Strangers On A Train

This blog entry was supposed to be about the glories of traveling by train and how much fun it is to watch great birds from a lounge car. Here is where I started with my notes:

Oh, I have forgotten how much I enjoy birding by train! I documented over 40 species, the highlight being all the eagles and sandhill cranes. We’ve passed three eagle nests so far--whoot. That's one above and if you squint enough, you can make out an eagle landing in the nest. A pheasant flew over the car and landed as the train passed. Red-tailed hawks watch the train with little interest as we speed by.

Almost every little pond and lake is full of waterfowl and it’s fun to test id while going by at train speed.

Instead of being coach I have reserved a little sleeper for myself. I love the little sleepers—it appeals to my inner seven year being all old-tucked away in my little fort. I can spread my stuff around, prop up my feet and the sound is so much easier on my ears. I can actually listen to music from my laptop speaker. I love being tucked away, writing and glancing out to see great birds. When I need company, I venture to the cheery lounge car to meet fellow travelers.

Cut to several hours later.

First: the train from Minneapolis to Chicago is awesome! Love it, highly recommend it, will do it again. The train from Chicago to Indianapolis—not so much love. I switched trains and there have been issues. First, the ticket read that there would be food and beverage on this route and right before boarding I heard the conductor mention that there would be no food or beverages of any sort, so I may want to grab a snack and a bottle of water. Apparently, I was the only one who heard that and most everyone else was understandably none too pleased.

It was not as classy of a crowd here on this train. There was a young couple ahead of me relocating from Palm Springs, CA to Indianapolis, IN (can we say culture shock). They have a baby named (I kid you not) Princess. They had befriended a gentleman along the way who looked like a member of the E-street band after a hard weekend bender. He was quite upset about the lack of food, but brightened when he remembered he had a bottle of tequila he could drink. He offered some to the rest of us, but apart from Princess’s parents, everyone else declined.

I have never heard so much profanity before in my life as between these three people. I’m very curious to know what little Princess’s first word will be…I have a feeling it will start with an F or quite possibly S. I have to say, Princess is much better behaved than her parents but then again, she’s only a few month’s old. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the use of a good four letter word, but wow. These people have it down to a Quentin Tarantino level.

The train made a few unexpected delays and that combined with lack of food started making passengers even angrier. Princess's parents got into a huge fight. I got to hear every single word from the beginning because A. They were in the seats in front of me and B. They were loud enough that anyone within a five mile radius could hear what they were saying. I learned early on that Princess’s mother’s name is (are you ready for this) Star. Yes, you read that correctly, Star. Her father’s name was not yet clear, for awhile it appeared to be any number of four letter words, the most frequently used being Dick and Dawg. I do feel for him: he has a daughter named Princess with a woman named Star—he doesn’t stand a chance.

If I thought there was a lot of profanity earlier, I was so, so terribly wrong. If it weren’t for the poor use of grammar, I would say that this type of creative profanity use would require at least a master’s degree.

Our entire car could hear the fight. Apparently, there were some issues about who is more important in the relationship: Star or Princess. There was also an issue of the father scheming with an old girlfriend on the side--she was also one of his "baby mommas" implying that this guy has two other children out there.

Remember the guy with the tequila who was their buddy? He was not taking the fight well at all. He was kitty corner from me and I noticed that he was chasing his tequila with some prescription meds. When the fighting got very heated, he pulled out a very curly fifty dollar bill. He wrapped it up very tightly and placed it to his nose. Just as I was thinking, “Hey, is he doing what I think he’s doing?” He bent over and there were distinct snorting sounds as the bill switched from the right to the left nostril. Yes, he was doing what I thought he was doing.

It was about this time that an older woman decided to step in and play Dr Phil to Princess’s parents. “Now, you two shouldn’t be talking to each other this way, especially in front of everybody.”

Her voice was entirely too soft and the stream of obscenities from the arguing couple completely drowned her out. They were on a roll and were not going to be stopped. She continued, “Everyone knows your business now, you need to stop, this is not how to behave.”

A man’s voice from behind me shouted, “C’mon, enough!”

I looked over to tequila man, he now had his laptop out and was writing what looked to be a poem with the title “Sometimes Crying Doesn’t Help”. Who needs crying when you’ve got cocaine?

Princess’s mother had had enough and decided she was not going to Indiana and would call her own mother. Symbolic though this may have been, it was futile because the train was not going to stop. When the phone call started, Princess’s father started in with, “Baby, please don’t leave me.” And eventually marital bliss was restored. The screaming and shouting switched to smooching and giggling sounds.

After it had been quiet for half an hour, tequila man stood up—albeit a little unsteady and took photos of the couple and said, “See, you guys can’t break up on a train, nobody breaks up on a train. You’re just tired. Once you get to where you’re going, it’ll be great. Just don’t break up now, not when you’re on your way to Indiana.”

Sage advice from a man high on at least three different substances.

After that it was relatively quiet. Princess’s father got into a minor altercation with one of the conductors who took him to task for using profanity. He didn’t seem to understand what the conductor’s problem was and the conductor said, “Sir, you can’t talk like and use that kind of language here. We’ve got women and children on this train.”

I was grateful that someone pointed out his profanity, but amused that the excuse of women and children were being harmed by it. Profanity around children is not a good thing, but really, do I need to be protected from it?

The blog entry was supposed to end here. I typed this up after the argument was finished but Princess's parents got into one more fight (and I learned her father's name is Cornbread--Princess, Star and Cornbread--are these real names? For Indiana--sure.). This time the fight was so heated that two conductors came to remove the couple and relocate them to the back of the train since according to the conductors they did not know how to behave. Cornbread didn't go quietly but did eventually go, upset that no one was giving him any respect.

I would make a mental note that next time I should take the train to Chicago, grab a rental car and drive the rest of the way down, but where would I ever get stories like these? I love taking the train.