Please Don’t Knock It Until You Ride It
Today, at age twenty seven, I took my first real train ride. And no, the Commuter Rail doesn’t count. Sorry, MBTA.
I haven’t been to New York City in over three years. so when I found out that my surrogate little brother landed the male lead in my favorite musical (I’ll give you one guess of what that could be), I knew I had to be there. Unfortunately, I would have to take this trip solo as it was the same weekend as the biannual Christmas recital, and Steve plays the very important role of sound engineer. Or Caroler #2, I forget.
But hey, it’s 2012, and if a gal can’t take a train by herself… wait, that actually sounds more like 1912. Whatevs.
I would describe the feeling as nervous excitement. Kinda like how I felt in anticipation of the season premiere of Glee this year. Like you want so bad for it to be good but you have this slight fear that it won’t.
Of course my dreams were dashed when upon arrival at the Providence Amtrak station, there was not a parking spot in sight. In my spirit of independence, I assured Steve that I could walk into the station and find the train myself. I’m assuming it looked like a large steel contraption on top of a track, and that perhaps there would even be a sign dictating: “train-> this way.”
“No,” he said firmly. “I am not just going to leave you here,” as if I was on the edge of a cliff and not at the world’s smallest transportation center. I couldn’t decide if I was flattered that he wanted to spend every last second with me before I departed for the weekend or if I was offended that he didn’t trust that I could find the one train heading to New York in a station that boasted a facility with only five tracks.
After almost breaking my thumb with the car door, I raced into the station expecting to see a scene from an old movie. Since I’ve never been on a train before, I can only rely on what information I have retained from pop culture. And let me tell you, this was no “Some Like It Hot” scenario. Despite it being all of 7:15 pm, the place was practically shut down. Not knowing what to do with myself, I went to the ticket counter, figuring I would need an actual ticket and not the crappy piece of paper that I almost forgot to print.
“No ma’am, that’s your ticket,” said the counter guy. “They scan it on the train.”
This?! This was my ticket? I was expecting at least the density of a movie stub. And who was he referring to as “ma’am?!” I slunk into one of the booths next to twenty five other people whose faces read “if you speak to me , I will steal your tiny pink suitcase and beat you with it.” Ok so it wasn’t that intense, but these other travelers were obviously in a far less indulgent train experience fantasy than I.
Steve somehow found a spot and dashed inside to bid me adieu. I think everyone thought we were star crossed lovers, clinging to each other knowing this would be the last time we ever saw each other. Or I just concocted that scenario in my head and no one gave it a second thought that we even existed.
At the platform I began to wonder what awaited me on this magical ride.
Me: Is it going to look like those trains on Hell on Wheels?
Steve: What?! No. Nobody used steam locomotives anymore.
Me: Do you think there will be more or less impromptu singing than in “White Christmas?” Because I really don’t have anything prepared.
Steve: You are embarrassing.
I quickly discovered getting on a train is no fun because you have to play the “can I sit with you, pretty please?” game with a whole bunch of strangers who have no idea what a blast you really are. It’s like not getting picked in gym class over and over and over again. How is it that adults that spend an entire ride simultaneously using their iPhones/iPad/laptops/old fashioned paper reading devices need to act so horribly inconvenienced by your presence? I’m sorry that Amtrak didn’t half sell the seats so your pea coat and water bottle could have their own spot. And let me tell you, you could do a lot worse than me for a seat buddy, because I don’t smell and I bring extra magazines.
After nearing the end of the car and fearing the embarrassment of having to turn back and beg for a spot next to someone that had already given me the stink eye, I zeroed in on a girl that looked exactly like me. To my delight, she let me sit and we spent the rest of ride in polite silence, except when I offered to get her something from the cafe car, because I figured it would be a good incentive for her not to steal any of my stuff.
After chowing down on a $6 microwave Digiorno personal pan pizza minus the pan (unless your pans are made out of cardboard), I settled in and tried not to fall asleep. I don’t know what I was more afraid of- missing the stop and taking an accidental train ride to Florida (if that is even possible) or someone snatching up all my earthly possessions- i.e. my iPhone, new Entertainment Weekly and a pair of techno texting gloves.
All in all, my experience on the train was lackluster at best, if only because there was so little entertainment. I mean, where’s Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag when you need them?!
Stay tuned for what I’m sure will be hilarious tales of my NYC weekend adventure. Because if I had this much to say about a single train ride, imagine what it will be like when I actually have something to do.