This week Ammo Grrrll returns with thoughts on AMTRAK AND ME. She writes:
Mussolini, it is asserted – undoubtedly falsely – made the trains run on time. Benito would have hanged himself if tasked with running Amtrak.
Several years ago, when we were still wintering in Palm Springs, I decided to make the annual journey south into a four-day “Bucket List” train trip adventure. Pat, a fellow writer and Certified Train Nut, promised it would be a ball. Mr. Ammo Grrrll opted to drive. Mr. Ammo Grrrll is a very smart guy. I swear every word of the following description is true.
For the nominal sum of $1,000, I booked a First Class Sleeper Cabin the size of a double-wide coffin. It had a tiny “sofa” bench that turned into a tiny bed. It had a tiny toilet. It had a tiny shower, accessed by sitting upon the tiny toilet. Kind of a full-body bidet. The only available route was St. Paul to Chicago. Disembarking. Staying overnight in Chicago. And the next morning continuing on from Chicago to Palm Springs. Convenient!
Having watched Murder on the Orient Express and other movies which glamorized train travel, except for the murder part, I envisioned exchanging pleasantries with international sophisticates while dining on Pheasant Under Glass served by slim waiters wearing gloves.
So I have to confess to being a little disappointed when the first wretched meal was lukewarm microwaved chicken and nuclear TaterTots served by portly, unsmiling unionists. We were herded into the limited-space dining car in shifts, given no choice about menu or dining companions, and encouraged to eat quickly so as to accommodate the next shift.
My first dining companions were three massive women traveling together who spent the entire meal reliving their recent colonoscopies in vivid detail and eyeing my uneaten Tots. I was beginning to understand how someone could get murdered on a train.
I have failed to mention that this was over the Thanksgiving weekend. Can you guess who spends family holidays alone on a train? Crazy people, that’s who. Permanently in residence in the bar car was a tattooed woman who volunteered that she was in AA , NA and a support group for Sexual Addicts. The trifecta of bad life decisions coupled with an imperfect understanding of the word “anonymous”. There were seven empty beer bottles in front of her. This was a new, relaxed rule for AA with which I was not familiar.
Beside her was a rail-thin woman on her way to California to marry a man she had met once on a hiking trail. Having known me for well over 10 minutes, she invited me to the wedding. With them was a young man they had just met who seemed to be hanging around the self-confessed sexual addict in hopeful anticipation of a relapse there as well. God willing he had packed a Hazmat suit or at least Kevlar condoms.
For three endless days I read many books, listened to my iPod, ate the apples and Protein Bars I had brought, thanks be to the Almighty, and tried to get some exercise by walking the length of the train. It’s tough to go very fast down crowded aisles in a lurching train.
When we changed crews in San Antonio, the train was left unguarded in the railyard overnight! There are no locks on the sleeping cubicles which makes for a restful night without a firearm. At least we exchanged our surly Chicagoans for some polite, friendly Hispanic Texans. I was happy to be shuck of the sullen guy who turned my sofa-bench into a bed each night. Clearly, he had been wearing his uniform for months while playing raquetball. Turned out I could hold my breath for longer than I thought.
A fun and surprising fact: freight trains have the right-of-way over passenger trains! Who knew? Repeatedly we had to sit on the tracks for hours at a time to accommodate them. In Palm Springs at last, they dumped us in the middle of nowhere in the desert where I kissed the unmoving ground and called a cab. Any day now I plan to speak to Pat again.
This Thanksgiving was ever so much better with my husband safely back from Israel (Baruch Hashem), and a wonderful meal with beloved friends in my beautiful Arizona. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank the many witty, erudite, and supportive commenters who I look for each week. If you wonder why I never respond, it is because I cannot get my Facebook to work with my primitive, kerosene-powered computer. If my regulars do not plan to check in of a given Friday, please email Scott an excuse from your doctor or mother or this Jewish mother will worry. I am especially grateful to the Power Line boys for my weekly forum.