When I moved to Toronto, one of the first orders of business was to sell my faithful little Pontiac Pursuit (which my grandparents named The Hot Pursuit, as I drove it while chasing down stories – “Boy scouts are planting trees on a farm!? What a scoop! I’ll get to the bottom of this!”).
Having a car in the city just seemed more like a burden than a convenience (good luck finding parking ever), and I certainly didn’t need the added expense.
As such, usually the only way for me to leave the city is by bus or train (or rental car, I suppose, but I far prefer the more environmentally friendly option of public transit). And, since I get ridiculously terrible motion sickness on buses, one luxury I am always happy to pay a little more for is Via Rail.
While it’s a bit of a coin toss whether or not your train will depart or arrive on time, overall, I really do love taking the train.
I love that I can read or chat or just stare out the window at the beautiful countryside as I’m whizzed along to my destination. And I really love being gently rocked to sleep as it trundles along the tracks.
And, if the other passengers decide to behave impolitely and make a move for my last nerve, as happens on occasion, there’s always the bonus luxury option of buying a lovely little juice box of wine from the bar cart and just easing into a nice mellow buzz.
A word to the wise though, do not be the obnoxiously drunk guy on the train, singing “Mockingbird” repeatedly and yelling “BAM!” at irregular intervals.
Nobody likes that guy.
When all goes smoothly, I adore train travel. I love hopping on, losing myself in a book, taking a nap or chatting with the lovely old woman sitting next to me. There’s something romantic and old-fashioned about the train, something soothing about watching the rolling hills and brilliantly coloured trees this time of year whir by, while the train gently rocks you on your way.
Of course, when things go awry it can be hell on wheels, bringing what might, in other circumstances be minor behaviour or personal flaws of your co-passengers into hideously sharp relief.
This was never more evident than on a recent trip home. To be fair, I have actually developed a fair amount of patience and even fondness for the quirks and foibles of my fellow travellers, but after first waiting in line for over an hour for our delayed train, and then being trapped on a moving escalator when people didn’t get out of the way of the top of it quickly enough, and people just kept getting on like some kind of nightmare, my patience was wearing thin.
And so, rather than shaking inexplicably peacefully sleeping Jordan awake to point out all of the annoying things that were going on around us, I compiled the following list of helpful train etiquette tips:
1. Raw carrots are not train food.
No. They are not. In fact, nothing crunchy or crinkly or slurpy should be eaten on a train. If this is unavoidable, then for the love of all that is good, eat ’em quickly and try to tone down the extreme(ly loud) gusto you might usually eat with.
2. If you are travelling alone, remember, you’re not ACTUALLY alone so don’t keep your bags on the seat next to you. You paid for one seat and it is a rare day indeed that they are not all needed for other passengers. Don’t make someone ask you to move them. You look like a jerk.
3. Headphones. Wear them. No, not around your neck dear, in your pretty little ears. And before you put them in your ears, turn on your movie or music and do a quick check to see if they are leaking horrible tinny music for everyone else on the train to be subjected to.
4. Turn off your cell phone alerts. And if you need to chat on your phone, imagine the person you’re talking to is right beside you. Not on the moon. Or, if you just can’t help but speak as if you’ve just been to a week-long metal festival, at least come up with something interesting for me to unwillingly eavesdrop on.
5. Relax. Have some wine. I’m damn sure going to. But try to avoid turning into the guy who drunkenly sings “We’re on the night traiiiiinnnn. BAM!!!” at regular intervals on a four-hour trip. Remember, it’s all fun and games until someone throws up.
Unfortunately (fortunately) Jordan woke up before I could distribute these tidbits of advice for our fellow passengers’ edification and magically dissolved my irritation with an episode of Human Planet. Which brings me to my final piece of advice:
6. When trapped on a train with a herd of people who seem hell-bent on doing everything they can to work your last tiny nerve, remember that there are people in the world right now whose only means of keeping their families and villages alive is to take a rickety boat out onto the ocean every few months, hurl their near-naked bodies at a WHALE and try to kill it with a spear.
Because people are seriously, astoundingly amazing.
And the train’s not so bad.