Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 12: More Revenge of the Zephyr

When last we left our intrepid traveler, the car attendant had eloquently estimated our arrival time as "ain't gonna be no 2:50." Shortly after that, the conductor announced that he couldn't even begin to make an accurate guess, so we were left to our own devices.

2:00 p.m.  I sat reading a book, while the guy behind me kept making threats on his cell phone. I gathered that he wanted his girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend?) to send him money in Chicago, because he knew he would now be stuck there. Evidently she was being difficult, because he said this: "You better send me my money, or I'm gonna send my mama, my sister, and my baby mama over to your house!" He followed it with: "Bitch, I been on a train for two days! What the fuck you mean, 'What's wrong?'" But my favorite nugget of wisdom came from a conversation he had with a friend: "You know why I'm always gonna be alright? Cuz I'm a good nigga, man. Yeah. I may not be where I wanna be, but I'm always gonna be alright."

3:00 p.m.  The conductor announced our arrival time as "7:00 at the earliest." I saw Jennifer and Tom's authentic American vacation adventure fall apart at the seams.

3:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.  We sat at a standstill in the middle of a cornfield ("like dummies," according to one lady) waiting for freight traffic, since we no longer had the right of way. I went to the lounge car because the kid was still screaming. You wouldn't think a kid could yell for 24 hours, but you'd be wrong. The noisy one was about 18 months, but his 3-year-old sister was also on board. The mom wedged them in next to the window and slept while they wailed. Periodically, a frazzled passenger would offer to walk them up the aisles or play with them, and she would apathetically nod while she continued to text on her phone.

6:00 p.m.  The mood in the lounge car took a dangerous turn when the cafe attendant announced that we'd run out of most food ... and booze. Add this to the fact that none of the smokers had had a break since 5 a.m., and you've got a semi-scary pit of frustration brewing on board. Everyone was angrily calling Amtrak to figure out what to do after missing their connecting trains, flights, hotel reservations, White House tours, etc. The skinny blonde makeout guy turned out to be a real smartass who basically tried to incite a riot. At one point, a random lady in the car yelled, "Oh, Lord, we gon' DIE on this train!"

6:30 p.m.  I chatted with a super awkward Asian dude who kept asking me weird ice-breaker questions. "So what would you say your most memorable college experience was?" I wondered if he was reading them off a prepared list.

7:00 p.m.  They announced they were feeding us all a complimentary meal in the dining car, so we all piled in for "chicken fricassee," which is short for cubed chicken ladled over rice. Plus apple juice. It was underwhelming but went a long way to quell some ugly attitudes.

8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  We continued to crawl and stop, crawl and stop. The conductor gave up talking to us ages ago, apparently, and nobody would give us any clue about where we were or how much longer it would be. The car attendant's standard response became, "I got no idea, man. I on't know," which was helpful.

10:00 p.m.  I thought to myself, "I just want to get off this train before I hit menopause."

10:15 p.m.  We finally pulled into Union Station. Miraculously, the conductor managed to get on the intercom to announce this very obvious fact. The lack of communication was appalling. You know who had been communicating, though? The high-maintenance woman across the aisle and the cafe car attendant. They appeared to have made a love connection during our ordeal and exchanged numbers and plans to fricassee each other later that night.

10:30 p.m.  We all disembarked and walked down the length of the train while the driver of a luggage/passenger vehicle honked and yelled at us. It was quite the welcome to the Windy City.

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