“You know, bro, spent many days in the Netherlands trying to figure out trains, tracks, and refining my skills on general InterCity transit—mind you, all by trial and error—mostly error, I might add. At least these signs are in a language I can bargain with. . .but. . .if only there were signs,” I mumbled, as I rubbernecked and scoured the area, looking for the slightest hint of information regarding Train 86 to Boston.
“Whaddya mean?” replied brother Ross.
“Exactly my point,” I blurted like a true sibling, trying to blot out any visions of a catastrophic scenario.
“Well, we’ been hauled and flicked off like two used cigarette butts out of our Town car, onto Track 2, without the slightest clue as to where Train 86 will actually be in 10 minutes. Ever tried leaping across train tracks, platform to platform? And with seven bags between the two of us”?
Ross watched over the mountain of bags on platform #2, at the Stamford train station, while I trekked up to the main entrance and searched for any telltale sign of what track our Amtrak to Boston might be rolling in on. Finally, I found the tiny LED board with all the scheduled arrivals and departures.
“Forty minutes late, bro, “ I said, munching on a dark-chocolate-nuts and sea salt-Kind bar. (I allowed myself the luxury of a minor detour on the way back)
“Gonna be Track 2 or 4,” I added. “Either way we’re good.”
(Both tracks shared the same platform.)
As advertised, three quarters of an hour later, an Amtrak marked ‘Boston’ came whistling in. Using every bit of muscle we could muster, and resolve to remain upright, we trudged our way through the narrow hallways of a fast moving train. After seven cars, we managed to make it to business class. We dumped our heavy bags and plopped onto two seats.
“I don’t know if I can take three and half hours of this,” I whispered in Ross’s ear. Somewhere between the buzz of a hornet’s nest and a huge office floor full of old fashioned telephone operators talking over each other, is what it sounded like to me. Ross just tilted his head and raised his brow, as if to say, “So you wanna be in show business?”
“Tickets! Tickets! Tickets, please,” barked the rather substantial ticket collector, rocking left to right, as we must have been doing a hundred.
Ross dipped his fingers into his portable office, groping for our tickets in his large bag and came up gold—so I thought.
“Mmm,” moaned the ticket collector, looking at both of us with mock- sad eyes.
“These here tickets are for Amtrak 86. This is Amtrak 184.”
“Sir,” I said, always taking the high road first, especially in light of a beefy man in uniform, “the schedule board said, forty minutes delayed. This train rolled in right at that prescribed time. It is clearly marked, ‘Boston’, for all of humanity to see. If 184 is marked somewhere, please tell us where it is, cause there weren’t no way to see it as it rolled into Stamford.
“Musicians?” replied the big gent with the red and blue cap.
“Gonna have to ask you two fellows to get off at the next stop in New Haven. This train is sold out. Hate to do this to you, but gotta ask you to vacate your seats now, seeing there are ‘proper’ ticket holders standing in the car behind us.”
“Hell. . . okay,” I sighed, “Been one thing after another,” I felt my sacred duty to add under my breath.
Ross and I rose and made our way to the café car. (Little did the man know, after the Today Show broke the news that they were going to have to reschedule, everything else about this last trip to the Northeast seem to conjure up images of chinaware slipping off a broken shelf—one dish at a time)
I must admit, I have had days of being thrown off my game, thrown off key, but never, ever, thrown off of a train. Makes a man feel banished.
So there we were in New Haven, seven bags and all, once again on Track 2, without the slightest notion of where and when Train 86 was or would be—or if there ever was such a beast as Train 86 at all. This time, no mistakes, I thought to myself. Off we both dragged ourselves to the main entrance at the station.
So there we were staring at the gargantuan schedule board, and yes, in fact, there was such a thing as Train 86, but oddly no track number allocated to it. Every other train, mind you, had an allocated track number—but mysteriously, not Train 86.
“Bro, you don’t look so hot,” I mentioned in passing to my brother, as we sat there staring at the giant screen like two sweethearts at a cinema.
Suddenly, without warning, the screen flashed, ‘Boarding.’ One way or another I was gonna make it to Boston that night and get some kind of good night’s rest before our Berklee concert, I promised myself. Ross and I bolted, tripping over ourselves, rolling our suitcases like a couple of jumpy nurses with two left feet pushing hospital trundles over gravel and potholes, making it just in time to an open car door. We threw our bags in, not caring whom we might maim in the process, and stepped onto the train just in time for the conductor to wave his arm.
“Now I know why our forebears voted for Mussolini!” I huffed. “Trains, it’s all about trains! . . . Bro, you really don’t look so good,” I mentioned once more.
My younger brother was beginning to turn pale green.
“I think I’m passing a stone, “ Ross moaned.
To be continued.