Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak’

Just to be clear, I’m not the old lady in this scenario.

There seems to be some universal equation whereby Hannah + Long-Distance Amtrak = Old Lady Seatmate Who Succumbs To My Platonic Charms. Yes, folks, it happened again on my Amtrak from Savannah to Washington, DC. Yet just as the DC-bound train was shorter in duration than the Savannah-bound version (by a whopping 4 hours, which becomes more like 2.5 as it was running 1.5 hours late on account of the snowstorms), so too was my friendship with the second elderly woman shorter-lived. Of course, this is also related to the fact that she alighted from the train two hours after I got on.

I was quite surprised and touched by this woman’s enthusiasm for me, as I had consciously tried not to bother her after hearing her on the phone describe the woman previously sitting in my seat as irritating. (On the same call, though, she told her daughter I was ‘the cutest thing ever’ – such a shame Fyedka from Fiddler didn’t perceive me the way 80+ women do.) Despite not having talked for the last 45 minutes before her station came up, this woman (I promise I’m not being intentionally rude, I just can’t quite remember her name) expressed how glad she was to meet me, told me to enjoy “being young and healthy”, emphatically asked god to bless me, and then leant down to give me a kiss on the cheek (I had to give Juanita chocolate to get a kiss on the cheek :P).

I may not remember her name, but I can tell you that she has seven grandchildren, three of whom she calls “the three tornados” and only one of whom is male (she’s a “boy person”); her husband died three years ago but she’s doing okay and is still healthy and happy, thank the lord, who blessed her with her health; and in her phone conversation she stated that “we all want to go to heaven, but we don’t want to die” and that “when I kick off, I want to go rapidly”.

Moreover, her explanation for kissing me was to “show that we Americans love each other… and we also love Australians”. I think she may have forgotten, in the first half of that sentence, that I wasn’t American.

But here’s the kicker, friends. Many of you have heard me talk about my prior time in the U.S., and how I came to accept that Americans don’t know much about Australia beyond kangaroos and Steve Irwin. Y’all remember me saying that, right? Well, the following is, I kid you not, verbatim, word for word and other tautologies, what this woman said to me just before walking off the train:

“All I know about Australia is the kangaroos and that man, ah, the crocodile hunter.”

Reader, I laughed. To her credit, though, she added “but I’ve seen a map, and it looks bigger than that”, which I assume means big enough to include more than mammals and ocker accents, not bigger than the size of a kangaroo and a man squished together.

Not in that way, people! Get your collective mind out of the gutter.

That’s it for now. I’ve had a wonderful few days and some mind-bogglingly delicious chocolates that I shall endeavour to report on soon, but I have chocolate peanut butter ice cream calling my name from the freezer, and right now, that wins.


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A part of me was dreading the 16-hour overnight Amtrak train I just took from New York to Savannah, Georgia. Honestly, who wouldn’t have been? It’s 16 hours. On a train. Without any kind of in-system entertainment, no WiFi, and a length of time that renders avoiding the restroom impossible.

But you know what makes the time whizz-dingle-zoom by? Finding in your seatmate a wonderful person who is fun to talk to, who seems to really enjoy your company, and who not only shares her blanket with you but in the early hours of the morning notices that the blanket is a little displaced and carefully tucks it in around you again.

Now here’s the part that won’t surprise quite a few people who know me: this woman whom I connected with, and whose company is already one of the golden moments of my trip, is 83.

Juanita, although I know you won’t read this – I think you are magnificent. And I will keep my promise to send you postcards from Savannah and from Europe.

It’s funny how first impressions can be wrong, though, isn’t it? For the first hour of the trip, Juanita sat next to me with her eyes fixed straight ahead, and neither of us an interaction attempted. It was not until a fairly amusing encounter took place behind us that Juanita and I caught eyes whilst giggling, and then it was on for young and old (that’s a rather apt phrase).

I loved the way she’d give me a little nudge with her elbow everytime I made her laugh, or when she told me, with a giggle, that her family doesn’t celebrate Halloween because it’s “the devil’s day!” I loved her reaction when I showed her a photo of a shepherd’s pie I made in Australia with kangaroo, and when she misunderstood me and thought I’d said I spent $70 on one chocolate bar, not on many different bars combined. I loved sharing my chocolate and carrots with her, and hope she enjoys the bar of Medecasse 75%, made with cocoa beans from Madagascar, that I gave her when my station came up.

There are wonderful people in the world, and I’m honoured to have met another one of them.

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