They’ll ride rails again despite tiny quarters

They'll ride rails again despite tiny quarters by Bob Karolevitz Don�t get me wrong. I�m not anti-Amtrak � but the upper berth in the well advertised standard bedroom is something else again.

It�s like sleeping on the top shelf in the supermarket, with a paint-can shaker attached.

I experienced it coming and going from Minneapolis to Seattle, and I�m now convinced that the top bunk was made for twenty-somethings � or little people � and certainly not for octogenarians who weight 190 pounds or more.

Phyllis boosted me up there when she pulled the claustrophobia thing on me. She couldn�t stand to be cooped up like that, she declared, so I was the second choice.

I won�t bore you with the contortionist�s act we went through getting our pajamas on, but I will tell you about my first venture going top-side.

I got twisted around, facing the wrong way, that�s what I did, and therein lies the dilemma.

Let me explain that there is simply not enough room to turn around in those cramped quarters, especially when you are wrenched in a fetal position in the gawd-awful space. And then Phyllis started giggling which made it even worse.

You had to be there to see how I was doubled up, not able to go one way or the other, while my once tender-hearted wife laughed and laughed at my body-bending predicament.

I finally made it, though, by climbing down and starting all over. Then the fun part began. I must have slept some as I laid there like a corpse on a slab in the morgue. And that�s when Phyllis called me.

�Get up,� she said, �or we�ll miss breakfast.�

So dutifully I clambered down and squirmed into my clothes again. Then �oops� she announced, that she had looked at her watch upside down.

It was one a.m.!

�I�m not going back up there,� I argued loudly, and Phyllis said, �Shhushh, or you�ll wake up the neighbors.�

But I didn�t care, and that�s when she took a pillow and went through the quiet diner to the coach car next to it where there were a few empty but comfortable seats.

She dozed off at last, and she was half asleep when she looked out the window and saw water rushing by. Thinking that it was the Columbia River, it hazily dawned on her that when the train was split in Spokane, she was on the part going to Portland.

She was frantic, until she learned that the diner was still there, and she made her way sheepishly back to our sleeping car. Our attendant, who was just up, greeted her with a cheery �Where have you been?� as she slinked by, hating to face the waiters in the diner who had seen her with her pillow returning groggily to her husband who was sleeping soundly in the lower berth.

I could tell you more, about the tiny wash room and toilet where there was hardly enough space to brush your teeth, let alone shave. But we made it through, and soon we were enjoying it.

The food in the diner was good, although on the way westward the dishwasher broke down and we had to eat off of paper plates. Phyllis also beat me in a game of gin rummy which was bad enough, but not as bad as that upper bunk.

We like train travel, though, and we�ll probably go again, the Lord and our bank account willing. However, never again will I try to squeeze myself into an itsy-bitsy space where only Lilliputians should go.

� 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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