Scatty Train Lady, me?

Coast Starlight Parlor Car (Photo: Nathan Lyons)

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight Parlor Car (Los Angeles – Seattle) Photos: Nathan Lyons

I’m back from my spring break trip to southern California. These days, instead of driving the 1000 miles solo, my trek involves the train. And there’s usually some kind of drama, right? Because all those humans inside, barreling along a track together, combined with all those humans outside, having to deal with that track, equals stuff happening.

Crossing those tracks looks easy

Crossing tracks looks easy

But sometimes I wonder. Will I one day be to blame for some kind of  drama? Not due to malice (although you never know). But what about due to scatty thinking?

Cue the scary music, gang. You already know that I could one day become a Crazy Cat Lady. But that’s nothing to becoming a Scatty Train Lady.

To illustrate, our train came to an unexpected halt twice during my trip south. The first had us sidelined for an hour and a half in the middle of the night. At breakfast I learned that a drunk driver had tried to cross the tracks where there was no crossing, got his car stuck, and then passed out behind the wheel. He lives because someone discovered him and was able to get the rail traffic stopped in time.

Okay, so a drunk driving event with me as the drinker is highly unlikely. Whenever alcohol and I try to live dangerously together—such as drinking half a glass of ale on girls’ movie night—I fall asleep. Ask Susan Kaye, she knows the pathetic truth. (We now stick to coffee.)

The water spigot? Or the emergency stop pull?

The water spigot? Or the emergency stop pull?

The second train halt was more dramatic, happening just as we were making a winding descent. You can’t mistake an emergency stop for the usual kind—and you certainly can’t mistake the startled responses of the crew. Was something or someone on the track? Not this time. A passenger, wanting a drink of water, confused a water spigot (in the middle of the corridor) with an emergency stop pull (at the end of the car) and voila! Instant screech of brakes.

As you can imagine, this caused a lot of comment, with “How could someone be so stupid?” being the most prevalent. I smiled and nodded along with everyone else, until I examined one of the emergency stop pulls. Yes, it was rather high to be a water spigot. But on the other hand if I were confused and thirsty…

Why not give a little tug and see?

Oh boy. Maybe my sons should be afraid.

10 thoughts on “Scatty Train Lady, me?

  1. Susan Kaye

    Yeah, the 6 to 8 Ounce Hard Apple Cider incident was what, 4 or 5 years ago. We can hope that we are better at holding our drink these days. Doubtful though. I experienced something unprecedented on the bus going to my mom’s: no felons checking in with their parole officers. There may have been some legally challenged riding along with me but none of them shared a chat with any of the authorities as we traveled. That’s the upside of the bus, close quarters make it impossible to be out-of-the-loop if anyone does anything.

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      1. Laura Hile

        Hitchhike to Gayle’s house, or take public transit. That should liven things up, or at the very least provide interesting people-watching opportunities.

        You have musician drama (or parents-of-musician drama) to provide interest. Not a dull ride, our years on this earth.

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        1. Robin Helm

          There is no public transit where I live. Girl, this is the COUNTRY. If I hitchhike, I may end up rotting in the woods by highway 9, my decomposing body never to be discovered.

          I used to ride trains every year from Florida to Camden, SC. I loved it.

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      2. Susan Kaye

        The first order of business was a bad movie when I first arrived. We used all our energy on the snarkectomy we administered on Ciaran Hinds’s “Jane Eyre.” The jokes wrote themselves, but there was a certain amount of work keeping them coming so fast and furious. Then came Chinese food and all the bottles of small-batched brews looked so fun. By 10 we were catatonic.

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    1. Laura Hile

      That was a Friday evening after a long week. Funny thing, I now realize that we haven’t had a men’s retreat in something like four or five years. Rats. That’s when the house was clear for girls’ movie night.

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        1. Laura Hile Post author

          Your son has your car. My son had mine so long that I finally sold the thing to him. If we use Greyhound to travel this summer, at least we won’t end up in Moses Lake. Or will we?

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Marcy, I can drive it in about 17 hours or I can fly, which involves a day of travel (changing planes, a long layover while I wait for a commuter flight) and car rental. The train is simpler for my eighty-something parents (station 10 minutes from their house) and for bookish me.

      At this point in the school year, with writing pressing on me along with everything else, I sometimes just sit and gaze out the window at the passing scenery. Because when I board that train, time and real life just stop for two days. That’s what I call wonderful.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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