Ette is the feminine form of the French suffix –et. Adding ette to the end of a word describes a smaller version of an inanimate object such as cigarette, kitchenette, novelette. It seems to imbue these everyday nouns with a fancy romanticism or modern allure. On the other hand, the same suffix ette has also been used to describe something imitation or inferior such as leatherette. Still adding that Frenchified aire, but really puffing up something that might not be able to live up to it’s name without that precious suffix.
On our recent train trip, Downtown Dad and I opted for an upgrade from our coach seats to a Roomette. With seating for just two, our own private picture window, and meals, plus a wine tasting event included, this Roomette would be the perfect venue for our romantic time alone, a getaway-ette. Having made the trip once before in a coach seat – or the Fart Compartment as I called it, I was all for having our own space where we could shut the door and pull the curtains – if not for privacy reasons, for the aromatic ones.
The westbound Empire Builder train, departs from the Fargo station at 3:25 a.m., so after a full day of fulfilling other obligations, an obligatory appearance at a cocktail party, packing, repacking, last minute lectures and instructions, and an 11th hour call to the doctor for antibiotics for one of the kids’ newly discovered bronchial infection, we settled into what would be our home away from home for the next 31 hours. According to the description on Amtrak’s website, this Roomette is “ideal for one or two passengers, with two comfortable reclining seats on either side of a big picture window. At night, the seats convert to a comfortable bed, and the upper berth folds down from above.”
Technically, yes, the two seats do convert to a comfortable bed…but no matter how romantic you are, it's only wide enough for one! And yes, once your porter has performed the acrobatics necessary to accomplish this mechanical magic, the second occupant of the Roomette, can climb the 6 inch wide stairs that serve double duty as shelves alongside one chair, to the windowless top bunk, a cozy 24 inches from the roof of the car - not so comfortable. So much for the romance.
Once entombed therein, the occupant of the upper berth must ask the occupant of the lower berth (the one that drew the longer straw, or the one that all of a sudden has bad knees and can’t climb up there) to hand up her chapstick, oh, and her book, and her sleeping pills – oh and some water … all of which are efficiently stowed under the lower bunk, and cannot be accessed with the cabin doors shut. After much wriggling and grunting and bumping, and after the lucky occupant of the lower berth has whumpped his pillow-ette for the fifteenth time, it is inevitible that the upper berther must now pee. Of course to do that requires leaving the Roomette, and thus more wriggling and grunting, and bumping - again, not even a little bit the romantic kind, but just maybe it sounds that way to the Roomette next door!