STORIES FROM SEAT LEVEL
arthur nead illustration
Like the flashing scenery outside, you sit long enough in any form of long-distance transportation and many life moments pass by:
After graduating from high school, a buddy of mine and I took a trip to Los Angeles in the back of a Greyhound bus. I will always remember the cowboy who got on in Phoenix. He sat behind us, and for the rest of the trip he excitedly told anyone who would listen that he and his wife were reuniting. She was going to meet him in Los Angeles and they were going to try again. Over and over we heard the story with the excitement building as the bus neared the terminal.
I last saw the man as we were leaving the station. He was sitting on a waiting area chair, his head was hanging down showing the pained look of someone who had been bucked into a freefall. There had been no one to meet him. This cowboy would still be riding alone.
Then there was, many years go, the train trip from Chicago on the City of New Orleans. We were riding coach where an elderly woman with gaunt skin and her gray hair in a bun sat behind us. She was going to Effingham in southern Illinois, but since her kids couldn’t pick her up until two days later, and since she had plenty spare time, she would take the ride down to New Orleans. The lady had never been there before, so her plan, as she repeated many times during the 800-mile ride, was to take advantage of the six-hour layover, go to a nearby restaurant and have “a nice salad and an iced tea.”
Good morning America, how are you?
From Memphis, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; and into Louisiana, the salad and tea were heralded. Unfortunately, south of Jackson a freight train had broken down. The City of New Orleans was diverted to sidetracks, an act that substantially delayed movement so that it finally arrived in New Orleans just as the northbound train was leaving.
I last saw the lady being hurried by a conductor to the departing train, having had neither food nor drink nor time to see New Orleans. I hoped that the salads were nice and the tea sweet in Effingham.
Then there was a recent flight from Washingon, D.C. Two couples sat in back. One of the women was especially loud, so I couldn’t help but hear that they were from the river parishes. The lady explained to a passenger that they were returning from a tour of New England. “It was so beautiful,” she said, “We went through Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island and Cincinnati.”
“Cincinnati!” I thought to myself.
Then the woman caught herself. “I mean Cinncinnaticus.” There were still confused stares. She paused again: “I mean Connecticut.”
Give the woman credit though; at least she knew to take the plane to Louisiana rather than to Louisville.