Monday, August 20, 2018

Train Train Train (Train of Fools)

The train trip from Toronto to Winnipeg did not start well. Much to my dismay, I chose a section behind a whole group of Asian tourists who couldn't figure out how to stay in one seat (much to the frustration of the staff) and next to a family who brought the noisiest baggage and child one can imagine. If the kid was not playing a game at full volume or its parents weren’t repeating “do you have to go pee pee” four hundred times, she was crying. The crying, of course, spurred the family to start rooting around in crinkly bags to find something to sate the kid. Earplugs didn’t help.

I enjoyed the view from the train - the Canadian wild is absolutely beautiful - but the commotion inside the train was driving me nuts. Every time I moved to another part of the train (e.g. the cafe car, the glass dome car) noise makers seemed to follow. Luckily, I make friends easy, and the rest of the trip is what I'll really remember.

When I was in line to board I started chatting up the guy next to me, an Ottawan (I assume that's the demonym) by the name of Stoch. As we waited it became pretty clear that our personalities would work well together and, when I found out that the train was laid out two-and-two (I had expected two seats on one side and one seat on the other as with the Ocean), I suggested we sit together. It worked well enough the first night - he slept quite well and I wasn't troubled by him (though, as mentioned, I had a terrible time sleeping).

In the morning we figured it was time to head up to the dome car. On the Canadian there were maybe four special cars (of the twenty-some passenger cars) that had cafes, tables, and an upstairs glass dome. The order of events isn't particularly important, but we connected with two girls we'd been pleasant to at various points earlier in the trip (Melissa, from Germany, chatted with us while in line with her uncle, and I'm not sure how we connected with Mia, also from Germany). The four of us would be traveling companions for the majority of the trip - we more-or-less claimed a table at the front of the dome car where we chatted, ate, and played a lot of cards.

I cannot overemphasize how much fun it was to travel with these three! While we certainly took time to go back to our seats or do something else, we tended to gravitate toward each other as our journey progressed, to the extent that we had inside jokes by the end of the day (oh look, a scenic lake!). Additionally, both Stoch and I had brought some alcohol on board, so the evening was enhanced and lubricated by a small degree.

I would be remiss to omit some of the other passengers, though you'll excuse me if I don't name them all. An occasional fifth to our group was a girl just out of high school who haunted the dome car for pretty much the entire time I was on the train. She was doing what I wish I were doing - working on a novel! When she looked exceptionally bored / in need of a different distraction (and we had a free seat), I'd invite her over for card games. There was also a few better behaved mothers and kids - the kids were somewhat infected by our enthusiasm and two drew pictures for me to write short stories about (which, again, I should probably be doing right now). Add in another dozen light conversations (including several helpful tips about my future travel) and the whole journey was made thoroughly pleasant.

One little amusing point - there was a quick stop in Hornepayne where we all got out and stretched out legs. A few of us bought supplies (I picked up some bread - something I was craving) and, on our way back to the train, one of us (not me) noticed the Hornepayne library. In a quick shot, I ran inside, got a mote of inspiration, and jotted down a quick poem.

A tiny poem for a tiny town
Now we're off, westward bound

The trip ended much as a mirror of how it started - poor sleep (though, this time I curled up on a bench in the cafe car) and pleasant farewells in the station as I left and the rest of the crew detrained for an hour of fresh air. Much to my surprise and great amusement, Stoch, not knowing about my love of flags, gave me a gift of a Canadian flag pin. I will be very lucky if ever I find another group even half as delightful in the future.

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