Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Strangers on a Train; or, Smokers in the Night

I’ve been on trains before (the airport line at O’Hare Int’l, connections from Baltimore to D.C., Wye to London, the London Underground, Amsterdam Transit, etc.), but I am now on my first cross-country rail trip. By ‘cross-country,’ I mean roughly from the Mexican border to the Canadian one.

The seats are about as roomy as first-class on a small- to mid-size jet, but less hygienic. Somehow, they just don’t fit my measurements, and even trying to sleep here gives me extreme muscle knots in the most unlikely places.

One does meet many interesting people on a train, however. ‘Interesting,’ as in the dregs of society.
For instance, the lounge car has been entirely commandeered for a foul-mouthed caucus of countless hours on the evils non-smokers invariably inflict upon smokers. Apparently, the oppression bestowed on nicotine enthusiasts is as bad as or worse than the practice of slavery.
This gaggle of 20-somethings couldn’t leave the topic of cigarettes for even a moment, excepting brief intermissions devoted to the wonders of Spidey’s girlfriend (and it’s supposedly libelous treatment at the hands of the Ad Council).

Apparently, some of my fellow travelers chose train-ride over flight because airplanes do not make five-minute stops to appease smoke-inhalation cravings. An educated opinion as to their said choice: BAD idea. There has been at least one three-hour stretch (about the length of the foregone plane ride) in which no such stop was made. At this point, several of the loudest complainers began urgently seeking ways of escaping the enforcement of federal law.

And I won’t soon forget the young lady (and three companions) who have spent the entire night pacing the car. Finally, at 0:25hr in Little Rock, she elatedly cried (loud enough to wake the car behind us) “Are we stopping? We’re STOPPING!!
So sad.

This same woman, while not an active part in the lounge’s “smoker’s rights” convention, has been consistently the loudest individual on the train. (I am including even the little girl who has twice yelled “Dang, dang, dang, dang, dang!” for ten minute stretches just to annoy her tight-lipped parents.)
She (the Little Rock pacer, that is) bombastically proclaims for all to hear her disinclination with the train staff and, more importantly, her intentions to star in “Disney on Ice” for the next nine years before retiring to a life of locksmithing.
Locksmithing being the easiest job in the world, in which one randomly collects forty-dollar fees from people based only on one’s ability to carry around “special keys” (her words).
And not only will her monetary needs be met with no effort whatsoever, she intends to get entertainment value (to keep her young even at the age of 32 years) by randomly breaking into houses and, if caught, impersonating a police officer.

Can you honestly believe nobody’s asked her marry him yet?? She is noisily objecting to that fact as well.

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