But Where Do I Put My Passport?

Don’t get over-excited, but I bought a new wallet for the train trip. What’s wrong with my current wallet? Nothing, really. Except this new one not only holds my credit cards, cash, and travel documents, but also will do my laundry and help me memorize the entire New Testament. At least, that’s what I’m guessing based on the little insert that came with it. I’m reproducing the text exactly as it appears—typos, bad punctuation, and odd capitalization included.
I’m not doing this to mock whatever bad Google translation program they probably utilized to go from Chinese to English. I’m merely asking myself this: Does it seem as if they assume English-speaking folks need to have things repeated many times, with slightly different wording, in order to remember them?
I offer you the following, without commentary, if only because some things need no explanation:
  • This High Density linen/cotton blended fabric All-in-One Passport Holder fits your iphone, Holding Passport, Boarding Card, Credit Cards, Tickets.  Coins, Keys, money, other documents, etc.
  • The Passport Wallet is simple, compact, lightweight, zippered and multifunctional. Portable and Compact case, is easily held in Handbag passport holder. men’s and women’s travel gear case. An ideal travel accessory holder, a nice cover for your passport.
  • Best travel documents holder with smooth Closing Zipper, secure wallet that protects your travel accessories. A zip around travel wallet for your convenience.
  • Durable travel wallet with multiple pockets, perfect for all your needed documents.
  • A slim small wallet for holding and making easy to access your documents while traveling. Fits your hand, your bag, and your jacket pocket.
Doesn’t this make you want to go out and buy twelve of these wallets? Or invest in company stock? Or stab someone?

 

Daydream Believer

I try to stop myself from typing in “Amtrak sleeper” in the Google Images search box. But it’s no use. I’m off on another daydream about what it will be like when I first step out of that cab a few months from now, at around 11 p.m., armed with nothing more than a backpack and a messenger bag, each full of things I’ve deemed essential for survival for the next fifteen days.

What will it be like to sit in the Amtrak station here in Pittsburgh in that last hour before I am no longer a train-virgin? How many other people will be there waiting with me? Will some of them be so used to this routine that they’ll be nodding off out of boredom? How will I not stick out like the newbie I am?

And what will it finally be like when I climb onto that first train, headed for Chicago overnight? I’ve chosen a simple coach seat for the first nine hours, despite those nine hours coming between midnight and 9 a.m. I wanted to save my money for roomette and bedroom upgrades later in the trip. Besides, I know I’ll be too keyed up that first night and won’t sleep anyway. Might as well sit in my roomy, comfortable coach seat (I finally found a benefit of being 5’1”), with this little laptop open, typing my eager thoughts about the train—the sights, the sounds, the smells (good grief, don’t let there be too many smells in coach, though!).

But today, more than three months before my trip, I open a browser and type in the word “Amtrak” and thousands of images start popping up. Many I’ve seen before, since I do this dumb sort of daydreaming at least once a week. Now that I’ve purchased the tickets and the trip is set, I suspect I’ll daydream my way through many lulls in my schedule in the ensuing weeks.

And I admit, sometimes I fall asleep at night trying to imagine what it will be like once I am cocooned in a tiny roomette, where I will wake up hundreds of miles from where I fell asleep.

Oh sure, I’ve done that on a plane. I’ve done that on a cruise ship. But soon, I will do this on my very first train trip—a dream of mine since childhood. What adventures await me? What misadventures? I’m ready for all of them.

Bring it on, Amtrak. I’m ready to see America.

—–

Want to help a gal make her way across the country to write a book about it? You can get a copy of the book for only a coupla  bucks by backing me on my journey! Go here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/train-of-thought-book-travel/x/7437287

 

