August 3, 2018
Amtrak Carolinian 79, Car 3
Today I was supposed to take an hour-long flight from New York down to my home state of North Carolina at nine a.m. I woke up to find it canceled, and every other flight into RDU canceled as well. I sobbed for roughly one minute, and then I ran to catch a train. An 11hour train ride down the East Coast!
The train wasn’t full when I got on at the first stop, but an attendant made me move because I was in a seat reserved for two. The girl across the aisle moved her bag and smiled at me so I joined her. She was headed to Charlotte (three hours past my stop) and looked about 19. She also had a blanket over her entire body (face included) for about 80 percent of this trip.
I wondered how much cheaper it is to take a train than it is to fly, and wondered why I assumed that would be the only factor in why a person would take the train instead of flying. Trains are empirically better than airplanes. It’s relaxing watching trees roll by with nothing else around. Being on a bus is largely unpleasant; I’ve taken only two since moving to New York, and they were because I couldn’t take a train to Allentown or New Paltz. You can hop on a train much easier than a flight. None of that security bullshit. You can spread out and walk around and talk on the phone. If this ride wasn’t nearly 11 hours, or if I didn’t have a hard cap on days off per year, I think I would default to trains. (I couldn’t believe I took a day off from sitting at a desk for 10 hours to sit on a train for 11 hours.)
There was a dining car behind me with stale, premade food and overpriced bags of chips. I got a breakfast sandwich (without the bun) and a man next to me said, “Haha, low carb!” I didn’t really know how to respond. I tipped the food car attendant a dollar + change to round my total up to an even number, and she seemed genuinely grateful. I went back for a salad with grilled chicken and gave her another $1.47, and she seemed even more grateful and said thank you again. Last night I ordered delivery food, and the delivery man had to ring my doorbell three times before I heard it. He seemed very upset when I finally picked up my food. I still feel bad about this.
The girl in front of me to my left watched three hours of RuPaul’s Drag Race then pulled a slice of pizza out of her backpack. She edited a photo of a boy with an American flag behind him for another few hours. I think she might have been making a gif. She looked like a student. The two men next to me wore light-wash jeans and ragged T-shirts and leather boots and baseball caps and spoke with a comforting southern drawl. The one directly across the aisle from me had loudly declared that it was “nap time” three times now, and had his arms tucked inside of his shirt like a little kid.
Sometimes we rolled past trailer parks, and across little rivers, through swamps. (We stopped in the middle of one for 30 minutes, somewhere in the middle of Virginia.) Before we hit DC, we rolled past a lot of space that looked like New Jersey. The span of America between DC and New York is so strange to me and I can’t figure out how to articulate the feeling. It feels like a developer aimed to fit maybe just one more Holiday Inn amongst a row of already cramped budget hotels for a stretch of 225 miles. I’m amazed at the long stretches where the only green areas are duplexes covered in paint.
Someone definitely ate a pizza near me. It smelled like cafeteria pizza, or what I thought I remembered Chuck-E-Cheese’s pizza smells like.
I was going home for the weekend because my dad’s birthday was on Monday, and because the last time I went home was for my mom’s birthday three months ago. I’ve not been home much this year, especially compared to last year—I was in North Carolina once a month for the latter portion of the year. A boy had just broken my heart before I went home last time, and a different boy hurt me a few weeks ago. (I joke that the boy from the spring broke my heart even though we only knew each other for two weeks, but that experience taught me that it is possible to fall in love the minute you meet someone, or at least that it’s possible to be incredibly reckless and dumb with your emotions in a short time. I fell quick and got over it quick, which are two things I do not usually do.)
I count my time by school years and Survivor seasons and the people I have crushes on. I felt a bit lost right now because I graduated 14 months ago, Survivor is on hiatus, and I don’t have a crush on anyone, except for my coworker who is not actually a crush, just a fun person to sometimes talk with. He once told me that my name backwards still sounds kind of like a cool name. He sits diagonal to me, and I can sometimes see him smile when I message him a good joke. This is very validating because it’s fun to hear the little quick exhale out the nose people do when they laugh at something on a screen. Last week my boss gave me a turquoise Survivor buff (a bandana that the contestants of Survivor wear to identify which tribe they’re on) because she found it while cleaning out her apartment. It meant a lot to me.
Once we crossed into North Carolina, we still had two hours to go, even though my hometown is an hour from the state border. We had to go down to Selma then back up to Raleigh, which I was sure would make me want to scream. (Editor’s note: It did.) I read the book Touch by Courtney Maum in its entirety. I also just bought Peanut M&Ms and ginger ale because I felt antsy. I hoped everyone had a good day, in spite of or because of the rain.