On the way back on this trip, I was keeping track of the train's schedule. As I saw the scheduled times at each stop slip more and more, my "God, I have a four-and-a-half hour layover in Chicago?" gradually turned into, "God, I only have a four-and-a-half hour layover in Chicago?" So, when the train was finally six hours late, you can imagine I was in a bit of a pickle. Not being able to rent a car on such short notice, I took Amtrak up on their lodging and transportation.
Let me tell you, staying with Amtrak when they screw up is much nicer that riding with Amtrak when they screw up. They put me up in a fairly swanky hotel in downtown Chicago for the night, with enough cash for taxis to and fro, and meals. The next train out wasn't until four p.m. the following afternoon, so I took the alternate option of a Greyhound bus home.
I was waiting in the Greyhound terminal at 9:30 the next morning, and looked around to see that I was pretty much the only white guy in the room. Seriously, I'd estimate that the clientele and the staff were 10% white, 10% Asian or Hispanic, and the rest were black. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, of course, but it was simply unusual enough to make me sit up and take notice. It was sort of like a reverse episode of Friends, where every single person in New York City was white. On the bus itself, there's me, one Asian guy, and everyone else was black. It was fairly evenly split between the sexes.
On the train, I didn't notice this. An unusual variety of age, perhaps (see previous entry), but the crowd was pretty racially diverse. I can't help but wonder why this is the case.
The only reason I can think for this is economics. The bus is quite a bit cheaper than the train, I think, let alone flying.
It is, at least, a striking reminder that there does exist a significant class difference in our society. Whether driven by race, economics, education, or some combination of these, that difference exists.
Coming on the one-year anniversary of the Katrina devastation, it seems to be particularly important to remember that class difference. Republican pundits chastised New Orlenian residents for not preparing better and for not evacuating sooner. But it was not a sea of poor white faces at the Superdome. If such a disaster struck Chicago, or Houston, would we see pictures much different on CNN?