SO I’ve been doing some travelling lately in my “displacement” from New Orleans. Because…why not? I’ve been back down to LA, then to Houston, Then I flew out to Vegas which was a treat and quite a pleasurable experience that I wouldn’t mind doing one month out of every year. But anyway, with the holidays approaching I planned another trip down to New Orleans and Houston via Atlanta where I would meet Jared. However, after having done so much travel planning in the recent past I was drained, and thus slow in getting arrangements made for this trip. ALso with the uncertainty of how I’d make my way back and forth between all of my stops I didn’t want to sign myself up for anything I wouldn’t want to be comitted to and since Jared lives in Jakarta communication (planning) is not easy. Long story short I made the decision to take a train down to Atlanta instead of buying a one way ticket. It was roughly one third the price of flying one way, and I was under the false impression that there would be internet access to keep me occupied with internet poker at the very least so 13 hours couldn’t be that bad. Doesn’t our hero always go into an adventure having that sentiment? Anyway, I boarded the train an hour late which was both a nuisance and a blessing considering I was 5 minutes late for the trains schedueled departure. When I walked on I was greeted by a somewhat large room with all the luxuries I had expected of a train. Directionless I set my bags in one of the rooms and waited for further instructions on when dinner and my internet access would be available
So the guy who let me on the train comes in and laughingly tells me not to get comfortable cause I’m in coach. I pick up my bags and carry them past some solo sleeping quarters smaller than the hotel room I walked into and seeminlgy uncomfortable. Much to my shagrin we don’t stop at any of them and I realize that whatever seating arrangement I have will be far less desirable. We walk through the dining car and suddenly I feel like I’m in the Jim Crow south being led to the back of the train with the rest of the darkies. Finally we get to what I believe to be my seat. And it’s slightly more spacious than a greyhound bus with slightly poorer lighting. I’m sat down and told to wait for further instructions. Now I don’t mean to come off as spoiled because I’m not that big on luxury, but where I was, was vastly different than what I had imagined in my head. I thought I had found out the true meaning of coach, my only previous experiences coming from airplanes where the difference between Coach and first class is pretty negligible to me. Sitting there listening to my trainmates, which was easy because they were all loud and aggressive it came to me that the train is probably the preferred method of travel for Cons and ex-cons who can’t just go book a plane ticket whenever they want to travel. The people in front of me joked about there fugitive practices, and law evasion tactics. There was a white guy trying too hard to be hard dressed in his hoody and ski cap. It struck me that this man was probably in his late thirties so I didn’t understand why perpetrating like he was some kind of “G” was still appealing to him. Behind me sat two easterners (and I say that because I can’t always distinguish between persians, arabs, etc) I knew I would feel guilty later for my thoughts but at the time I was legitimatly concerned whether or not they were there to make sure plans for the trainbombing would go through ok. It might have been them singing there little spiritual that seemed like a hum to Allah before you cleanse the westerners of their wayward lifestyle. What a racist I am. But that’s what happens when you go ignorant of certain cultures for so long and they are forced into your lives and opinions. I don’t have any hatred for these people of course. But Because I’m not smart enough to pick out the terrorists from the commonfolk I always approach my traveling with them with the fear of God. So the guy sitting in front of me goes to the back to use the bathroom. He comes back and reports to the woman in he’s sitting with that we have it good. The people in the back are piled on top of each other and light is non-existant. At this point one of the assistant conductors comes along to tell me that I’ll be being moved back there shortly then advises the woman in front of me that she might want to keep her purse on the inside near her. Well, I don’t have a purse. I have a laptop. And because I don’t have any money in my bank account in New Orleans and no atm card for my account in Maryland I was forced into bringing about 700 dollars cash with me. So I knew that sleep would not be an option for me but nor would 13 consecutive hours of not sleeping. When the train stopped in DC, I upgraded to one of the cubbyholes I had passed making my way towards the back. A whopping 111 dollars difference in price which was more than my original ticket costed, but what I believed was a necessary insurance policy. All I needed was to wake up with some dude telling me that that was his IBook he was playing on, and those pictures of my family, friends, and I that I had as my screensaver had come with the computer. Once I moved into my people pod. I found it not as uncomfortable as I had assumed and besides the broken heater which was a problem because I slept with my back on the cold window. But I didn’t really notice the length of the ride, which ended up stretching to 16 hours, between my books, my dvd’s and my money safe in pocket. The next morning I went to breakfast, the night before I was introduced to the community sharing concept in the service industry. I was sitting by myself and I overheard two people who I had assumed were together talking about their spouses as if they were strangers. THen a stranger was seated at the same booth as me and I realized that the dining car was not big enough for us to be stretching our legs by ourselves. So this morning when I was placed into a booth with more strangers I wasn’t surprised. Across from me sat a man about 60 fairly indifferent to my presence or the 70 year old woman next to him. I understood because I was fairly indifferent to them until the woman started talking. At first she just asked questions about me to which I politely answered to the best of my ablility and impolitely did not reciprocate her inquisitiveness. That however didn’t stop her. I was taken aback when she asked me what religion I was. To avoid having to give her a long detailed view of my theological beliefs I told her I was catholic. She then proceeded to fascinate me with her reason for going to Georgia which was to participate in a non-violent demonstration at Ft. Benning. Apparently there was a military training school on the base for latinos. They were given officer training in intelligence, torture, etc. And these were our future dictators and Osama Bin Ladens. She told me stories of how some of the graduates of these schools had gone on to lead massacres of small villages that were in direct competition with America’s farming industry. She told me how strong the US’ economic benefits were to be in kahootz with these people. She told me about the time she had spent in prison after the “line crossing” demonstration that followed their sunday mass. We talked for almost two hours and I can honestly say It was the most interesting single serving friend conversation I had ever had with anyone while traveling. I would have never thought that I could learn so much, or be so intrigued from a 70 year old white woman. I wish we had more time, and I more gall, so I could have explored whether her righteousness was due to a life of hedonism or racist behaviors in her former years but I guess her coach seat, and all the dangers of the commonfolk beckoned her and I went back to my solitaire pod which made me feel only a little elitist and contradictory to my true grimey nature seeing as this 70 year old woman rode with people I paid money not to have to share living space with. But I didn’t feel to bad once I stretched out on my matress, and turned on Starsky and Hutch on my DVD drive without fear of waking up to an empty tray table. On the whole the trip was just fine but I won’t ever be paying the same price as an airline ticket for the pleasure of a trip that takes 5 times as long.