I take the train from Boston to Delaware to visit my mom. Anything is better than flying, I figure. Plus, I can watch the pastoral East Coast scenery whiz by, in my romanticized notion of riding the rails.
I pack five books, my laptop, and three short story rough drafts. After all, I have more than six hours to write or read with no interruption.
When was the last time you rode a train? Do you remember the bouncing and jouncing, the rolling and jerking one mile to the next to the next…?
Within half an hour, I’m so motion sick I want to die.
I desperately peek in the slot in front of my seat. I only see a magazine called “ARRIVE” (I only wish), a Club Car Menu (ugh, don’t even whisper the idea of food), and a Customer Safely Manual.
I hold on, staring straight ahead while trying to roll up the newspaper I thought I’d be able to read (ha!) into some kind of “sick box,” just in case.
My case gets worse. I turn to the woman sitting beside me, dressed for success for probably an important NYC meeting, clear my throat, and interrupt her frantic laptop typing.
“You may want to move to a different seat,” I blurt out.
She looks at me with no alarm, which alarms me.
“I’m feeling really motion sick,” I explain.
She doesn’t panic or jump up or roll her lip in distain. She offers sympathy and says, “Well, just give me a quick wave if you’re about to upchuck.”
Then she resumes typing.
I fold my arms over my stomach and breathe in, breath out, which seems to make my travel troubles more tortuous.
“How can I help you?” the gray-mustachioed uniformed man asks.
“Do you, or I mean, does the train, um, I’m looking for a motion sick bag,” I whisper, embarrassed.
His face drops into total blankness. “Excuse me?”
“I need an air sick bag, for the train,” I croak out loudly. Faces turn my way, some with pity, some with humor, some with absolute disinterest.
“Oh, no we don’t have anything like that. Hopefully you can make it to the bathroom in time,” and he points miles down to the end of the aisle. I’ll never make it in time.
I hold on.
Finally, we stop at Penn Station, and as passengers depart, I walk up and down and up and down the aisle , feeling my stomach finally settle.
While realizing that the conductor never did come back to my train car again. Can you blame him?
I make it through the next 2-plus hours to my Delaware destination station, spending the time staring straight ahead, looking neither right nor left, down nor up. Not one book is opened, not one story is written.
I practically bounce out of the train lugging my 100-pound suitcase and flag down a taxi. After I give him my mom’s address, I turn to look out the window and stare at this sign:
I tap the front seat and insist, “Let me out.” As I wait for another taxi, I wonder if the driver I just left had, not long ago, picked up someone just like me… 🙂