Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Hour on Amtrak

I've traveled a certain amount by train lately. Last fall I took the train from Portland (OR) to Boston. Three days each way. The second day, when I was somewhere in Montana or North Dakota, I went to the lounge car for my drink. A woman who was ninety if she was a day asked me what I had bought. "A gin and tonic." She smiled approvingly. "Oh, how sophisticated!". And that's how it feels. Well, except for the plastic glass.

Earlier this week my daughter and I took the Coast Starlight Amtrak train down to California to visit family. The train leaves Portland at 2:30 in the afternoon. Somewhere around Eugene or around 5 o'clock (whichever comes first) I like to have a drink.

There are a couple mysteries about gin and tonics on the train. The first is the way it's served. In the west, they always make it for you. The attendant pours the miniature bottle of gin into the glass of ice, and fills it with tonic water. Nearly. Then he puts the remaining tonic water (in its open can) back into his cupboard. Sometimes you're lucky and get the beginning of the can, or the person behind you ordered the same drink. Other times you have to make due with a slightly flat g&t. Back east, for some reason, they gave me the bottle and the can, and let me mix my drink as I saw fit. I enjoyed having nearly two bubbly drinks instead of one flattish drink.

The second mystery is limes. In the east you get them. In the west they give you unadorned gin and tonics. It's a pretty sad drink, a slightly flat gin and tonic in a plastic glass. So nowadays I always travel with a lime. It's just better that way.

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