Fly the Friendly Skies? Talking to Myself Again

Overheard in the grocery store… Wait, no, overheard in my mind (sorry, I get the two confused). A conversation with myself…
——
“Linda, why on earth would you take a train trip across the country for two weeks, when you could fly across and back in a single day?”
“Well, Alt-Linda, I hate flying.”
“So do birds, Linda, but you don’t see them complaining.”
“Birds don’t hate flying.”
“Well, you get my point, though.”
“No, not really.”
“You actually hate flying?”
“No, I’m just faking all those heart palpitations and that vomiting whenever a plane trip gets closer. Like, a year in advance.”
“But why take a train? For two weeks? To essentially do nothing but take the train?”
“Think of the adventure, Alt-Linda! The romantic lure of the rails! The glorious susurrus of the train as it glides across landscapes far and wide!”
“Susurrus? You just made that up.”
“No, it’s a real word. Honest. Look it up.”
“I’d have to know how to spell it to look it up.”
“Well, it’s right here on the screen.”
“Not yet it’s not. You’re still transcribing this conversation. And it’s not even a real conversation. It’s just you talking to yourself. Again.”
“Don’t be a smart-ass. It’s going to be an adventure, Alt-Linda. I can’t wait!”
“You’re lucky this conversation is all in your head. I bet you can’t pronounce susurrus.”
“Shut up. Nobody’s talking to you.”
“Except you.”
I’m you. Well, you know what I mean.”
“Rarely, but let’s move on, Linda. So, let me get this straight. You’re going to pay these Amtrak people a lot of money—”
“I already did. They charged my credit card, like, a nanosecond after I pushed ‘Submit.’”
“Okay, so, you paid these Amtrak people a lot of money to sit in a big metal box on wheels that’s going to go careening across the country at nowhere-near-breakneck speed… for two weeks.”
“Well, yes, but…”
“And at periodic intervals you’re going to go to a different metal box on wheels—attached to the first box on wheels and a bunch of other boxes on wheels—to get expensive food.”
“It’s included in the price, though.”
“Which was expensive.”
“You’re completely missing the point.”
“And at other periodic intervals you’re going to lie down and sleep in your original metal box—in a teeny, smaller box inside the bigger metal box, a box so small that they’ll give you a crowbar to get in and out of bed.”
“It’s included in the price, though.”
“Which was expen—”
“Okay, okay. What’s your point?”
“We haven’t even made it to Chicago yet in this scenario. Do I really need a point?”
“But it’s going to be—”
“If you use the word ‘adventure’ one more time I’m going to smack you.”
“That’d be quite a trick.”
“Back to your flawed thinking: If you get bored in the teeny tiny metal box or aren’t hungry enough to go to the metal food box—”
“They have tablecloths in the dining car.”
“Oh, well, THAT changes everything.”
“I sense sarcasm.”
“Moi?”
“I still don’t see your point.”
“My point, Linda, is that your definition of ‘adventure’ is rather low, don’t you think?”
“Potato, potahto.”
“You’re always bringing up food.”
“Only when I think about flying.”
“That’s a gross, disgusting play on words.”
“You’re the one who brought up bringing up food.”
“Back to my original point! Where’s your sense of adventure if all you’re doing is sitting in big metal boxes, eating food, sleeping, writing, and showering in tiny cubicles with flexible hoses recently used by complete strangers?”
“I’m bringing my Kindle along.”
“That’s it. I’m outta here. Taxi!”
“Don’t call for a taxi. Take the train.”
“You’re out of your mind.”
“No, you’re out of my mind.”
“Oh, shut up!”
*****

Already I’m Confused

I bought a money belt for the big train trip in May. I’m not sure if I already feel safer, or if I’m going to end up in a seedy hostel in California, bleeding in a bathtub with my pancreas harvested for money. (Joke’s on them, though. I’m diabetic. You couldn’t give my pancreas away on Craigslist, even if you tacked on a free Hatchimal.)

The money belt itself is fine, but it came with a little flyer labeled “Useful Travel Safety Tips.” I’m eager to read anything that even tangentially relates to this trip, so I sat down to read through their list of 50 helpful (and not-so-helpful) tips. I’ll elaborate more on these in an early chapter of the book, but here’s a glimpse for the voyeuristic among you:

“If possible, take a self-defense class.”

Great. This hadn’t even occurred to me. Do fistfights routinely break out on Amtrak trains? There’ll be a fight over the good seats in the observation car somewhere around Colorado, won’t there?

“Bring a portable door or window alarm.”

The first time I read that, I saw “Bring a portable door” and panicked that the trains might not have doors. Still, even with the rest of the sentence factored in, I find this suggestion a little disturbing.

“Be on the lookout for anybody who is offering to help you with your bags at a train or bus station.”

Because it would be horrible if a Red Cap actually HELPED me lug that suitcase up to my Roomette! The horrors!

These next four really are back to back on the flyer:

“Trust your instincts and use your intuition and gut feeling when dealing with strangers.”

“Make a local friend.”

“Try to dress like a local.”

“In some places, it helps wearing a fake wedding ring.”

I don’t even know where to start with these four. All I know is that, by the time I finished reading #7, I had so many questions that I was weeping uncontrollably.

  • What if my gut instincts tell me NOT to make a local friend?
  • To dress like a local in Los Angeles, do I have to wear an Ed Hardy shirt and Birkenstocks and grow a hipster beard?
  • Why can’t I just wear my real wedding ring? After all, it looks fake in the right lighting…

“If you get lost, do not look at your phone or a map in the middle of the street.”

… because you’ll get hit by a car. Duh.

——

There are 42 more of these gems in this flyer. After reading all these, I may not be able to work up the courage to get to the station, let alone get on the train.