Eco on Amtrak

From Umberto Eco’s How to Travel With a Salmon & Other Essays:

American trains are the image of what the world might be like after an atomic war. It isn’t that the trains don’t leave, it’s that often they don’t arrive, having broken down en route, causing people to wait during a six-hour delay in enormous stations, icy and empty, without a snack bar, inhabited by suspicious characters, and riddled with underground passeges that recall the scenes in the New York subways in Return to the Planet of the Apes. The line between New York and Washington, patronized by newspaper reporters and senators, in first class offers at least business-class comfort, with a tray of hot food worthy of a university dining hall. But other lines have filthy coaches, with eviscertated leatherette cushions, and the snack bar offers food that makes you nostalgic (you’ll say I’m exaggerating) for the recycled sawdust you are forced to eat on the Milan-Rome express.

(Thanks again to Rick & GiGi for the gift.)


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