Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chicago Journals: Train Walkers

Another classification of people can be found on planes and trains though in this case, they are magnified when on trains. I'm talking about the walkers, the people who just can't seem to stay in their seats and must bump and jostle those in the aisle seats repeatedly in their journeys. On planes, I'm fairly certain that their journey is limited to trips towards the bathroom beginning 1 second before the fasten seatbelt light is turned off. On trains, I still have no idea. When we boarded the train going towards Chicago, it was late in the journey and I suspected that the walkers were long haul passengers restless to get off. However on our return trip when we started with everyone else, this theory was proved most definitely wrong.

After we got settled into our seats heading towards Chicago, a dumpling like girl with a chain dangling down to her knees went stumbling towards the front of the car. Within minutes, she would be coming back. After ten minutes, she once again stumbled forward and within minutes came back. On her third trip I started counting and got up to eighteen roundtrips to who-knows-where in the five-hour journey to Chicago or one trip nearly every 17 minutes. Since she never appeared to leave with anything other than her dangling chain and never came back with anything other than her dangling chain, I began to suspect that she was similar to a mall walker and just needed the exercise.

However she wasn't alone. There was another guy coming and going on less frequent intervals but at least he went with nothing and returned with a fresh beer every time. In all, there were perhaps a half dozen people that I recognized that made three or more trips forward in the five hours I was on, none of whom were heading to the restrooms which were down the stairs behind where I was sitting. Are these the ones who had Attention Deficit Disorder when they were children? Fortunately, their frequent trips weren't as disturbing to myself as they are on planes because the aisles were wider meaning the only occasionally bumped my shoulders when the train lurched and not every time as on a plane. Also there were no drink or snack carts plugging up the aisles meaning a herd of people following it up the aisle or someone trying to straddle my legs to allow the carts to pass so they can make their way to the bathroom for the twenty-second time.

Like I mentioned, I theorized that these were long haul train riders that were getting restless after more than twenty hours of being on a train. So when we were seated for our return trip still stationary in the train station, I was surprised to see people repeatedly walking forward and smack against the door to the adjoining cars like bugs on a windshield. As it turned out, the train conductors can control these doors and only unlock them once the train is underway and they have collected the tickets to prevent people from moving all over and making the job more difficult. The car conductor announced this perhaps a dozen times in the twenty minutes it took for us to board before the train actually began moving.

Once she unlocked the door, a half dozen people immediately made a trip forward. One man, whose shirt said San Francisco Aids Coalition on the back broke the short dumpling like girls record with 19 trips in the only four hours it took for our return trip but both records were completely shattered by Mr. Trenchcoat Mafia. Thanks to a kid by the name of Dillon Klebold, whenever I see a kid in a long black trenchcoat, dark sunglasses and combat boots, I automatically keep my eyes peeled for any signs of a gun rising from the inner confines of the coat. Mr. Trenchcoat Mafia gave me plenty of opportunity to exercise these "Spidey senses" by completing over 24 roundtrips forward in four hours and that is only before I gave up counting. On my trip up to check out the snack and dining cars, I did spot him once in the lounge sitting in a table looking out the window but within minutes of my return, he was already walking back to where he had come from. About halfway through the trip he ditched his trenchcoat which kept getting caught in the doors and on the seats as he walked past but always kept on the sunglasses despite my having to have on the reading light to catch up on the newspaper because of the gloomy day outside.

Finally, one last train walker gets honorable mention in my blog because she had one of those canes with four legs that she relied on heavily to walk on the train. She would hobble very slowly up the aisle to the front of our car where she always stopped to talk with a few people she evidently knew there and thus block up the aisle causing other train walkers to squeeze around her and bumping into the people on the opposite side of the aisle. She would talk for a few minutes and then continue her journey forward. A little bit latter she would come back shuffling her two legs and cane, of course stopping to talk for a few minutes before continuing on behind where I sat. Even though she was hobbled by an affliction, she still managed 6 round trips in four hours even though her round trips took thirty minutes to complete.

So if there is anything good to come from my observations of the train walkers, it will make me more appreciate of the peanut cart on airplanes stopping up the flow of plane walkers and giving me a brief respite from counting people on the way to the bathrooms every fifteen minutes.

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