The previous day had been so hot that I surmised that when the trains were that afternoon, two hours late . . . all the engineer crews had quite likely and simply just climbed out of their steaming hot drivers seats, said: ‘the heck with this’ . . .and went towards cooler shores.


Later only, did I confirm such might have indeed been the case:
‘No crews to move the trains from the yard . . .never seen anything like that in all my forty years. . .’’ remarked a tired and frustrated conductor at 19:22 EDT.


This afternoon however, the thirty six hour cycle of stagnant air that had risen the humidity to such a suffocating level, sweltering a city that appeared suspended in smog, was beginning to waver. The upper hand of pressure permeating unstable thermal activity, was beginning to exert its rightful control.


While there was no wind as yet, enormous cumulonimbus shapes formed unreachable mountains in the skies to the South and West, insidiously sucking warm liquid vapors off the oppressed canals, estuaries and waters surrounding this once vibrant metropolis.


Roughly a half hour from our boarding time, these magnificent clouds that seemed to reach dizzying azure zeniths, had far dwarfed the tallest buildings and had by a compass, surrounded us all.

Then, having apparently fulfilled their vast propensity to harvest and store such humidity, a certain capacity was satiated. The resultant bold, broad uplifts at once hesitated, dissipated and left powerful cool downdrafts to descend rapidly beneath.
On the platform, such was most welcome. The wind swirled with speed and swiftly removed hats and blew open the quite loose fabric worn by most. It brought smiles, embarrassed ‘whoops’ and laughter to those caught off guard . . . and there was a long pleasant moment . . . before the first raindrop.


When it came it was sudden, just after a brilliant five-way fractal flash of lightening illuminating the entire Western sky. The thunder was deafening and defeated our senses, for we were soaked before we knew it was raining.

The wind came now from the South, warmer, but the rain pelted our faces cold from the North and West. Confusion rose in the rapidly reduced visibility of the platform. In the new darkness faces were captured in worried frame: a repeating staccato of lightening, wind, thunder and unrelenting rain.


The all familiar announcements, to our drenched ears of: ‘Boarding, the 6:48 to Wickford Junction, track five..’ and ‘Be vigilant..if you See . .’ was slow, slurred and mechanically distorted. . .as if lightening had just struck and mangled the wires . .


By me now, our conductor has moved first and directly into the driving wind and rain. His weighted bag full of wet papers, ticket stubs and solid keys are kept to his aft, as he leans into the wind:

“Get these people on the train, let’s go now.”

Most hesitate, but I quickly follow and encourage others my way. A wet pilgrimage then crosses the fifty or so feet to the cover of the platform where our steel albatross sits in wait, to carve us home.

Out of the wind and rain, we sit in our seats in a shivering exhale, as the train slowly slides in solitude out of her berth and towards the tunnel connecting this station to a higher ground beyond.


It is very slow going at first and only when we see dim green foliage on the other side, does our conductor reach for the PA microphone and speak in an assured calm tone.

He informs that the rapidly building water at the station was quite likely to have filled the tunnel past the eight inches allowed and delayed us . . . .most indefinitely.


There is warmth in the cabin now and more than a few claps and cheers. Folks also hear that there is a cafe car just three cars back and the spry, spring for such. Others await the conductor to check our tickets and give him a heartfelt thanks.


Only later, home and eating a hot meal, do I read that the Sox game was long rained out and much of the city was this cool evening, flooded.




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Quiet Car

I got out of work early and caught the 5:35pm train … grabbed a seat in the ‘quiet car’.  

  A Young 30-something year old gal walks her carry on down aisle and asks an older gentleman seated a few rows ahead by the window if the empty seat besides him is taken.  

The elder clears his throat and with the unexpected turn of his imminent good fortune, engages in an elaborate, cordial and slightly high pitched accommodation to her query. . . .
During their exchange of pleasantries, a man seated behind me, with thick wire glasses, barks: ‘ QUIET CAR !!”  as he intently stares at his laptop.
Before any muffled apology could come from the embarrassed young girl, I have turned around, half stood and loudly lipped to him :  “SHHHH!!”

. . . much to the chuckles, enjoyment and applause of those in the….QUIET CAR.   



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Witnessed on a trip not too long ago: 


Conductor walks by and somewhat cheerfully says:  ‘found another cell phone on an empty seat – if it’s not soon claimed, well then, it’s going all the way down Washington, DC to forever lie in a bin full of other lost phones – ha ha.’

Guy sitting across from me (a professor I think) speaks without looking up: “ask SIRI whose it is”

The conductor, perhaps not accustomed to being addressed, holds it up and smugly says: ‘its locked…’ (dummy).

Professor, now slowly looking up: “doesn’t matter, try: ‘whose iPhone does this belong to?’”

Then, as if suddenly holding a live bird, the conductor nervously hands the phone over to the professor: ‘you do it’ . . . and steps quickly back.
Sure enough, SIRI: ‘Michael Kansan’


Another conductor now appears out of nowhere and checks his list to confirm . . .
(the level of drama has risen noticeably in the recent seconds) . . .
and exclaims, that Mr. Kansan is getting off at the next stop and is right now standing by the door, two cars back!
With urgency and the a nod of:  ’I knew that’, the 1st conductor moves past him with a good deed in hand. 

The professor just rolls his eyes towards me and returns to his reading.  



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Just got on the train, folks jockeying for seats in measured and purposeful ways.  Up ahead, a mid-western couple (grandparents I imagine), have completely clogged the aisle with two enormous black carry on bags (she in front & he stuck behind) .

With a nervous glance at the sudden building line of anxious faces behind him, he takes hold of the first trunk in an attempt to heave it high above his head to the racks. 

‘No Ned, no – please your back – the trip …oh please!
Impulse urges me to intervene, to push ahead of a the quietly waiting family in front of me and assist but this is a man of great pride, as he never hesitates to look around for help.   He is once again young on a train, with his bride before him.
A characteristic and determination that is instantly admirable.

I hold back.
Like a fake prop on stage, he impresses us all by deftly delivering the rear bag topside.   All are now patient as he looks to the next.
‘No! please, for Heavens sakes Ned, no you cannot (she pleads) – let me help’

I nudge past the children.
Ned quickly bear hugs the second trunk which appears to be bolted to the floor.   I move the three remaining feet to assist.   Seconds later, he somehow already has it to his waist and together we place it on top.
He is embarrassed. His eyes have shifted downward to the right in the waiting stillness.    It is then that I hear my voice, and it does not surprise me:

“Well. . . it’s certainly clear whose bag is whose.”

The woman appears slightly offended as I pass by and says:  ‘and what exactly does . . .that mean?’

“I too, am married myself ma’am”.


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