Family and friends often ask me what it’s like to take the train to and from Rochester for 12 hours. I usually claim that it’s not bad, forgetting what it’s really like until I’m onboard. My latest Amtrak journey was from home to Rochester, and I knew there was going to be trouble when they announced that it was a sold-out trip, which equates lack of sleep and privacy for solo travelers like me – I have to be seated next to a stranger for 12 hours in an painful seat slightly larger than a folding chair and just as comfortable.I boarded early to ensure I got a seat with an outlet. The Rochester car was made before electricity – no outlets. I moved forward to try my luck in other cars, but an Amtrak attendant demanding that I return to my car foiled my plans for evil laptop charging. I was angry and upset – didn’t they know I had a paper due in a few short hours? And how was I going to watch my “Family Guy” DVDs?I settled down in the lounge car, where there is access to electric current and several lounge car addicts. These people sit in the lounge car all night, loving the romantic thrill of meeting strangers on a train or something like that. After a good six hours in the lounge car, I grew tired of listening to one lounge rat recount her tale of her near death by old people and retired to my cabin, which is a fancy way to say I made it back to my seat without falling on someone or getting shut in a door.I met my cuddle buddy for the evening, sprawled over both seats like a hobo on a park bench hugging the pillow I personally requested from the Amtrak attendant. After a few taps he woke up and moved over. I put on my noise-blocking headphones, covered my head with my coat and tried to get some sleep. At around 4:45 a.m., I was jerked awake by a thief trying to steal my coat.After a mild heart attack, I came face to face with the culprit, a life-sized kewpie doll – those ugly dolls from the 1950s that have pointy heads. The kid must have been only two feet tall, yet had the massive strength to yank my shades off. He giggled and his mom, seated behind me calmly said, “Honey, don’t do that – she’s sleeping.” I wanted to tell her that I was sleeping and that her kid had the head of a kewpie doll, but before I could mutter a word, the kid was gone.I returned to my efforts for a decent nap, when I was jolted back to the burnt sienna colored train car by ear-piercing screams coming from none other than the kewpie kid. The screaming stopped for a bit, then picked up again. “Want to go to the lounge car, sweetie?” the mom asked – loudly enough for the whole car to hear. She’s talking about the smoking car. It all became clear to me then – the kid had not had a second-hand smoke break in hours! His lungs must be failing. The screaming continued, and I gave up on sleep and ventured to the immaculate bathroom facilities which, even with notices begging patrons to flush before leaving, is a place I can only stay for 60 seconds maximum. As I stepped back out into the aisle, a small figure 30 feet down the car was staring me down, bringing back nightmares I had as a kid after watching the “Chuckie” movies – it was none other than my latest stalker. He mirrored me step for step until he took off at full speed toward me, stopping inches before crashing into me and clutched onto my leg. I broke free from the evil kewpie doll and rushed back to my seat. The kid screamed again – it seemed I had upset it. The mother then leaned over the seat and asked me if her daughter Serendipity Emily Nicole could sit in my lap for a while. Fueled by anger, I pulled out my laptop and answered, “I would, but I have to write something for my school newspaper.”Borchardt can be reached email@example.com.
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