I can’t remember the last time I was more excited about an invitation.
It’s been years since I’ve experienced live theatre. And I’ve never received a handwritten invite to a production before!
So, yes, I’ve been counting down the days until Chicago’s St. Andrew Elementary Second Grade production of Arthur’s Christmas. I’m on pins and needles anticipating the directorial debut of my favorite thespian, Clare Parks.
At some point, I thought to myself, “Might be fun to take the train!” And it was, until just outside of the Battle Creek station when we came to a screeching halt.
It’s actually left me quite nostalgic. In August 2003, Pat and I surprised our girls with a train trip to Chicago, and somewhere between the Royal Oak and Detroit stations, the major northeast blackout happened, leaving us trapped on the train for more than 12 hours.
So no big whoop that this has been my view for the past three hours.
At least the club car is attached. We didn’t even have that for the first five hours in 2003! I remember feeling very anxious back then…we were unsure of the cause of the blackout, and the events of September 11th were still a very recent memory.
I don’t know what word describes how I’m feeling right now.
Across the aisle from me are an adult woman and her physically disabled father. She hasn’t stopped yelling at him since the train stopped. [Edited transcript] “This always happens when I ride with you! I should have never said yes to this trip.”
Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m a huge fan of a well-placed expletive, but the way this woman is speaking to her father has the entire train car cringing. She is unrelenting in profane complaints and double negatives.
Her single act of kindness came when her dad asked her to reach down his computer. He pulled up some website that showed real-time passenger and freight train activity. He tried to point out the trouble spot, but she quickly and decisively shut him up.
Not long after, I got caught staring in his direction. We shared a smile behind masks and he said, “I like to track the trains.” As his daughter was (NO LIE) busy brushing her hair in the seat next to him, I said, “My brother is a huge train fan too, I get it.” As he started to point out what was on his screen, the conductor came on the loudspeaker to explain the reason for the delay was a police situation on the tracks just outside of Kalamazoo. Minutes later when walking through our car, the conductor told my train-loving neighbor that this was the third suicide in the last ten days along this route.
I’ve already painted a horrible, albeit accurate, picture of his daughter so I will refrain from sharing her disgusting comments that followed.
Equal to my love of a well place curse word is my love of a good fight…one of words, mind you, and I am gearing up to put this bitch in her place.
My head is spinning and my internal voice has finally drowned out hers. But as my planned oratory assault reaches epic, launch-ready levels, deep emotion renders me mute.
I would give anything to be trapped on a train with my Dad.
I would give anything to travel back in time…anxious and snackless…to be trapped on a train with my tiny girls who fell asleep in our laps while Pat and I held hands.
I would give anything to hold Pat’s hand.
Three suicides in ten days along this one train route? My God.
I would give anything to miraculously intervene in those troubled lives and help each person find the words to ask for help.
I would give anything to comfort the family members whose hearts are broken and who will face the horror of an empty chair this Christmas.
I would give anything to bring peace—of mind, heart, soul and spirit—to friend and stranger alike.
We started moving a bit ago. As my neighbors stood up to disembark at Battle Creek, I stood too. Toe to toe, I stared right into that woman’s eyes and said in a whimper, “Hope your day gets better.” And in the true spirit of the season she said, “Jesus Christ, I need a f*in cigarette.”
The lesson of this journey has me counting my blessings, cherishing life, and praying for peace in the hearts of all.
Yes, all. Even the foul-mouth, grammatically deficient, wickedly unsanitary, public transportation-dissing, heartbreakingly paternal-alienating monsters of our world. Clearly, they are struggling with something too.
May peace and joy surround everyone this Christmas.