King Kong aint got shit on Amtrak.
So, here’s how my travel day began:
“All right, Mr. Reid, you’re on the 7:10 to Penn Station? Okay, that’s been delayed two hours.”
“Yes, it’s now scheduled to pick up here at 9:10. And then there will be some track-related delays along the way. You should get to New York between 6:30 and 7pm.”
“Between 6:30 and . . . I’ve got a party? That starts at 6:30? Any possible way I can get to Penn Station any sooner than that?”
“Short of a nuclear-powered DeLorian?”
- - - - - - - -
Eleven and a half hours and numerous emotional scars later, I had made it to my destination. Some of the lowlights of the trip:
So, to start with, the conductor, or whoever it is on a train that makes the announcements, is like the low-talker from “Seinfeld”, all conspiratorially whispering about the delays we’ll be experiencing across the length and breadth of New York state. Like if he sotto voces it enough, we won’t notice that we’re on pace to be three hours behind our original timetable and right now I've got a pretty good view out my window of a tortoise and the dust he's leaving us in.
Next up in the parade of ineffectual doofuses is Amtrak employee Snippy McSnidepants, who decides to respond to my inquiries as to where he expects we’ll be running into further delays with exasperated sighs of “Lyons. And Syracuse. And Amsterdam.” Each more condescending than the last. Like, thanks Guy With the Stupid Hat. All I asked for was an approximation of when I’d be able to get a reliable ETA. Leave the Poor Man’s David Spade shtick to . . . well, David Spade. Can’t really find a much poorer man than that.
If I make it through this trip without chewing off my hard-won fingernails, it will be a moral victory. They're all starting to look suspiciously like turkey drumsticks, though.
I call home to explain the situation and bitch heartily and at a comfortable volume about the delays, and now people are looking at me, because I'm That Guy On the Train. That Guy who's being loud and voicing the frustration that everybody else is internalizing. But they hate me because nobody wants to own up to it and I'm the only one willing to face grim reality. I'm just so fucking real, they can't handle it. There is not one bit of me that is inauthentic. I'm like J-Lo, except without the bulimic husband.
Oh, he so is. Have you seen his teeth?
For some reason, the “Smallville” theme song has shown up on, like, three of my mix CDs. I don’t even watch the show! It’s like some PR lackey from the WB has slipped it into my rotation so as to cultivate a subliminal longing for homoerotic superhero drama, which . . . okay. Uncle. Hell, it worked with “Birds of Prey."
Okay, my sunglasses just fell apart. While still on my face! Just fell apart. Like reverse engineering. Like the de-evolution of sunglasses. Like William Butler Yeats was behind me writing a poem, all “Shades fall apart. The plastic does not hold.”
And they were cheap (obviously), but I really liked them and they looked really good on me. And I can’t for the life of me remember where I got them. Like, Portland, maybe? At an approximation of Target? Perhaps? And I had just liberated them from their captivity in the land of My Brother’s Dresser Drawer, too. So, of course, I’ve figured out a way to pin this whole entire mess on him, because of course.
And, yes, that was a whole two paragraphs on my defunct sunglasses, which I had plenty of time to write since I spent half a fucking day on a train. And the first person to let loose with “Why not just fly?” gets a face full of my sandal. And let me tell you, after a half a day in transit, it is in rare fucking form.
People currently within my sight line:
-- College kid with laptop, watching a “Family Guy” DVD with his headphones on, laughing aloud at every joke and making me think long and hard about stabbing him to death with the jagged arm of my crumbled sunglasses so as to steal what looks to be a valuable diversion.
-- Hirsute guy wearing tank top who should so clearly know better. Hey, George the Animal Steele, cover it up. You’re attracting wildlife.
-- Three adolescent Amish kids, no doubt up to no good. Rumspringa has sprung, it would seem.
-- Guy in the seat directly in front of me with a too-long gray mane who just picked a knot out of his hair. Gross.
Shout outs to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Jacob’s “American Idol” recaps on Television Without Pity, Little Debbie Nutty Bars (now, more than ever), Kelly Clarkson, and the good people at the Dannon water bottling plant. Y’all kept me alive, despite the railroad industry’s best efforts to kill me.
Next month, be sure to tune in to Joe vs. Amtrak II: No Sleep Til Brooklyn.