stayed in Oak Park. I knew that town and loved it, though Ernest Hemmingway described it as a town of “wide lawns and narrow minds.” (Well, Mr. Hemmingway, I do think that you are wrong).

And now we were visitors. But I was heartened when someone came up to me and asked for directions. Aha, years living in the sweet climate of North Carolina had not softened me. Here someone took me for a native!  And directions I gave; how to get to the Lake Street el, not too difficult a task since both my questioner and I could hear the rumble of the local. I sent him on his way, and smiled as I found yet another outdoor café where I could sit, drink coffee, and delight that Oak Park, and, indeed, Chicago are now even better than when we lived here. Downtown Chicago, where people still make eye contact, still smile. Nice to remember that about the Midwest.

When I learned that our hotel had no laundry facilities, I blithely inquired the location of the nearest laundromat. “Oh, just a few blocks away, a five minute walk,” the clerk said, and gave me the address. I planned my early morning jaunt, even skipped my requisite coffee thinking that I’d take it while I waited for my laundry to dry. With my green print Vera Bradley tote slung over my shoulder, I happily headed out, taking Harlem Avenue so that I could experience the early morning traffic and the aroma of diesel from the few buses that hadn’t been converted.

I remained upbeat after ten minutes because, I thought, well, his five minutes and my five minutes may not be the same. When I crossed Chicago Avenue I began to feel a bit hesitant. When I finally looked at my watch. I saw that I had been walking for 55 minutes. I was feeling much-less-than-a-native when I stopped someone to ask how far it was to Madison.

“Oh, honey, you’re a long way off.”

“I’m walking the wrong way, aren’t I.”

She nodded and put her hand on my shoulder. I laughed. “You know, I really should have brought my map.” She just shook her head.

I turned around, faced south, headed, finally, in the right direction. It started to rain, my shoes gave me blisters, but when I finally reached the laundromat, it felt like home.  But for all my other visits, I did take a map.