Riding the Train
When I boarded the northbound train in Brattleboro on Friday, gas was approaching $5/gallon, and my ticket cost less than making the 300-mile round-trip in my Prius. When I returned home on Sunday, gas had hit the five-dollar mark. If I calculated the cost of purchasing, registering, insuring and maintaining the car, the train was an absolute bargain. It was also a pleasure.
A Pleasant Journey
After boarding, I settled into a seat the size of a Barcalounger, which would have been comfortable even if a passenger occupied the seat beside me. Comfortable as it was, my seat lacked a seatbelt as well attendants exhorting me to buckle up. There was no “fasten seatbelt” sign, no one reminding me it’s a federal crime to tamper with the smoke detectors in the lavatory, no instructions on how to negotiate an oxygen mask or life vest, no expectation that the train would crash and we’d all die. It was all very pleasant.
I didn’t just save money by taking the train; I also gained time. For two and a half hours, I lost myself in The Lincoln Highway, a wonderful novel by Amor Towles. While I was traveling north by train in reality, I was also transported east imaginatively, traveling by boxcar with Emmett and Billy Watson. It’s 1954, and the Watson brothers are trying to drive to California, but Duchess and Woolly, Emmett’s friends on the lam, have complicated the boys’ journey. It’s quite a yarn. Every once in a while, I had to take a break from the story and stare out the window at the lush Vermont landscape passing by.
The train ride wasn’t perfect. The Vermonter, as this route is called, travels from Washington, D.C. to St. Albans. Nearing the end of its run, the restroom I used needed some attention. The floor was so sticky, I thought I’d step out of my shoes. But there was a functioning toilet and still plenty of TP. Low expectations make for pleasant surprises.
By now . . .
If only we’d heeded the writing on the wall and invested in public transportation after the oil embargo in 1973, we’d have great train service between cities and adequate bus service in rural areas by now. Maybe now, with the soaring price of gasoline, we’ll have the will to invest in such alternatives to driving.