My Rail Adventure

[Written before my mom died.]
Sunday, I went to church primarily because I was teaching adult education.

Odd dichotomy: I was going to put my mother on the prayer list, yet at the same time, I didn’t want to hear several dozen people individually telling me they were praying for me and my mom and my family and/or they were sorry. [Yet, subsequently, getting several dozen e-mails – or a reading a post like this has been comforting.]

But there WERE people who already knew – my wife had told her Bodacious Bible Babes (R) group, which included one of the pastors, so it was already written in the concerns and announced at the early service. One church member asked what she could do to help. I requested that she take me to the train station on Monday a.m., if possible, so that I didn’t need to take two buses to get there, and she did.

Those living in Albany area know that the Albany train station is not in Albany, but rather across the Hudson River in Rensselaer. There used to be this dingy* building directly leading to the platform. But now it’s all spiffed up.

For years, train travel was the way I got to Charlotte, but it had to be well over a decade since my last trip. It was before the commonality of laptops and cellphones, that’s for sure. Opted not to bring a laptop – well, it would have been my daughter’s cute pink one, but that’s not why I didn’t bring it. It was a sociological experiment. I did bring my cellphone, only because I needed to be in touch with both my family in Albany and Charlotte. And I brought something called books; I figured that being unplugged, I’d have a better chance to read them. Also had three magazines to finish.

The train was the 10:05 a.m., but the board said it was going to be 10 minutes late. No big deal since I had an hour and forty-five minutes to wait in Penn Station in New York City. Then it was 20 minutes late, then 30. Still feeling OK when the train did arrive 45 minutes late. I was feeling grateful that I wasn’t counting on another train that was scheduled to be 2 HOURS, 45 MINUTES LATE.

For reasons I don’t know, the people on the train I took were transferred to another train. We took off, but we didn’t get too far – we hadn’t even gotten to the next stop, Hudson, when I, and presumably others, literally smelled something wrong with the brakes. The train stopped, the train personnel investigated. After a few minutes, it was determined that we had to leave that train, walk across a narrow platform to another train, and then travel to NYC.

The train arrives at 2:30, 15 minutes after the train to Charlotte had departed. Pardon my language, but CRAP, what do I do?

I ask some Amtrak person who directs me to the wrong place, and I’m bouncing around in a mild panic when I hear three names over the loudspeaker, including mine, “go to dgvfc 8”. WHAT? “dgvfc 8.” I thought it was gate 8, but it turned out it was Amtrak ticket counter 8. Just in time, I get a ticket on the Acela train to Washington, DC.

The Acela train is particularly nice. I see how we’re going to catch up with the other train. The Acela goes Boston to New York to DC, the best part of the system I think.

About four rows in front of me, there’s this guy who looks terribly familiar. He and this woman introduced themselves to each other. He had a small entourage; I peg him as a politician, but cannot suss out who he is. He gets off at Philadelphia. Finally, as I’m getting off the train in DC, I ask the woman. She tells me that he’s US Senator Tom Harkin, who I correctly recall is a Democrat from Iowa. Nice green tie he’s wearing.

I do, in fact, get to board the Crescent train to Charlotte, which ends up in Atlanta. (The stretch from Atlanta to New Orleans is closed Monday through Thursday for track repairs.) I call my wife and daughter, my sister Leslie, get something to eat, finish my first book (more about which, eventually) So it’s about 8:30. I’m tired, a little melancholy. I call my old friend Mary (she’s not old; I’ve just known her a long time), and talk a bit before my connection suddenly died. I thought to go to sleep, but never really do until about 12:30, for about an hour. Train pulls into Charlotte at 2:40, only 20 minutes late. My sister Marcia picks me up, and we go to the house. Eventually, I fitfully go to sleep in what has been my mother’s bed.

*When I wrote dingy, I almost wrote the word “dinghy”, which somehow seemed appropriate.

0 thoughts on “My Rail Adventure”

  1. Dear Roger, I hope you won’t resent me if I offer you and your family my sincere condolences.
    I was in my mid-twenties when my mother died. My father, whom I had never met, had died when I was 18. THerefore “this” is a very moving topic to me.

    Your train looks like a TGV ?????


  2. I will have to investigate the trains Rog – my hubby does engineering work on many of the couplers which are used all over the world! We get some odd looks at train stations when he starts bending down and looking at the intricate workings around the coupler area! However, he doesn’t do anything with brakes, rest assured!

    It was good your friend from church gave you a lift – often people say sentences like “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” without thinking! My neighbour recently lost her sister – I offered to help although I didn’t really know her sister. I was asked to house-sit whilst the funeral took place. Her husband is a solicitor and the family were worried if people knew the house was empty something may happen – so I made myself at home, feeling I had helped the family out.

    Take care.


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