today is the first day of the mcc re-entry retreat that i am attending. we have yet to register so technically it hasn’t begun, i suppose. however, i purposefully began my re-entry a few days before the official retreat by choosing to travel by train half way across the country to california, where the retreat is being held.
if you know me very well at all you have probably heard me pine romantically regarding trains and train travel. perhaps you’ve endured my stories that go like this: “and then when i was in [insert random country name] i took the train from [city] to [city] and it was just [enter romantic adjectives]…”
therefore, on monday evening at around 10:30 this lady found herself happily [giddily] striding towards an amtrak platform that harry truman once used, patent leather red suitcase in tow, a nalgene full of water, chocolate covered kettle corn (!) and enough goldfish crackers to sustain a small city for several days. i was the definition of happiness.
the following few posts will be some stories, events and wonderings from my journey from missouri to california. they will all begin with “re-entry: getting there” and have a short title in brackets. my “foundations” posts still have two remaining–the final two have been more difficult to write, but be assured that they are coming. perhaps being at this re-entry retreat will help them along. as ever, thanks for reading and commenting, emailing and wondering with me.
it was late, about 10:45 or so, when we started out of kansas city. i was tired and ready to let the train rock me to sleep but managed to stay awake long enough to realize i wished i’d brought along a blanket (COLD) and to watch downtown kansas city slide past in her cold and wet state. there is just something about a down-town viewed through a rain splattered window that makes me quite happy. if only i had a cup of coffee in my hands at that moment, it would have been perfect!
the gentleman who plopped down in the seat in front of me smelled as if he’d been dipped in a bottle of cheap vodka. if by dipped i mean “slipped-and-fell-into-and-was-left-to-soak-several-months.” the smell was so strong i could practically taste the vodka. that was less delightful. however, i reminded myself that at least he wasn’t sitting next to/practically on top of me as he would inevitably have been were this public-transportation in uganda. it wouldn’t have been vodka, but waragi; not a train but a bus or matatu; and the conductor probably wouldn’t have had pity on either of us.
this gentleman is the one who, if you followed the journey on facebook, upon sitting down began belting out “taaaaake meeeee hoooooome, countrrrrrrrryyyy roaaaads!” in the way that only a truly drunk person can–filling the air even more with the smell of stale booze and even more stale cigarette smoke. being a safe distance away i chuckled and wondered if i had that classic song on my ipod (i do not, sadly). before i could even wonder if the concert would continue all night (i would have requested to move) he had totally passed out. snoring. within three minutes of the train lurching forward.
all’s well that end’s well, i figured.
i awoke at about 4:00 that morning to a familiar smell. in my very-asleep-state it took me a good two minutes to realize that the smell was cigarette smoke. it took me another two minutes to realize where i was—on a moving train—and another two to wake up enough to realize that i shouldn’t be smelling cigarette smoke on a moving train regardless of the hour. mr. drunk had woken up long enough to smoke three or four cigs, popped open a beer–shotgunned that bad-boy–and promptly fell back asleep.
enter internal dilemma.
it is very against the rules to smoke on the train.
i very much dislike uninvited cigarette smoke,
most especially when i am trying to sleep.
i am a midwesterner, and while we have the propensity to be blunt, we also don’t really like to make trouble.
however. a rule IS a rule. (no, you’re right, i don’t really live by that motto very often)
in the end i didn’t end up doing anything other than also going back to sleep.
thankfully for me this all sorted itself out a few hours later when he lit up again.
almost immediately a conductor was upon this gentleman asking if he was smoking.
mr. drunk was still mostly drunk and happily narrated his evening of beer and cigarettes from pre-train boarding to the most recent smoke he’d just had.
the conductor sighed a big sigh, took his hat off and scratched his head, and very gently said: “well, sir, i’m afraid i am going to have to put you off the train at the next stop.”
mr. drunk: equally as gently, “what?” he sounded as if he were going to cry.
conductor: “sir, this is a no smoking train. the sign is right here…” he points “and it is the rule that if you smoke on the train we have to put you off at the next stop.”
he walks away, this is clearly difficult.
mr. drunk: “oh. but. sir! i promise i will be good. i’m sorry—i promise!”
about an hour later the train arrived in la junta, colorado. the same conductor and one police officer came to fetch mr. drunk, who continued his plaintive plea: “but, sir, i’m very sorry–i will be good, i promise!” all the while complying with what he was asked to do…”pick up your things, sir…come with us, sir…”
i had been going down the stairs to exit the train when the conductor and the police officer were coming up–they’d gone farther so i backtracked and waited in my seat for them and mr. drunk to head downstairs. this put me directly behind all the conductor as mr. drunk was pulling his luggage from the lower-level storage. mr. drunk continued all the while, “i promise i will be good. i promise. sir, i’m sorry…”
conductor: “i know. i know, but it is the rule. maybe they will let you back on tomorrow.” he and i make eye contact–i try to give him a look that is sympathetic.
the police were gentle with mr. drunk, escorting him away by gently placing a hand on a shoulder when they needed him to turn.
the conductor and i stood on the platform, tightening our coats against the cold.
me: “think he’ll be okay?”
conductor: “i sure hope so. that was pretty sad.”
me: “i wonder how many times he’s said ‘i’m sorry, i’ll be better. i promise.’ and really meant it but just can’t seem to.”
conductor: “i was wondering the same. i always wonder about the ones i have to put off. all the same, we keep rolling on: ‘BOARD!”
and we were off again.