Train Tales

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I woke up last night and heard the train whistle. It didn’t wake me, I was already awake…and while I was lying there I realized that almost my entire life I’ve lived near a train.

In Queens we were just above the Long Island RR stop for Douglaston, where we lived. In New Jersey, the house we built was about a mile from a train stop and we’d hear it’s whistle. When I first was “trying out” California before I made the decision to move here permanently I rented in the Pier Bowl in San Clemente, just above Fisherman’s and directly above the train tracks. It never bothered me but anyone who came to visit and stay over had to be supplied a set of earplugs. And here, in Dana Point, I hear the train at all hours, blowing its whistle as it passes through Capo Beach.

So, why is this the stuff of which a blog can be made?

Because I also remembered last night, in the wee hours of the morning, some of the strange things that happened on trains.

In my early years, I traveled by train and subway very frequently.  My job as a college student was in NYC and that was the means of transportation for me, whether I was on campus or home for the summer. Sometimes when traveling with friends, we’d make up games to pass the time. For example, we would challenge each other to stand up between stops and complete an entire dance of our own creation before the next stop. This was not always as easy as it seems because the distance can vary. It was a lot of fun, but I quit doing this when I looked up at the end of one of my especially elaborate escapades and saw my cousin sitting at the other end of the car with his mouth wide open, staring.

Once when traveling on an El line, the train stopped at a station where there were apartments level with the platform. I looked up from my book to see a man, stark naked, standing on the windowsill, spread eagle, pressing whatever could reach up against the glass. Oh, boy. No one was with me so I had to suppress the giggles to myself.

It was also not uncommon to be groped during rush hour. I had a unique way of dealing with this: I would take the man’s hand, hold it up over my head and ask in a very, very loud voice “Does this belong to anyone? because I found it under my skirt.” Inevitably the perp would get off at the very next stop, whether it was his or not.

When we were in high school we had  a day off for St. Patrick’s Day, a huge event in New York. Friends from our own high school as well as friends from other schools would all meet “under the clock” in Flushing and board a subway car together, cramming as many in as we could to go in to mid-town to watch the parade. It was a very fun experience for a bunch of teenagers, to have so many of us all in one spot like that…without adult supervision!

I’ve often thought of taking a train for a long distance. Once I did take my three young children on a train from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. but in my own inimitable way, I boarded the wrong train and had to get off in Baltimore and find a connection to go the rest of the way. Whenever I think about doing an even longer train ride I always decide against it since I could do that again and wind up somewhere in Big Sky Country when I was only trying to get to Chicago.

So, for now, I’ll just stick to hearing the whistle at night while in the safety of  my own home, in my own bed, which is not going anywhere…unless the “big one” hits.

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