Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Amtrak: Chicago to Minneapolis

My love affair with Amtrak might be over. I still often act like I am a poor college student, but I need to comprehend that actually, I have a lot more money than time. Flying to Minneapolis probably would make more sense in the future. OR, getting my laptop running again would have allowed me to do work, play games or write stuff during my 16 hours of Amtrak. Considering that I was at the office from 5:00 - 10:00PM on Sunday doing work – I really could have been productive on the train. Instead, I didn’t even have a book to read on the trip to Minneapolis. Stupid. Stupid.

One of the ticket collectors/train attendants made me fearful that the trip was going to be horrible. First, she called all children ‘angel face’ and spoke loudly in a syrupy-sweet voice. "Oh, there’s another angel face, you certainly are a pretty angel face, your mommy must love you angel face.........ad nauseam." Puke. Plus, when I saw some of these angel faces, I really couldn’t agree. Most of them were fat and actually on the ugly end of the kid spectrum.

Finally she left the family car and started collecting our tickets. When she saw younger people she assumed they were in college and announced loudly, "College girl. Single." Very bizarre and irritating – especially considering that male attention often comes unwanted on the trains. I glared at her and she didn’t try to engage me in conversation or announce anything. Likewise a woman behind me pre-emptively said in a caustic voice, "I am neither single nor in college." To which the ticket-taker offered encouragement "it’s never to late to go to school and get your degree, honey." The woman replied in a withering voice that she already had her degree. The attendant didn’t get the hint and continued her pronouncements of "Single" and "college boys" through the rest of the car.

At last I was able to leave my car to head for the observation lounge, where I spend most of my train trips. There I had to deal with the drunks. White trash people making it their purpose to get as drunk as quickly as possible. They were loud, brash, dumb and drunk.

Amtrak got rid of its smoking car since my last long train ride. This was mostly great, because normally the horrible stench from that room permeates the surrounding cars. Plus a lot of bad parents hide from their bratty kids in the smoking car for most of the trip. Apparently Mr. Super-drunk, white trash, t-shirt w/sleeves torn off didn’t find the absence of a smoking car appealing. He tried sneaking off at every stop to smoke and then bragged about this victory to people surrounding him who didn’t care.

To my delight, the conductor of the train was fantastically sarcastic. He announced over the public address that their was to be no smoking, except for the designated stops in Winona and Minneapolis. He continued by scolding that Winona was Not Wisconsin Dells, Not La Crosse, Not Tomah (even if they rhyme)......... Then he mentioned that we were behind schedule and the smokers were sabotaging his attempt to catch up and reach the stations when the passengers expected. I wanted to hug the sarcastic conductor.

I watched the sunset and then tried napping when it got dark. Then "March of the Penguins" played on the TV. Holy shit! I knew that people liked this movie, but I didn’t know anymore than that it was about penguins. It is a documentary about the crazy breeding rituals of the Empire Penguins. They withstand starvation, boredom and really friggin’ cold weather to incubate their eggs & protect their chicks. Other people see this movie as a sign of the dedication and love of parents for their offspring. I saw it as an example of the craziness and unacceptable sacrifice that comes with kids. Knowing what the process entails, if I were one of those penguins I’d abandon my egg to freeze on the ice. Given how clumsy I am, it probably would happen naturally. I couldn’t help thinking how much a few layers of pink styrofoam insulation on top of the ice would help those birds out.

Anyway, I napped some more, listened to the chorus of snores snuffling out of my fellow passengers and then finally arrived in Minneapolis. The train was early, my brother was late so I had to wait about a half hour at the station.


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