Amtrak, THE sole source of passenger rail service between New York City and Central Pennsylvania will not be receiving an additional $130 from this infrequent traveler. There is something sinister about the employees that work on Amtrak trains. Perhaps these workers in blue and white are jaded from too much exposure to the general public, or they suffer from a form of earthbound jet-lag, but the truth is, the service sucks, train passengers seem a little out of their minds, and riding so long in a tin can with wheels is simply draining.
A headache slowly formed at the little ball on the back of my head just where the spine intersects with the lower cranium as we rolled between Lancaster and Harrisburg. The woman who sat next from Philadelphia to points west used a portable CD player to listen to a Lena Horne CD. She hummed every inch of her journey– a moaning sound of sorts came from her; a call that women full of lust must make when making love. She moaned out of tune though. The lady had to pee just once and made several attempts to engage me in conversation. I was reading Carlos Castenada’s “The Fire from Within”.
“Where are you headed?” She asked, picking tiny specks of white lint from a charcoal wool sweater.
“Huntingdon,” I replied, offering just a brief penetrating glance into the pupils of her eyes.
“Is that before or after Pittsburgh?”
“The stop is quite a ways before Pittsburgh. It’s just two stops from here, about an hour or so from now.”
‘I always take the bus and now I remember why,” she explained. “It’s must quicker than the train. I’m not due into Pittsburgh until 8 this evening.”
“You must have a lay-over,” I suggested to her. Huntingdon is not that far from Pittsburgh; that I know for sure.”
“The bus is much nicer,” she said. “You see the same site over and over again on a train— the row of trees that follow the tracks, and of course the banks along the tracks—you can never see over them.”
“I’m sure anxious to get to Huntingdon, I said. “It’s such a pretty little town in the mountains. I forgot how the mountains back here look like little volcanoes.”
“They sure do.”
“I’m amazed that Amtrak trains still stop in Huntingdon after all these years,” I said. “Usually, I’m the only one who gets on and off there.” I placed a Big Bird bookmark into the open pages of “The Fire from Within” and went on to explain why I was being so anti-social–“These trains always give me a headache though, and they don’t sell Tylenol in the café car.’
“I do have something in my bag that is a prescription for my joint pains, but it will put you asleep. I cannot even pronounce what it’s called,” the stranger shared.
“Oh– this is what all the kids these days make such a fuss about. I really shouldn’t. I nodded off back in King of Prussia with my headed bobbing forward and my neck and head hurt so much.”
“Oh hush. Take one. At least you don’t snore. My husband always snored. Back when he was still alive,” the black woman, who was at least was Lena Horne’s age replied, with a sinister Lady Gaga gleam in her eyes.