City Journal Summer 2014

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Summer 2014
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Matthew Hennessey
Passing the Bar « Back to Story

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Re ďBut itís hard to believe that the classy, genteel, full-service bar car ever existed anywhere but in the movies.Ē
I canít speak for commuter trains, but I can speak to riding commercial airlines 20-30 years ago. It was a pleasure; Wide comfortable seats and plenty of leg room. Beauty queen stewardesses. Attentive service. Good drinks (admittedly via miniatures) in real glasses. Men in suits. Women in dresses or skirts. No TSA to deal with. Red-caps at the curb to deal with luggage. Travel can never be stress free Ė but it was very close to it.
I can easily imagine a civilized bar car; Even if it had watery American beer. But I just donít think it is possible on a publicly accessible venue today.
One can blame the RR, but letís face, we Americans have become very course.
The truly depressing news is that Kawasaki is building our rail cars, adding to our current accounts deficit. Used to be Budd, right here in Philadelphia.

The cost of living is higher in Japan than in Philadelphia, so Kawasaki should be at a comparative disadvantage...but they still get the business. We no longer have the expertise or the work force -- or the will -- to do even poorly what we used to do well.

The end is nigh.
Does Mr. Hennessey actually commute on the New Haven line? I do, daily. I'm not a bar car habitue, but those who are seem to enjoy themselves immensely, and generally seem well-behaved and responsible. Quiet cars, on the other hand, are often a battleground, as conductors infrequently announce the rules, leaving passengers to police the policy themselves. On an almost weekly basis, I've witnessed arguments and disputes that have threatened to turn violent between people who do not want to be quiet - quiet car or not. Oh, and that could be me opening that "can of watery domestic beer" Mr. Hennessey sniffs at while I stick my nose in a book. Perhaps City Journal can spring for a car service for their associate editor. He certainly seems uncomfortable travelling with us ruffians.