Who’s on the Train?

I love trains. I always have. I love their history. I love the temporary community of fellow riders that exists on every trip. I love the purchase of large coffee in New Haven’s Union Station, the views of the broken back-ends of communities that flash past the window, the unexpected surprise of the grain silo sprouting a Christmas tree, the discipline and concurrence of the quiet car, the dogged authority of the conductors, the shitty food and pricey booze, the sight of the Manhattan skyline, the bridges over the Susquehanna River, the landing at the center of the political universe via Amtrak to Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, the sleeping among strangers, the guy clipping his toenails and the woman eating a big Tupperware bowl of pasta, the hastily chosen sandwiches unwrapped at strategic moments, the laptopping, Kindling, iPhoning stream of activity, and, finally, the emerging from underground into the splendor of Grand Central Terminal.

I don’t know if I will ever experience any of that again.

I live close enough to Union Station in Hartford, Connecticut to hear the train whistle throughout the day and throughout the night. It is, along with my south- and west-facing 8th-floor balcony (the best one in the whole building), my parquet floors, and my gas stovetop, one of the main reasons I love my little condo.

But lately, the train whistles give me pause. Who, exactly, is taking the train these days? Do they want to be there? Do they have any other options? Is it scary and risky? What’s the mood like, on board? How are the staff holding up, riding in enclosed spaces with strangers day in and day out?

Every institution, every building block of every single aspect of every single one of our lives is mutating swiftly and irrevocably, and we can only stand by, powerless, observing and reflecting and mourning and grieving and wondering and, well, in my case, fervently hoping that I haven’t yet hopped my last train.

#trains, #covid-19, #mourning, #grieving, #Amtrak, #Metro-North, #GrandCentralTerminal, #NewYork

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