The Heart and Soul of the Southwest Chief Dining Car

The woman in the center of the photo is Maureen. She and the young man in the aisle behind her run the dining car on the Southwest Chief, the train traveling from LA to Chicago and back weekly.

Maureen told us that she’s worked for Amtrak for eleven years and that when she gets off on Friday, it takes two days to recover from the body aches that come from constantly shifting with a constantly shifting passenger train. She was present, pleasant and while friendly, not overly chatty. She had work to do, after all, and people waiting for the next table.

I appreciated very much Maureen’s overall attitude and work ethic. She betrayed her age by using, “Right on,” on a routine basis and showed her comfort level with familiarity by calling me (and many other women) “baby girl.” She called Ray (and many other men) “sweetie” and “doll.” I know Ray and I enjoyed having someone recognize us behind our masks and greet us with affection before we sat down at the table three times a day. She had that knack for just enough eye contact to make you feel seen but not too much to make you feel as if you needed to chat more than you felt like doing. In other words, she was in command of her dining car and how things rolled while in it.

Her partner in crime, the young man I mentioned earlier, was also kind and present, but much more reserved. He was the yang to her yin. They were a perfect combination in case you were someone who didn’t want quite so much earthy personality in a server as Maureen naturally exuded.

We saw Maureen walking out of Union Station as we waited for our Lyft. She looked pretty worn out. We waved and smiled. “Bye, kids,” she called.

She’ll have the week off and return on Thursday to make that trek from LA to Chicago and then back over the course of five days.

A good woman, doing a great job, making an honest living while helping people to feel seen and heard.

Here’s to Maureen!

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