It Starts Out Bad, Then Gets Better, Then Gets Worse, Much Worse
Part One – Los Angeles Hour One . . . a few notes that I wrote in real time:
I just found out that wifi is only available at first class and business class seats. I was neither. This will be posted when I get connected.
I paid 100 US$ for a ticket from Los Angeles to Vancouver. I will stop in Seattle tomorrow night around 9:00 p.m., 32 hours from now, and then I will transfer to a bus that will head to Canada.
I was second in line for the seat assignment and tried to bargain. Everyone going the distance, LA to Seattle, was put in the last car. I asked them not to put anyone next to me. They said the train was sold out. I didn’t know about asking for an ocean-facing, west-side seat. Instead I said, "Try and find me someone interesting."
It started badly.
I was in my seat for a few minutes when my seatmate showed up. He was 600 pounds, at least, maybe more. This man was both tall and large, very large. He didn’t quite fit in his seat and filled all the available space in front of us. My space shrank. I was squeezed over by the window. I couldn’t breathe and began to panic. Could I sleep here? Could I sit here for the next 35 hours? He might have been interesting, but I was so squeezed in, I didn't care. I felt awful for the guy. I bet that had happened to him over and over again, but I needed to breathe.
I slipped downstairs to the attendant at the door of my car and asked for another seat. The helpful Amtrak boarding assistant said, “What they put him there for?”
I asked for a seat on the Pacific Ocean side and she found me one at the back of the same car. I settled into my new seat. No one was next to me. I nibbled a little on the salad insomniasexx and randomuser had brought me. Thanks insom! This might be all right… and then
The conductor said that everyone in the back of the car had to move. A party of 20 was coming on and they didn’t want to split them up. He ends up moving me back to the front of the car just across the aisle from my previous seat. The large fellow had moved into my seat by the window and now filled both seats. And he'd be next to me. but anyway...
I’m next to a pleasant senior citizen who, I am grateful to say, has a book and seems to be reading it.
His cell phone ring tone sounds like a cuckoo clock.
Eventually I’ll start exploring.
I wandered down to the other end of the train and discovered a long car with large windows.
At one end there were window-facing seats full of people reading, working, and chatting. Further down there were tables. Snacks were available downstairs. One fellow had an LA Times. I asked him whether he was finished with the paper – he said, not yet. I said that I was looking for the Suduko – that it distracts me.
I went down to the lower level where the snack bar was and picked up a coffee. When I came back up, the fellow with the newspapers said, “Sit here” and passed me the sections of the paper that he had finished.
That’s how I met Kevin.
Now Hubski, I'm Sure You Want to Hear About the View, the Service, the Amenities
But I need to talk about Kevin
Then Things Get Better
I will make a long story short.
We quickly discovered that we were both suddenly single (Kevin had left his wife of 20-plus years two months ago, and my husband of 20-plus years told me one month ago that he "needed space.")
We were both teachers, and after some chat, it turned out he was an amazing teacher who really cared about his students, challenged them, helped them. Cool.
Our birthdays were both coming up in a couple of days.
I won't go on about Kevin (unless asked) but when I told Kevin my seat trauma, he suggested I move next to him. "Look for the seat," he said, "that has a book by Carl Hiasson and several New Yorker magazines."
I read every book by Carl Hiasson and I read The New Yorker. Is this real?
His seat, it turned out, was just in front of the seat I had been kicked out of because of the party of 20. I ran back to the last car and and moved my stuff from the front of the car to the back where Kevin's seat was. I put my ticket up above the seat to show it was occupied.
We spent the next few hours playing card games and talking in the lounge car. Plus he let me put my feet on his lap and he massaged them. I pulled out all the food packed by insomniasexx (sex that you don't sleep through), and we somehow made it through the night, awkwardly. We picked up the party of 20 in Santa Barbara. It turned out to be 20 Canadian Girl Guides.
And Then It Gets Worse, Much Worse
Thursday, August 6
Yes, there's amazing scenery and I could search on line for pictures, but at about 3:00 p.m., 45 minutes outside of Portland Oregon, I feel a jolt, the train suddenly brakes and slows to a stop.
I say to Kevin, "I have a bad feeling about this."
An announcement comes on the PA and says, "The train has hit a trespasser. We will let you know what happens as soon as we know. The doors will be locked for your own safety. Do not try and leave the train."
Another announcement comes on the PA and says, "The train has hit a trespasser. He didn't make it."
So we sit on the tracks in Oregon for an extra three hours. The train engineer and some of his staff are sent home. The PA system says, "We are waiting for a new crew. We'll keep you posted."
We eventually arrive in Seattle around midnight, four hours later than planned. I say good-bye (temporarily) to Kevin. Amtrak has found a private shuttle company to take about a dozen people up to Canada.
Around 4:00 a.m., I arrive at my friend's house in Vancouver where I will be safely sheltered for the next while.