Thursday, August 23, 2007

Amtrakking it!

Ah, when I think of my college years in dappled Hudson Valley, I also think of travelling by train. I learned how to be an effective train traveller. Shall I pass this wisdom on to a new generation of trainees?

Could NOT resist that one.

Anyhow, here are the edicts for pleasant train travel.

1) Assume you are going to be late. The train will be late. No stress, complaining to the night janitor, bitching to fellow travellers, or pacing (bags in hand) will make the train come any sooner. Relax, read your book, and people watch.

2) Wear comfortable, layerable, clothing. Nobody cares what you look like. You'll see college kids in ragged band t-shirts, old ladies in their schmatas (sp?), businessmen in their Arrow Sears Poly Blend suits. You are not going to meet a wealthy fiance(e) or a business mogul to hire you for a fantastic job on the train. If you do, well, they know better than to judge by your clothes. You will want to sleep and perhaps even remove your sneaks.

3) If you happen to be sitting without a seat-buddy, keep your luxurious "First Class" accomodations by putting your bag up on the seat in the window seat, then lying on the bag and snoring during station stops. Keep one eye open for attractive millionaires, elderly or differently abled folks, or small children. After all, you may be trying to play the system, but you don't want to be stupid or mean.

4) Keep OUT of the aisles. The train attendants, other people, and baggage will smack you. Repeatedly. Even if there is no apparent reason to hurry.

5) Bring snacks and water. It can be hard to figure out where they keep the food, and if you do find it, it is always expensive.

6) For entertainment value, visit the smoking car. Yep. That's where all the pierced, track marked, commies hang out. Old fogies with gnarly beards, ex-truckers, 40 year old groupies that dress like teenagers, goth kidz with piles of eyeliner, and anyone with a personality disorder is in the smoking car. Conversations about sex, drugs, rock and roll, and Rolling Stone abound. Check your political correctness alarm at the door. Be prepared to smell like an ashtray and talk like a trucker when you emerge. And watch out for little mini stalkers.

7) Look out the window on long trips to remind yourself that there is a world out there besides the moving sardine can you are riding in. I recall a lovely field of sunflowers to this day from my cross-country train trip.

8) For crap sake, take care of yourself. The train employees don't kiss ass (they take names). They will not wake you up in Cheboygan, carefully avoid your foot in the aisle, or keep the old guy in the seat next to you from hitting on you. Pay attention to station stops, or you'll miss yours. If you didn't hear it, ask around. A healthy curiosity for where you are physically located in the world is always helpful, as is a watch or other electronic device with time.

I love the train. It is a microcosm of the world, an engaging reality show, and you can participate as much or as little as you like. When you emerge, zombified by constant noise, vibration, and being jolted from sleep (like a participant in a lack-of-sleep experiment) you will be wiser. That's why I love the train. It's very zen. Be the train. Be the wacky passengers. Be calm, cool, and collected. And above all, be curious.

What a fucking awesome planet we live on.

1 comment:

FranIAm said...

Oh this is good.

I think the smoking car is history now though, which in its way is totally too bad for the very reasons you state.