The Upgrade

A veteran of the cross country train, not to mention a card carrying member of The Young and Poor, he’d never really given much thought to paying for a sleeper car. Regular coach seats were in of themselves extremely comfortable and spacious. On more than one occasion he’d made 30+ hour runs in this relative comfort. The regular coach seats were on par with a first class airplane’s, for a fraction of the cost. Thusly, he’d never even considered the upgrade.

Until today.

In an effort to save a few bucks on holiday travel, he’d booked his flight home out of Seattle instead of Portland, for half price. Even figuring in train tickets from Portland to Seattle and back, he was still coming out several hundred dollars ahead. Though his return schedule left him very little room for error. He’d left Minneapolis at 6:35am, arrived in Seattle at 8:10 am, and then had to take a 36 minute light rail ride from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to downtown Seattle to catch an Amtrak train down to Portland at 9:30. It was doable on paper, provided not major problems arose.

Problems arose when he couldn’t find the brand new light rail at the airport, it being conveniently located at the far end of an unmarked parking garage. There was more confusion when he realized that while he somewhat knew downtown Seattle, he wasn’t quite sure which stop would be closest to the King Street Train Station. It was a toss up between the Chinatown-International Station and the Stadium Station. He went with the Stadium Station; a poor move in retrospect. He intended to hail a cab, but alas, there were no cabs. So he walked, and briskly, for he was running out of time.

He burst into the Seattle King Street Train Station and encountered a fantastic line, several hundred people long, and was overjoyed that he hadn’t missed his train. He approached the ticket counter, where a young socialist ticket agent informed him that he should have picked the Chinatown International Station, for it was only a block and a half from King Street. He did not care, he was that happy to have made his train. The agent offered to sell him the last seat on the train, for $76. This gave him a momentary pause as he had never even seen a price higher than $45, and had previously paid as little as $27. The young ticket agent informed him that the rest of the trains for the next two days were already sold out. So he grudgingly paid $76 and went to get in line, when the young ticket agent informed him that the long line was not for him. He was confused, but it turned out that his $76 had bought him a ticket in the sleeper car, the upgrade, the First Class of cross country train travel. He was amused, but more so just happy to be headed home. Two weeks on the road had made him rather weary and somewhat surly, and it was New Year’s Eve, there would be festivities in Portland that he would rather not miss.

He made his way to the sleeper car and noticed the deference afforded to him by the train staff, and the envy in the coach passengers’ eyes. He noticed again when the gate agent had called him “sir” and wished him a pleasant trip. He noticed the complimentary bottles of water in his compartment and the complimentary coffee and fruit station in the hall. He smiled when another agent came to politely ask him if he’d enjoy a complimentary champagne or sparkling juice. He would, and make it a double. He smiled again when he realized that his $76 included a sit down meal with more complimentary drinks, and a Pacific Parlour Car, with full bar service. He was determined to get $76 worth of satisfaction out of this three hour and a half hour commute, so sign him up for anything and everything, and yes my good man, just charge it to the room.

Lunch (complimentary lunch) proved to be an entirely unexpected animal when he was randomly seated with two crunchy granola anarchists from Santa Cruz, actually fairly big in the scene. They all talked shop for a bit, and ate meatless sandwiches. He drank a beer, and couldn’t care less if they approved or not, The Anarchist Project has nearly come to a head, and he no longer cared about his image on the scene. In fact, he was tempted to smack the dude, who already had one black eye, and ask the dude’s woman if she wanted to boogie. He instead ordered another beer and smiled black ice. On his walk back to his compartment, he stole three half bottles of champagne. Ten minutes later he stole two more. He marveled at the Japanese hotel room logistics of the sleeper car, with its folding compartments and hooks and hidden doors. He wondered at the durability of the fold out bunks, and how well they would support two, especially two engaged in certain athletic endeavors.

He helped himself to a double Bloody Mary with extra spice from the lounge car, which may or maybe not have been Kosher, but there was no bartender on duty, and he needed a drink. Those sitting in the sleeper car sections do not let silly little things like “a lack of bartender on duty” get in the way of their pursuit of happiness or libations. In this beautiful country, he realized, it was all his for the taking, provided that he’d already purchased the upgrade. A fact lost on those sitting in Coach.

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3 responses to “The Upgrade

  1. Why are you so awesome? It’s really unfair to the rest of the world. You’re making us look bad.

  2. Leave it to you to make the absolute most of that. And now I want champagne.

  3. I frequently take the Empire Builder from Seattle to Spokane in a sleeper. Pure fun and pleasure. Usually good food , drink, and interesting company.

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