Do You Really Want To Take The Train?

by klparry

Hello Friends!

Let’s face it. Public transportation in California is not the best. Despite that fact, I opted to ride the rails when I planned an 800 mile, round-trip journey to see my oldest son graduate from university. Normally I would have driven, but my car was not running well. And, I quickly eliminated flying once I saw that fares had doubled during the busy travel week. The train seemed like the best option and I could not beat the price at $130.00 Reserved Coach round-trip. The only draw-back I could see was the thirteen hours travel time – more than twice the amount of time it would take to travel by car.

“Thirteen-hours? No problem.” I told my friends. “I know how to keep myself occupied.”

A cynical look, then a chuckle accompanied their general reply. “Do you realize how long thirteen hours is?” 

“Sure!” I said with a dumb grin on my face. “It’ll be an adventure!”

Little did I know how true those words would become.

Wednesday morning I arrived at the platform. My train, on time, pulled into the station and I boarded. The cars were clean – smelled nice and my porter was pleasant enough, allowing me to take the window seat once my neighbor had vacated it. I must say the seats are much roomier than what most of the airlines provide.

I struck up a conversation with a few fellow passengers seated nearby and I thought, “this is going to be nice.”

And it was, for the first few hours, and until I decided I wanted to do some work and discovered I had no internet access. Evidently internet is a privilege provided only to those booked in sleeper cars – a fact not noted on the Amtrak web-site where I purchased my tickets. Still, stubborn as I am, I kept trying to gain access to signals I picked up along the way, eventually crashing my Kindle. I tried not to panic, remembering the actual book I brought with me. I was saved!

Thank you, Veronica Roth: author of Divergent.

Then hour five rolled pass and my legs began to cramp despite my stretching. Hour seven, and the pain has spread  up into my back, pinching between my shoulders.

Thank you, God! – there was booze on board. A half bottle of wine provided me some relief during the last three hours of my journey; forty-five minutes behind my scheduled arrival time.

Having had that experience, when I prepared for the return trip home I packed plenty of food, an open bottle of wine and made sure the files I wanted to work on, on my restored Kindle, would open independent of internet. And, I took another book with me.

My train was to leave the Davis station at 6:40 a.m. At 6:10, just before I was to wake my son to bring me to the station, I checked my email. A message from Amtrak read: Train Delay.

I boarded the number 11 train at 9:15 a.m.

Did you know, when a train falls behind schedule it no longer has priority on the tracks? That means your train has to pull over for all the other ones that are running on time. I did not know this, but even if I had, what good would it have done me?

I do not think we were even an hour out of Davis when the train rolled to an unexpected stop. Everyone was a little agitated since we were already running so late. It took a few minutes for the cause of our delay to circulate through the car.

Our train had struck a pedestrian.

Why someone was walking along the tracks, is a question I have no answer for. Nor can I comprehend why that person did not move when the Conductor blew the whistle – it takes a long time for a train to stop.

I later read that the man was deaf. RIP Mister Fong.

The unfortunate demise of Mister Fong meant another two-hour delay while authorities attended the scene. When I finally arrived to Burbank Station it was 1:30 a.m. – five hours passed the 8:30 p.m. arrival time stamped on my e-ticket.

My idea to take the train turned out not to be one of my better ones. Thirteen hours is too long to sit. Add another three to that and I am climbing the walls, rattling the doors and screaming “let me out!” That is not to say that Amtrak did not do everything possible to make it a comfortable ride, they did. This speaks more of our transit system in general.

So let me ask you this – do you really want to take the train?

I would do it again, but with one stipulation. The trip would have to be a short one – like around the block. If it’s farther than that, for-get-about-it!

Until next week, Write On!

~ K. L. Parry