Daniel W. Drezner

A pundit embed in the Northeast Corridor

A pundit embed in the Northeast Corridor

Your humble blogger is not naive in the ways of punditry.  He is keenly aware that the only way to move up the punditry food chain is to bemoan the crumbling state of America’s infrastructure while pining for better high-speed rail, better schools, and ORDER, dammit!! 

In the interest of serving the greater good, your humble blogger has decided to do the crucial pundit fieldwork necessary to adopt this position.  I am therefore taking the Acela "hi speed" train from Washington, DC, to New York City, and shall chronicle every moment of import along the way in this blog post.  So buckle your seat bekts — it’s going to be a bumpy ride:

8:10 AM:  Part of the pundit code is getting into a local taxi and getting colorful quotes from them.  Alas, my cabbie was not the chatty type.  Also, despire the morning rush-hour time, there wasn’t a lot of sitting around time.  Oh, and his cab was clean too.  Clearly, Washington DC is receiving favored treatment in its infrastructure. 

8:35 AM:  I get to Union Station to find much of it being renovated.  There are cranes and construction equipment everywhere!  What is his, Shanghai?!  Of course, in the Far East, they’re just building new things, whereas here in the decaying United States, we’re trying to preserve our crumbling monuments to modernity [Oh, that is Pulitzer GOLD, baby!!–ed.]

8:40 AM:  I want to get coffee from Starbucks, but the Acela line has already started forming.  I bypass the coffee to make sure I get a good seat.  Anger at stupid American regulations… rising!!

9:00 AM:  On the train, I hold my breath as I try to access Acela’s wifi.  Many an expeletive has been tweeted in anger at this unreliable system.  In my case, however, it opens with no difficulty.  There is a warning page informing me that, for myriad reasons, the wifi might cut in and out and it can’t access certain pages.  Still, Amtrak’s web service has jumped up a notch since the last time I took the Acela… or, again, the NYC-DC corridor gets preferential treatment compared with the Boston trains.  Note to self:  hire eager-beaver grad student to unearth Amtrak perfidy. 

9:10 AM:  I can’t access YouTube.  That’s it, this is the worst f***ing WiFi service I’ve ever encountered.  There’s no WAY this would happen in China!!!

9:20 AM:  Well, the Acela reveals itself to be erratic, as it starts to slow down from its pathetically low "hi speed" — oh, it’s stopoing st the BWI station.  Never mind. 

9:33 AM:  Sure, I could have opted for the quiet car, but I wanted to mix with "the people," get a sense of what they’re talking about amongst themselves.  So far, they’re talking about… PowerPoint presentations.  There’s a column in here somewhere…

10:00 AM:  So far, the train has been on time, the WiFi has worked, and even the non-quiet car has been pretty sedate.  Friedman’s Rage is not building.  [Bye-bye Pulitzer!!–ed.] No, wait, the train ride is kinda bumpy.  Very bumpy at times.  Kind of like… like… the American body politic!!  [Atta boy!  You’re back in the game!–ed.] 

10:20 AM:  The WiFi cut out for, like 10 minutes south of Wilmington.   How sad and pathetic for America.  Why, if this had happened in, say, Chongqing, at least one train bureaucrat would have been executed and one British hedge-fund manager would have been poisoned to set an example for other trains.  

10:39 AM: The WiFi is becoming erratic again, causing additional mutterings from other passengers in my car. One of them says "This would never happen in Michael Bloomberg’s America!!" #notreally.

11:35 AM: The train has arrived in Newark. I look around. God, I miss China.

11:45 AM:   Your pundit’s long morning nightmare has come to an end on a gorgeous day in Manhattan.  I learned a lot about America on this trip, but even more importantly… I learned a lot about myself.   [Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Aaron Sorkin!!–ed.]