Thursday, October 11, 2012

I’ve Been Writing on the Railroad

Years ago, my H.R. manager and I rode a nearly empty express train from New York to D.C. We laughed and storytold until the 3-piece suit across the aisle called us out, on his way out. “You ladies are very rude, this is the Quiet Car,” he scolded, with his most convincing headmaster pose and tone (plus the outfit), before slipping through a door that led to a platform in Philadelphia. It was the first time I’d been awakened to the possibility of permitting passengers to sit, surrounded by silence. No small talk, no big talk, no listening to music from the earbuds of others.  

“Hey buddy, I’m on the other side of the world right now. Nice foliage.”
That was one of the first outdoor-voice declarations coming from the seat behind me in an Amtrak car a few days ago. I don’t board Amtrak often and usually end up having to run for whatever window seat I can get, wherever it is.  
“I asked him to stay somewhat sober today and he said he would. But I know he’ll be a wreck when he picks me up from the train station.”
He spent hours calling everyone he knew, some of them more than once.
“I’m going to Syria next week to take care of some bad guys. Semper Fi.”
It was at this point, the Semper Fi, that I set down my book, pulled out a notepad, and started taking dictation. He’d already covered machine-gun manufacturing, kiboshes, and horse farms. Shame on me if I missed another word.
 “I can’t get ESPN, can’t get the scores of my games, don’t know if Buffalo’s doing anything. I’m just lost, and I’m not used to being lost on a Sunday.”
We need more Quiet Cars - on the rails, off the rails. Unexpressed thoughts are becoming an endangered species.  
I took a break in the café car. As I stepped closer to the counter, I recognized the cashier from my last Amtrak café car, 3 months earlier. I stayed quiet, no small talk, no big talk – a remembrance of café cars past would unnerve him. I placed my order.
“That’s what you got the last time you rode this train,” he said without a smile.


  1. "Unexpressed thoughts are becoming an endangered species." This is one of the all-time great lines, Kadzi. I love it. The corollary is "Unexpressed emotions are becoming an endangered species."

  2. I could just imagine myself on that Amtrak with you. Funny that he remembered you ;)

  3. Tales from the Amtrak about those guys that think they are really hot and try all the way to get too uncomfortably close to you, how disgusting and nasty is that? A baseball bat would become very handy, but then I will spent the rest of my senior years in jail. Settled for the clown seated next to me and put a few magazines between the jerk and self. Still, I love Amtrak! Right now there is one going by where I live. Waving from my chair as I type.

  4. Oh goodness, yes. This is something I agree with strongly: not all thoughts or emotions are necessary to share with everyone. I am thankful to see I am not the only one who feels this way.