Planes, Trains, and Funyun Breath

Chimes Opinions Article
Zachary Newcott

Previously the closest experience I had to riding a real train had only really arrived last Christmas in the form of me placing my niece’s pet guinea pig on my dad’s miniature train as I joyfully sang the theme song from Indiana Jones while it rode through the tracks frozen in fear. The experience was only benefited by imagining it was wearing a little hat and had a whip. Now it seems the tables have turned. This past weekend I was treated a ride up to Portland, Oregon by means of Amtrak, and in the process I can say I have had my comeuppance served in full.

Beth came along for the ride and after seeing the apocalyptic film The Road just
earlier that week I decided it was necessary that I collected necessary supplies for the trip. All the same, I neglected to realize that although Superman is comparatively faster than a speeding train, so are cars, airplanes, horses, and at times, even humans walking at a brisk pace. We rode the rails over night and into the afternoon.
Unfortunately my supplies only included a family-sized bag of Funyuns and two
Lunchables, which we had to ration out over the course of nineteen hours.

I also forgot toothpaste.

There is something to be said for the unexpected beauty to be found in the
morning when one wakes up at their seat to see mountains out their window covered
in a blanket of snow. Then again, the experience is a bit weakened considering that
one wakes up every ten minutes due to the constant rumblings of the tracks and the
guy a few seats ahead whose laugh is composed entirely of a loud hacking noise.
Which brings me to an interesting conclusion: seats were never meant to be
slept in. Beds were. This is one of those things that history should have taught us, yet sadly hasn’t completely sunk in. I try again and again, and usually I can only seem to doze off if I practically break my spine in half, wrap my head in my jacket to keep it from freezing off against the air vent, and wedge my legs somewhere between the seats ahead of me. Here, in this surreal position, I am capable of at least waking up an hour or two later, not necessarily feeling refreshed or able to recognize that I have slept, but at least capable of knowing that I have woken up from something. Possibly just from passing out due to spoilt Lunchable meat.

Luckily, when sleep doesn’t come, there are plenty of friendly folks on the rails
who are eager to share their stories. These hardworking folks come from all walks of
life and carry with them literal garbage bags filled with experiences. I spent a few
hours of my first night listening to two strangers up ahead of me go head-to-head as
they both competed each other to share their stories about who knew someone else
who had a worse case of cancer. It could be said the woman with the loudest voice
had come out on top, but in the end I suppose there were no winners.

I got caught listening in on one conversation, and then found myself discussing
role-playing games with a bearded stranger for three hours. Not wanting to insult the
man with my disinterest, yet still grasping for something to reference other than World of Warcraft, the stranger’s station mercifully arrived just in time before we began discussing smelting a third time. Beth meanwhile was apprehended by an old man
with bright suspenders and a half-empty bag filled with what she suspected to be
nothing but underwear.

On any journey the greatest destination comes with the appreciation of your
companion. The trip was long, and although we were at times in a state of
desperation, I can honestly say that there is no one I would rather have shared an
entire bag of Funyuns with than the one who I came onboard with. As we both woke up
from our uncomfortable naps and found ourselves in Portland we knew we had
gained something that we would always share. Funyun breath.


Justin Ericson said...

I'm just about to post a blog here shortly about listening to the slumberly cities......you know, like how you take walks late LATE at night or EARLY in the morning, when the "noise" we always encounter comes to a death.....a stop....a recharge, it's beautiful. Nature is wonderful to look at!

オテモヤン said...


Zack Newcott said...

I don't think I understand either of the above comments, yet I do appreciate that they exist.