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Train Ride by Ray Printer Friendly


Hey gang, I’m back. Here’s something I wrote the first morning of my trip:

After a rather strange morning, I end up at the train station, breakfast and bags in hand. The station is still slightly closed, so I take a seat in the row of chairs against the outside of the building. There is one other person at the station—a guy in a hooded sweatshirt who goes to sleep soon after my arrival. I’m a little over two hours early, because my princess had to drop me off before she went to work.

Most of the wait is uneventful. The weather’s incredibly nice—cool and overcast and outstanding—and the silence of the secluded station is welcome. I read my book and watch with mild interest as my fellow passengers begin to arrive.

About half an hour before the train is scheduled for departure, I suddenly hear high, piercing laughter, and the screeching of children. At first, I’m silly enough to believe it is simply a family bringing a couple of kids on vacation. I look up and see two little boys playing grab-ass in the parking lot, acting like idiots. I continue reading for a few seconds and then glance up again.

I see that what I originally thought were two little boys are in fact two little girls. That’s not right, though—as much as I detest children, I’m fairly accurate at guessing their gender. I look across the parking lot and spy the original kids—the two little boys. Shit. They’re all four dressed the same—purple shirts and railroad engineer caps.

I hear more screeching and look to the opposite side of the parking lot.

The SUV is like a clown car from my nightmares—children continue to pour from it long after the laws of physics demand it must be empty. An entire class of second graders, all with the caps and the matching shirts.

Almost immediately, I’m surrounded, even though there is absolutely no reason for these kids to be anywhere near me—I’m sitting against a wall as far as possible from their group. A little girl steps on my bag and almost falls down. A little boy walks up to a distance of about two feet and stands staring at me.

I wonder why God loves to tease me so much, and I think about texting everyone in my phonebook and asking them if they know. Instead, I take a video with my phone, in order to show everyone how stupid and dangerous reproduction is. By the time I get my phone out, the children have been chastised by their teacher, and they’re all sitting down by the depot sign for pictures.

Then, singing.

I’ve Been Working On the Railroad, which doesn’t surprise anyone—if there’s anything children are better at than being annoying, it’s being unoriginal.

When they finish, people clap. Oh, how nice, the children learned a song for their big day out. How cute.

But the children don’t stop singing.

Of course they don’t.

They sing and they sing and they sing.

I like deep sounds. Thunder rumbling, drum bass lines, people with low voices. I find these kinds of sounds pleasant and comforting.

Children singing is pretty much the exact opposite of that. Children singing is what my personal Ear Hell would be like if body parts got sent to different afterlives. You know that part in Total Recall, where they fall out onto planet Mars and begin to swell up and die? That’s what the singing of children is like to me.

Finally the shriek of brakes and the whistle of the train horn drown out the sounds of the kids, and I am able to board. I’m kind of sad, because I know my life, which means that I will be the only adult stuck on the car with the children. Logically impossible, I know, but sometimes my bad luck supersedes reality.

I’m pleasantly surprised, however, when the class is loaded up on a separate car. I watch the train worker guide them up the steps and then follow them up, and am reminded of the beginning of Jurassic Park, when they lowered that cow down into the cage with the velociraptor.

There’s a general feeling of quiet on the train—I think all of us are glad to sit back and enjoy the silence after listening to the children for so long. Or maybe it’s just me. There are murmured conversations, but most are pretty low-key.

It’s restful, calm, and quiet…until the chick behind me decides to start calling everyone she knows. For the next two hours, I get to hear her ask various people if they can hear her. “Can you hear me? Can you…can you hear me? Hello? Hello? Hello?” She hangs up in frustration, turns to her traveling companion, and says, “I’m not getting any reception.” And then she dials her phone again, talks for two seconds about her terrible reception to the person at the other end, and the cycle begins anew.

She eventually decides to try to make her calls from another car, where I can only hope someone violently murdered her.

The remainder of my train trip is very nice.

posted 5/21/08


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