Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Casey Jones You’d Better

If you miss the 7:29 train out of 125th Street, you might get on the next one, which is the 7:33 bound for Croton-Harmon.

I was standing right there and didn’t see the train. Maybe it was the Invisible Express? Wonder Woman was the engineer? I don’t know. (Oh wait, yes, now I know. My train came in but it was identified on the board as the previous train. So I patiently waited for it to go. Byebye. Byebye, earlier train.)

So anyway, you get on this later train, the 7:33 bound for Croton-Harmon. And the steward waits for you to get settled and then hands you the little plastic tray with the lemon-scented hot towel on it while the conductor smiles beneficently and says “put that away, you don’t need to show me your ticket. Just relax!” And you do, you relax and recline your seat back a little and put your feet on the little footrest, and the headrest speakers are just perfectly angled, so much so that you opt against the mournful Tom Waits you usually like and you choose something peppy from the Fabulous 70s channel on the satellite radio. The reading material is pretty good; Architectural Digest and InStyle, or The Economist, Harper’s, Dwell – you name it – and when they bring the whole portfolio, you can ask them to just choose something for you because after all it’s just too too headache-making to decide. Any of it beats the reading material on your usual train, which primarily consists of the Old Familiar Suggestion scrawled over Homeland Security posters.

This train has brushed-nickel accents, high ceilings, contoured seats, electronic readouts for the station stops and an EZ-Listening automated voice offering kindly recommendations to enhance your personal safety. It runs on electricity. It stops in all the pleasant little East Bank river towns familiar from your J. Crew catalogue, where the doors open on live bluegrass music playing in the spacious heated platform shelters and the people who get off the train stop a moment to select today’s bouquet from the flower seller near the complimentary taxi stand.

You wish this were your train every day. But you’re careful because you don’t want to take having a train for granted, and you don’t want to miss a minute of the pleasant journey you’re having to the halfway point – but you can’t shake the irritation you feel at missing the last bus across the river and having to spring for a cab.

So you ride along suppressing your annoyance, because, hey, you had to go north, and you figure your next train is lumbering along behind you someplace in the night, sucking trash in its wake, its full-throated diesel engine issuing a rancid underworld smoke, each stained and torn seat displaying a deep depression from the weight of the hundred thousand hardy souls who came before you. It bowls along with its stale air and its aroma of inevitability and decay, and you know that it’s coming for you, but it’s still back there on the track somewhere, and you can keep ahead for a little while longer on this well-lit, comfortable ride.


Amy Plum said...

Is this your dream-train you're describing, or is it for real. If it is real, do they rent living space?

Bill Braine said...

I took the Hyperbole Line up to Exaggeration Junction. But the younger electric trains are a sight better than the old diesels that do the longer run.

I read of your TGV adventures with much envy.

Amy Plum said...

It just reminded me of the train in the movie "Singles" that offered "good music, good coffee" - and I thought someone might have actually done it!

Magpie said...

I do wish that the Hyperbole line cars ran on the Harlem line to Chappaqua. My day would be so much nicer.