further rail misadventures and their companion silver linings
Got on the City of New Orleans train yesterday afternoon, and it's coming into Chicago today. It was scheduled to get in at 9 this morning, but someone driving an 18-wheeler near Independence, Louisiana decided they were in just too much of a hurry to wait for those seven or eight cars of our southbound opposite number to go by. The ensuing collision disabled the engine of train, leaving them immobile on the tracks while they waited for a replacement locomotive to come get them. So we sat around in Hammond for a few hours, and are now running 4 hours late.
Once again, instead of a five-hour layover, it looks like I'll have just 15 minutes before it's time to board my connecting train.
My sympathies go out to anyone who was hurt, or worse, in the collision. All I know is what they told our crew, which is that the crew on train 59 were all fine, and that the load the 18-wheeler was carrying swung around and knocked a hole in the wall of the first car behind the engine. At the very least, that had to have seriously startled some people. As for the driver of the truck, I don't know. I do know that when we finally passed the site of the accident, it looked like the cab was unharmed but its load had been reduced to scrap, and that scrap was being loaded into a dumpster.
Update: Reading the link above, it looks like all passengers were unharmed, but the driver of the semi was ejected from the vehicle and is now in the hospital in stable condition.
What is it about the area between Hammond and McComb that tempts people to race the train? Don't ever, ever try to race the train, y'all. Not for anything. Not even if lives depend on your on-time arrival. Because you will not arrive on time. You will lose that race, and you will lose it messily.
Despite indirect misadventures, I've had a pleasant trip. I'm returning via sleeper car, enjoying the chance to decompress in solitude after an extremely social vacation. The meals have been tasty, and oddly peaceful; I've been fortunate to not have to sit with that aggressively gregarious sort--sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, always older than me and conscious of it--who interrogate other travelers for every single personal detail in the name of making conversation. I think they especially do it because they see I'm traveling alone and don't want me to feel left out, bless their hearts. But they leave me feeling invaded, without socially acceptable recourse to say, "Those are uncomfortably personal questions for a woman traveling alone, and I choose not to answer."
I mean, I've said almost those exact words before, but before I say them I have to be willing for the rest of the meal to be chilly and awkward. Society exacts a price when a woman patrols her boundaries, and it's shitty. But I've blogged about that before and I won't bore you with it now.
Anyway, I was ready for that sort of person, should I have encountered them; I had determined, at the least provocation, to talk their ears off about roller derby. But the family I sat with last night and the couple this morning were mostly content to talk quietly among themselves, asking me nothing more than, "What are you knitting?" For the most part, whole-table conversation tended to be low-pressure, and centered on shared present experience: speculation about the collision, observations of the world outside the train, guesses about how far we'd come and what town we were passing through.
Speaking of which, somewhere in southern Illinois there is an A-J Bank. I think it stands for Ann-Jones; at least, that's what I thought I read on another building. Maybe that was the name of the town. When I have a little internet time and no errands to run, I'll look it up. But at first I thought I was seeing a different letter, and I thought, "Oh, the Wyverary has a bank!"
I can tell you who I'm glad I didn't sit with at dinner last night. I had to overhear him all through the meal. [TRIGGER WARNING FOR EFFIN' RAPE CULTURE, Y'ALL. THERE IS A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS PARAGRAPH.] He was one of those jolly married gentlemen who, seeing the opportunity to "entertain" another couple across the table, makes a belittling joke out of every single thing his wife says. Every single word out of her mouth, he pounced on it to show how stupid he thought it was, how silly, how easy to serve it up for common ridicule. Oh, the condescension. Oh, the mocking. It was awful. But then he capped it off at the end of the meal by saying, presumably to the other man at the table, "I don't have to get her drunk; she's my wife!" Because when casual misogyny is already a fun social party game for you, why not make jokes about how sex with the person you supposedly love never actually involves getting her consent?
I was so relieved that he left the diner before my table received our entrees, and that he was only just going to breakfast this morning when I was returning from my meal. I suppose the lady in the next room who woke me up at 5:45 AM (seriously, y'all, these compartments aren't soundproof, so please refrain from shouting) is in fact to be thanked; she's the reason I went to breakfast pretty much the moment they opened at 6.
So, anyway, it's been a good trip. All my direct encounters have been pleasant, I'm about halfway through my writing day already, and I'm looking forward to a solid afternoon of short story revision on the Californial Zephyr. That is, as long as I don't miss my connection. And I don't think I'm going to. As I type, it's 12:57 and we're waiting on the signal that we can enter the station. I suppose it's possible we could sit here until 2 PM, but I'm going to be optimistic about that.
(Update: Made it into the station with minutes to spare, and another few minutes to upload this. Yay!)