After marriage, my travelling mode had undergone many changes. We would travel mostly by road and take a train only on postings. Understandably, our trips abroad would be all by air. There again in USA, our relatives would take us by car from place to place or drive us to airport if we had to take a flight.
So much so, I had almost forgotten what it was to travel by train.
But, on my latest solo trip to America, my relatives in New Jersey expressed their inability to take me by car to Richmond, Virginia as they were inextricably committed otherwise and they advised me to take the train. They booked my ticket in advance and assured me that the trip by Amtrak would be very comfortable, a matter of 5 hrs with a 45 min break at Washington DC. The train was to come from New York, would halt exactly 2 mins in the minor station of New Jersey. My destination also happened to be not the main Richmond Station but a smaller one ‘Staple Mills’ before that and there again the halt would be of 2 mins.
In spite of all the assurances by well -travelled people, I was extremely nervous about the whole project. The figure’ 2 minutes’ was haunting me. First of all, I was much older this time, all of 80. This would be my first train journey in US. I would be alone. Unlike metro trains (of which I had little more experience from my earlier trips, though in company),from my seat I could not see maps or other displays to alert one about the station due to arrive. I had to depend entirely on the oral announcements done in the twangy American accent- totally incomprehensible to me in spite of my recently acquired hearing aids. I did not also know the station previous to Staple Mills to position myself at the exit well in time for disembarkation.
Added to all this, my nephew had a funny story to tell me. He had to see off an aunt and her finicky husband on a trip to Boston. As they were carrying the whole component of their luggage brought from India, my nephew got into the train to help them. But, by the time the gentleman was satisfied with the arrangement of the luggage, the train left with my nephew on board. When the ticket inspector came, the situation was explained to him. He was kind enough to let the stowaway travel free but asked him to buy one at the next stop -Philadelphia to go back to NJ.
In the meantime, my nephew’s wife who was waiting on the platform had discovered that her husband had left her without the keys of the house or of the car. In USA, people prefer to enter their houses not through the main door but to take the interconnecting door inside the garage. To lift the main door of the garage automatically, there is a switch in the car. Without the car key, she could not take the car and so could not enter the house too. I suspect she had not taken her purse either on that day. Fortunately, she had her ‘mobile’ with her. She rang up her brother who lived in another part of NJ and explained the situation to him. The latter had a good, long laugh before he came and rescued her. She was later collected by her husband after he returned from Philadelphia.
Well, after hearing this story, you could imagine my enthusiasm to travel by Amtrak. Luckily, my recently married grand -daughter who was in New York, very sweetly offered to take the same train from New York and escort me all the way to Richmond safely and leave for NY the next day.
Since she had already told us which bogie she had boarded and that particular one happened to stop right in front of us, we had no problem locating her. I left with her, leaving my nephew on terra-firma in NJ.
PS-Cartoon courtesy shutterstock