Saturday, October 15, 2011

Past Deadline: Catching a Train

Help. I am trapped in a nostalgia bubble and I can’t get out.

I blame the trains. (And the fact I had to come up with a column idea earlier than usual because of Thanksgiving. Ideas need time to grow in my tiny little head.)

Some of you may have noticed a slight (ha!) traffic disruption in town last week due to the work being done on the railroad tracks. Basically, if you didn’t leave a day early for an appointment across town, there was a good chance you would be late.

Okay. I am exaggerating. A little.

One of the contributing factors to the car traffic being backed up from the tracks on Wilson Street all the way to Rideau Ferry (again with the exaggeration, sort of) was the fact the trains were moving very slowly as they passed through town because of the track work. And there was no shortage of trains travelling at about Warp Negative Five, let me tell ya!

This gave many travellers lots and lots of time to enjoy the drawings and sayings scrawled across the freight cars as they waited at crossings.

It also made me feel a little nostalgic for simpler times. (Times when I didn’t drive much.) Yes, slow-moving trains can do that for me.

A few (snort!) years ago when I was about 17, I worked at the now-demolished Burger King restaurant on Hwy. 7. It was situated very close to the railroad tracks. We would have to shut off the drive-thru speakers when a train went by or else we would be deafened by the roar.

Whenever there was work on the tracks the trains would slow down. I remember standing at the back delivery door sometimes and watching the big, lumbering freights as they crept past.

At that time I was a Restless Teenager™ who was eager to flee Perth and discover the world (possibly to save it), and I would imagine jumping on one of those slow-moving freights and heading as far west as it would take me. (Havelock?)

One of the things that stopped me (besides having an overdeveloped sense of guilt/responsibility), was the fact I would have been wearing my oh-so-glamorous red and blue polyester Burger King uniform, and that didn’t really fit the image I wanted to portray. I was thinking more along the lines of ripped jeans and jean jacket, ball cap and grubby khaki backpack. You know, a la Sullen Restless Teenager™.

So because it’s all about image and perception (not to mention fear of death), I would adopt the appropriate level of sullenness and return to my shift, continuing to daydream about escape routes and worldly travels while making Whoppers or mopping floors or taking orders at drive-thru.

That never happens anymore. Ahem. Okay, well, if it does it’s while I’m dispensing snacks and mopping floors and taking orders in the kitchen at home. At least I’m not wearing a polyester uniform at this point.

There has been a lot of talk lately by friends of mine who are in or nearing this pesky fourth decade (the era when severe biomechanical failures catch up to you, apparently) that we have to seize the day! And live in the moment! And life is short! And do it now! And this is not a dress rehearsal! Etc.

This always leaves me feeling unnerved and panicky. What am I supposed to be doing NOW? Will I need to get a sitter for the kids?

So I’m thinking, well, maybe I oughta add “jump on a freight train” to my bucket list. After all, I have friends who are jumping out of planes and getting coveted degrees and learning how to fly and so on.

Of course, jumping on and off a freight train is not only irresponsible, dangerous and illegal (gotta be a role model, you know), but also perilous when one has an unreliable ankle. I would probably land on the wrong foot, crumple to the ground and get rolled over by a boxcar.

So perhaps I would be better off snagging a ticket on a passenger train.

I could step carefully on and off.

Besides, there are snacks.

It’s all about the snacks, you know.

Published in The Perth Courier, Oct. 13/11

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