Friday, September 24, 2010

More expensive than flying

You wonder, often as I do, what the meaning of life is. Then you remember, that the meaning of life probably has something to do with coffee. And since life only works because of coffee, then coffee must be the meaning of life. But... what is needed in order for there to be delicious delicious coffee? Some kind of... thing... that can be traded for goods and/or services. I can't remember what it is, so it must not be important. I think it starts with a 'm'... mmmmmonkey..... motorcycle, masticate, MONEY. Thats it! Money!

Money is important. Especially when you are considering the quantity of it that you possess. Quickly busting out my calculator and doing some algebra equations I discover that the MORE money you have the MORE coffee you can BUY, and since COFFEE=LIFE, MONEY=LIFE. Well, if money is life, then the more money you have the more life you have. Wait... no... the more money you have, the better life is. YEAH. That is math. Look it up.

So, let us say that you need to travel from... say.... just gonna pick some cities at random here.... New York City to Washington D.C.? What do you think would be the most expensive way to get from one city to the other?

Well, I'll tell you, in order of expensiveness:

1) On the back of a mythical gryphon
2) On a rickshaw pulled by people who have MUCH better things to do
3) A zeppelin made entirely of precious lighter-than-air gold
4) A regular zeppelin
5) A poorly crafted zeppelin
6) Some kind of land-boat
7) Amtrak
8) Airplanes
9) Motor vehicles

THAT IS RIGHT! Amtrak turned out to be more expensive, and take more time, than a flight to Washington D.C. So naturally, I decided to take Amtrak. I went online to [begin internet] [end internet] and purchased round trip tickets. I found that the fastest way would be to take the Acela Express. Interesting thing about the Acela Express is that it is a bit like the United Premium Service. United Premium Service flies airlines with large business class sections and no economy sections (although they do have economy plus). Acela Express has no coach class. Only business class and first class.

The first class tickets were a hundred dollars more apiece, so I spent about an hour deciding between business class and business class. I eventually ended up picking armadillo class which doesn't exist, so the internet broke. After a few hours of repair, I was back online and given the option to chose again, and this time I correctly chose business class.

I woke up at about negative 4 billion o'clock in the morning and proceeded to drink the meaning of life. Jazzed off of the concept of living, I headed to Penn Station. I was irritated at the fact that Penn station tells you that Amtrak is in several different directions at once. After walking in circles for a few minutes, I decided to use my own internal compass, or INTERPASS™ to locate the Amtrak ticketing center. I found the Amtrak Quick Scan stations and used the barcode the internet gave me when I booked online to print the tickets. I waited in a ridiculously long line to get into the train that moved so fast that my anger was instantly satiated. I picked a car near the dining car and sat down in my business class seat. It was nice, some good legroom, nice tray table, and outlets on the wall for electricity. The train was packed once everyone boarded. Not one empty seat. The train offered free internet which was some of the worst internet I've ever seen. It took an hour to send an e-mail. So the train took off to Washington and everything was fine until I got to Washington D.C.... where everything remained to be fine. I rented a car from Hertz, which maybe was unnecessary since I was leaving that night to return home, and the place I was going turned out not to be very far away at all. The car they gave me was a Nissan Shitstorm. The interior was covered in dust, and the gas tank wasn't full when I turned it on. I left the Hertz pickup station in the parking garage of Union Station to find that there was no gate booth to check my documents. I just simply... left. I could have crashed the car, and driven it back and marked on the inspection sheet that the dents were already there, and Hertz would have had no way to disprove it. WEIRD.

I returned to Union Station after doing my business out in the woods of D.C. and returned the car. I had a few hours to kill so I hung out in Union Station until my train was scheduled to leave. The station was pretty cool. Awesome high, ornate ceilings, beautiful Roman-esque statues and trimmings on the outside, and an excellent selection of food at the food court. I poked around looking to see if Acela had a lounge for business class customers. I didn't see one, but I did see a lounge for First Class customers and Acela's elite loyalty program members. I thought that was pretty neat, if tawdry.

After a while I decided to go and wait near the gates for the departing trains. At about 30 minutes until our train was scheduled to depart, a bunch of people suddenly formed in line for our gate, even though it was closed. I decided to wait in line with them to see what the benefits were. Quickly, the line grew behind me and extended ridiculously far down the corridor. But once the gate opened, the line moved very fast. This time I got to walk by First Class to see what the difference was.

There was no difference. The seats were the exact same size with the same amount of space between them. The upholstery was slightly different but that is about it. I did read that First Class apparently has access to attendants who hang out near their seat. I guess they get things for them if they need it. I don't know what you could possibly need since there is no galley. There is a cafe, but you gotta pay for it. Maybe First Class customers get anything from the cafe brought to them, for free? I hope so, otherwise I don't see the benefit.

The train ride back was pleasant and quick.

All in all, the train was a good experience. It was infinitely less stressful than flying. No security lines, very quick boarding, you can put your bags wherever the hell you want (and lots and lots of overhead space), free internet and electricity, the ability to get up and go anywhere you want whenever you want, you can use your phone and make excellent phone calls, and peace of mind knowing that you aren't going to be delayed for weather or landing pattern issues. But it comes at a price, literally. My round trip tickets were about $100 more than roundtrip tickets on United airlines. And the duration of the trip was close to 2 hours longer. So why did I chose to take the train at all? Because United didn't have any flights going into Reagan national airport, which was the closest airport to where I was working. That is really the only reason.

So, trains are good. They are better for the environment and less stressful. But if you have lots of money and you are have plenty of coffee already, take a zeppelin.


Picture sources: TrainZeppelin

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