Wednesday, February 04, 2009

All Aboard!


Back when Robb and I lived in Baltimore, I used to work both as a theatrical scene painter, and also a decorative painter. A lot of my work was in Washington DC, and I was always thrilled to have a job near a Metro station, so I could take the train to work and avoid the misery of driving on the Washington Beltway in rush hour.

(Did you know that putting on your turn signal is a sign of weakness when you are on the Beltway, and any driver who sees you do this will speed up in order to fill the gap between cars that you are attempting to merge into? Did you know that it is not uncommon to see people filling out crossword puzzles whilst driving at highway speeds?)

Robb and I lived within walking distance of the MARC Camden Yards station, which ran a commuter train right into Union Station in DC. I loved that commute. The regulars knew each other. There was a train newsletter. The conductors were awesome. I loved seeing the jockeys exercising the horses when we went past the Laurel race track. Best of all, most of the ride was a Big Group Nap. I had a theory that there were special "rumble strips" on the rails just outside of DC which woke everyone up in time to collect themselves before they had to disembark. (Amtrak riders will, of course, know that the more correct word is "de-train," which always made me giggle.)

One winter morning, as I was walking toward the approaching train, I slipped on a patch of ice and slid feet-first right into the train.

I mean, I literally slid into the train.

My feet had slipped out from under, me, and I skidded right through the still-just-opening door of the moving train, like a baseball player sliding into a base. I made quite a spectacle of myself. If I had slipped just a few seconds earlier, I would have surely slid right off the train platform, and found myself tangled up in the wheels of the train.

I went skidding into the train, and not one single person said or did anything.

Nobody asked if I was alright. Nobody offered me a hand up. I was pretty stunned, a little hurt from the fall, and very red-faced. I was shaking when I stood up. I took my seat and thought uncharitable thoughts about my fellow commuters.

But that night, and the next morning, every person I passed at the station asked me if I was all right. Apparently, everyone was so stunned by my fall that they were struck dumb, and could do nothing at that moment but stare in disbelief.

I tell you this: Since we moved to California, I have not missed icy sidewalks. Not one bit. And I'm so thankful that Robb, with his balance issues, doesn't have to deal with them.


Gina said...

Much as I miss you guys and would love to have YOU with in walking distance again ( oh to go poke around the DC museums together again!), my experience this week tottling around on crutches on the ice-bound sidewalks had me very grateful that you WEREN'T here, too. I was actually quite annoyed, not so much at my own awkwardness, but at the complete danger that this weather and lack of sidewalk clearing imposed on others who might not be as fortunate as me (I only had to hobble around for a couple of days that way). And it's going to feel like something near zero degrees tomorrow with the wind chill! Woo hoo! Stay there.

How was your scan? When do you get the results? I actually wouldn't be surprised if they discovered repeated wall paper patterns on the cross sections of your frontal lobe! Gorgeous, jaw-dropping, meticulous, mond-boggling work, Lisa...I hope that everything turns out to be wonderful and *just* the result of overwork and brain strain and that you have a change to refuel and renew before going at it all again. No work, no matter how beautiful, is worth your health.

Love you both,


gollygee said...

Wow. What a crazy experience! I bet you felt better when all the commuters in the evening asked if you were okay (though it was probably a little embarassing I'm sure!). Ice sidewalks suck. For me it's the worst in the springtime, when you THINK the ice, and I walk outside all confident only to fall flat on my ass. :D

Anonymous said...

Good ice story.

If you guys were here now you could help us chip the car out of the block of ice otherwide known as the driveway. The roads and sidewalks all have that gritty, chalky color from the frequent applications of snowmelt/salt/chemical blue stuff that is supposed to melt the ice and snow. It makes it hard on all the senior citizens (seasoned citizens as I call 'em) when they try to be active in the more inhospitable months of the year.

My 92 year old next door neighbor, who is still going very strong (ex- Pennsylvania Dutch) actually relishes the cold weather, and hobbles outside on her walker to chip out her car. She ALWAYS waits till she sees our window blinds go up in the morning and then she does this, I think in order to know we are awake, so we can witness her attempt her de-icing ballet, which send Gary and me outside with our scrapers to help her. She's a crafty one, I'll admit. Hope we have that refined a collection of survival skills when (and if ) we get to be 92 years old. Its a hoot to see her chop firewood in the fall with an ax in one hand and her walker in the other. At times like that, we wisely give her a wide berth.

But we like her and so we mostly help out. And even if we didnt like her (which would be hard to do) we need good neighbors around. There are quite a few empty McMansions around here in former fields, also now empty of any space for future feeding potential. The empty fields that ARE still here are barren, and very beautiful. The stark, dark trees and the former rows of cornstalk stumps make beautiful abstract patterns in the snow and ice.

This is indeed when we engage in California dreamin', and think about temperatures that get over 10 degrees. Its times like now we love the kitties sleeping under the covers with us at night!


Syndee said...

Enjoyed the train memoir. You really have a knack for painting a picture in the mind of your readers. I find myself laughing out loud as I read. I was glad to find that your fellow commuters really did care-even though they were too stunned to react at once.

Long Island is frozen--I woke up to single digit degrees this morning. Brrrrrr! I envy your weather right now.

I hope the results from your brain scan come back clear. The waiting for results is the most difficult part of any illness. As much as you try not to focus on the 'what the &$%# is wrong with me', it still seeps in throughout the day (and night). Hang in there.

Becky said...

That's a crazy story, wow. I feel the affection you felt for my fellow bus-riders; there are several with whom I've become real-life friends.

I cringe, thinking about icy sidewalks.. the NY blizzard of 78 was nuts.. I was an AZ native, completely out of my teenaged element, and here I was, living in NY.. I broke my tailbone on an icy sidewalk that winter. And, one year later almost to the day, I did it again.

Kristen said...

The MARC calls at Camden Yards? I always had to go up to Baltimore Penn to get a ride into DC. Maybe I have bad timing.

Brooklyn has a crack-glaze of ice right now too--I wear my big boots and pick around the patches when I can. It never even reached 32 today, and with the wind gusts around the buildings...yeek. I'm glad you and Robb are in the warm! How's the shop heat keeping up?


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