Train of Thoughts......
13.07.2010 - 13.07.2010 85 °F
It is 10:00 p.m. Except for an occasional flash of light that rushes by, there is nothing but darkness to be seen out the window of the sightseer lounge. This car is quiet, nearly deserted. One man has sat alone in the first booth by the door talking to nobody and doing nothing for the longest time. A young adult woman with gorgeous red hair is working on a scrapbook, scissors, papers, colored markers and other implements of creativity spread out on the table before her. When my computer battery went dead and there was no electrical outlet to be found in this car, I envied her choice of solitary entertainment which required no electrical power.
The stories I’ve heard about The City of New Orleans being a party train have not proven to be true for me. When traveling south nine days ago, even on July 4, the train was sedate. I’m reminded of the scene in an old Woody Allen film when he’s riding on a train surrounded by passengers who are sullen, dull, depressed, ugly; he looks out his window at a train speeding by going the opposite direction filled with glamorous beautiful people partying the night away. I’m reminded of that scene, but I’m feeling quite content to ride my quiet train tonight without the pressure of having to be glamorous or beautiful or entertaining.
Dinner was served at 6:30. Dining booths on a train are an intimate experience. I sat cozily beside an African American woman who seemed to be about my age; she was traveling from Mississippi to Chicago. We sat across from an eleven year old girl and her seven year old brother who were traveling alone. The woman appeared to be extremely quiet and uncomfortable at first so I thought this meal would not be much of a social experience, but by the end of the meal we talked so long that we lingered until the waiter told us we had to move on so they could serve the next round of guests. Turns out the woman has a thing for trains too. She gave me tips for accumulating Amtrak Guest Rewards points; she has accumulated 52,000! (Mine hover somewhere just above zero.) She told me she spoke to her husband by cell while on this trip and he gave her the thumbs up for planning a trip on the Empire Builder this Fall, her goal is to see the Northern Lights. She plans to use her Rewards points to make that trip. There is a subculture developing on these train tracks, a class of retired baby boomers turned middle-class hobos, hopping sleeper cars instead of boxcars.
For dessert the little boy sitting across from me ordered Mississippi Mud Pie. I ordered one too but had them wrap it up and I gave it to him for a midnight snack. I hoped it would give him one more reason to believe that there are nice people in the world who do nice things unconditionally.
It looks like there are lights appearing out of the blackness. We’re approaching Memphis so I will pack up this computer so I can step off the train when it stops. Memphis is one of Amtrak's “smoke stops”, passengers can get off to take a few drags,or just to stretch their legs for twenty minutes. At the last smoke stop I met a woman who told me she began smoking at age 62. I was aghast and asked her "WHY?" She said she has Crones and IBS and her doctor told her that smoking would help eliminate some of the stress that is causing her bowel problems! One learns a lot on a train. I think I'll keep the tip about accumulating Amtrak Guest Rewards points but not take the advice about how to have a healthier bowel!