February 20, 2013

Train Travel

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Keeping in mind that England invented train travel, it is a country that knows how to take a train. My children’s favorite character for years was Thomas the Tank Engine, heralding from England. We loved Thomas so much that he played a key role in three different birthday parties. Thomas the Tank come to our house and drove countless cheering children around the neighborhood. We also have in storage possibly every Thomas the Tank Engine toy ever made. So it is with amusement and curiosity that we revel in the amazing English train system. The Rev. Wilbert Awdry, creator of the original four Thomas the Tank Engine books opened each book with a letter to his son Christopher:

“Dear Christopher,
Here is your friend, Thomas The Tank Engine.
He wanted to come out of his station yard and see the world.
These stories tell you how he did it.
I hope you will like them because you helped me to make them.

Some days people watching on the train is better than others. Recently my mother and I were traveling on an unusually crowded morning. Sitting in a “sixer” with three seats facing three seats is a cozy situation in which to be confronted by strangers, but if it’s a seat you take what you can. Sitting across from us was a lovely lady and gentleman who did not appear to know each other. Next to me was a girl deeply immersed in her Filofax and ipod. Together we happily sat ,like chickens in a coop, quietly awaiting our destinations.

Halfway into our journey a passenger pushed through to the one remaining seat in our “sixer”. She was of an indeterminate age, jet black hair (the term jet black coming from the black stone in Yorkshire – just sayin) save a few grays sprouting up front. She carried several new plastic bags filled with goods, clobbering us all with them while getting to her seat. The lady was very petite, wearing a vintage white Chanel jacket, and fatigued with her journey. She opened one of her bags and took out the tiniest diary I have ever seen in use, and checked her details with a teeny, tiny pencil. As my mother and I chatted I noticed the diary was gone , but had been replaced with face toner and a cotton pad. While swabbing her face I sensed a toilette about to begin. “Oh my God” my mother stated as our neighbor pulled out tinted moisturizer , pumping it into her hands and spreading it (quite evenly) all over her face. Now we are both watching as the blush and mascara come out, along with an enormous club sandwich the size of her head which is heartily and loudly eaten. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she pulled out a shower” states my mother in a stage whisper. Not so quietly that our neighbor across the way doesn’t hear her. She looks up, we all lock eyes and it’s over. Non-stop, uncontrollable giggling. Oh sure, we looked out the windows, at the ceiling , on the floor to divert our attention but nothing helped.

Then out came the popcorn.

Never has popcorn been eaten with such gusto, every kernel sucked through and macerated into oblivion.

Cue commencement of the teeth picking.

My mother, myself and our neighbor convulsed in laughter, tears pouring down our faces, not able to catch a breath. Half the train started giggling. Now, my mother and I have been known to giggle uncontrollably at inappropriate times. I’m not sure this was one of them. As for our source of amusement, she was completely oblivious – to any of it.

Ah, train travel.


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