Monday, July 16, 2007

Tips for Train Travel

Had a very good trip back. The people hanging out in my dome car were by and large very nice and many tipped accordingly. In answer to John MacDonald's comment two posts ago, tipping is not strictly de rigueur on board the train, but in a job like mine, which involves bartending as well as a great deal of commentary on the scenery, local economy, history, culture, etc., I sometimes get a little extra for my troubles. Porters and dining car staff also get tips. The transcontinental train is very different from the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor routes. The former is an "experience," whereas the latter is more of a utilitarian mode of transit.

As usual, I was serving people from all over the place: Canada, the US, England, Ireland, Australia, France. One of my passengers was an American monk, who was travelling with his joke-cracking father. I asked his father if he called his son "father." Apparently he does. Father Mike was a very nice guy, but not much of a tipper. More into faith and hope than charity, I guess. Dressed as he was in his monastic garb, he was something of an anachronistic sight when he was using his video camera. When we were going through the Rockies, after I had said something about the cycles of geology (the Fraser River carrying Rocky Mountain silt towards the Pacific, forming the Fraser Delta in the process) he told us that the fossil record on the Matterhorn confirmed the historical veracity of the great deluge. (Funny, because I didn't know there was any reference to the Swiss Alps in the Good Book; I wonder if the Bible's authors even knew of the existence of the land mass now known as Switzerland. I wonder if there were mountain goats on Noah's Ark? Ararat is a bit taller than the Matterhorn, so I suppose it's possible the latter was completely submerged, while the former poked above the flood--possible, at any rate, if you throw out everything we know of the hydrological cycle. Hmmmm...) He seemed otherwise mentally competent. He asked me once if I was Catholic. I answered in the negative, without elaborating any. I'm reading Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything right now. I didn't bring it up in conversation, wishing to poison nothing whilst on the clock and fishing for silver.


John W. MacDonald said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Zach. It's been since 1989 since I was riding coach from Montreal to Banff. I remember tipping in the dining car only. Much beer was consumed.
The most recent trip was from Ottawa to Toronto a couple of years ago and I don't recall tipping anyone as it was pretty rush rush for all involved. The only interaction between traveler and staff was checking the ticket at our seat. I never thought to tip for that service. ...And I'm an awesome tipper, too.
So what's the usual, average tip you would get? When should a guest pay it, before - during - or after?

Zachariah Wells said...

Well, in my job, people generally tip towards the end of their trip, unless it's just for drinks. $5-$10 per person is typical.

If you're in a sleeping car and want to insure super-attentive service all trip, drop a fiver to your porter as soon as s/he helps you on board. This is a real attention-getter. Typical tip for porters is $5 per person, per night.

As for the cattle-herding that happens in the Corridor, I'd only tip for exceptional service, or if I bought something from the cart-pusher.

Ian LeTourneau said...

I just finished the Hitchens book recently. I thought there was a bit of overlap of detail and argument with the Dawkins, but it was still a very good book: lively and sane.

John W. MacDonald said...

Say I meet you on the train and I ask you to belt out,
All Aboard!" just for my pleasure - what do you think that's worth? A fiver?

Zachariah Wells said...

For you, John: on the house.