Train to Perdition

November 12, 2019

The train to perdition comes without warning

The 12:04 to Taunton

The 16:07 to Cardiff

The first to pass us in our carriage was a potentially fractious pair of toddlers, Beanie and Cecil (not their real names). Even were we to plan future excursions not to overlap with national school breaks, I realized there’d still be no guarantee to avoiding the likes of a pair of screaming two-year-olds who believe trains were made for running up and down the aisles, depositing candy floss to armrests along the way.

I’m not anti-children, but I do believe a first class carriage should be part library, part cathedral and, well, hospice if not to put too fine a point on my desire for quietude aboard.

So you can imagine the train wreck of emotions that overtook me at Bodmin Parkway station, when I gazed down to the far end of the carriage, and saw – no, it just couldn’t be! – the blood-curdling visage of …of…Lady Macbeth with those two little Dickensian urchins -Gareth and Ian – herding themselves into our car, sprawling over the far end of the carriage like an infestation of … over protection and hovering!

Thinking of trains that might have been…

Carol was white as a sheet, as I looked over to her. How could four days pass, randomly so, with us even changing our departure date, only to find ourselves once again on the very same Train of the Damned as the one we came down on? Talk about Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane, and plopping its sassy self right in our faces…again! As the trolley car passed, I inquired after an eye of newt or wing of bat, but settled for a chocolate wafer and a sparkling water.

…and places to see that might have been…

Happily, Lady Macbeth and her Little Shop of Horrors were seated far enough away as to be non-factors the entire trip to Taunton. Beanie and Cecil either slept or were drugged. For my part, I had an audio version of Rachel Maddow’s new book Blowout, which turned out to be a blessing a couple days later on the Birmingham to Liverpool leg of our journey north. A few words about that journey here.

…and with strangers aboard I might always prefer…

It was a cramped first class carriage, this time populated by a hen party (these little plagues of locusts were scattered throughout the national rail system). There were tiaras, champagne glasses and gelatinous tushes barely covered by couture versions of Saran Wrap. But the stars of this carnival caravan were two utterly vapid millennials fatefully seated just across from us. I say “seated,” but Holly Golightly was rarely upright, as she gymnastically wrapped herself around Kanye West, who regaled her with such mirth and merriment that Miss Golightly’s brainless cackling laugh still rings in my ears. I turned up Rachel, and Carol turned off her hearing aids.

Yes, there is a downside associated with train travel that has nothing to do with the smooth rides and excellent service aboard. You can’t pick your carriage mates, refugees from a Greyhound bus terminal, as some may be. I have learned, though, I have another gear to dissociate myself farther from the madding crowd, when it’s called for. And yes, there have been times when I’ve truly envied Carol for her hearing loss. I think that’s why she’s always wrapped in this merry grin. She really can’t hear the lowlife crap going on around her.

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