Warm summer sunlight soaked into the pavement a few feet in front of my feet, while I happily sat in the shadows, trying to keep cool while I waited. I watched from the old brick train station as my fellow passengers milled about. I am an avid people watcher; it keeps me busy. There are so many people on this earth, with so many complexities, that your guaranteed almost infinite entertainment.
My mother sat next to me, calm and collected.
One grim-faced woman walks back and forth, obviously ready to be on her way. Her poor red rolling suitcase is getting a serious workout, being forcefully dragged about as the woman waits. Five feet away stands her polar opposite: a tall, slender woman making polite conversation with the three men surrounding her. She’s in no hurry, and even from ten feet away I can see the wrinkles around her eyes caused from years of smiles. And right next to me stands this ordinary man, who for some reason I find is a person who has a story behind him. Or maybe I’m just imagining. After all, I’m anxious to get on the train, too.
I’m on my way to Chicago, at the request of my eldest sister Kate. In Chicago, waits my eleven-year-old niece, Brigid. I hadn’t seen Brigid since she was about eight years old, so I was excited, and at the same time quite nervous, to see her.
I had arrived at the train station an hour earlier than my train was schedule to arrive, where, my mother and I were told that the train was going to be four hours later. “ Sorry, you’ll have to come back later!”, they said. Thanks. Four hours later, there I was. I was traveling alone on the train, and because I was fifteen ( a minor), Amtrak had several regulations and precautions they take about that. The train finally rumbled into the station, and I was personally led to a seat, plopped down right next to a girl who looked my age. Oh, goodness. Dear Lord, you know I’m not good at making conversation with people my age who I do not know at all. I should have just sat down and asked, “Hey, so what’s your name?”, in a peppy, I’m-so-excited-to-get-know-you voice. Instead, I cautiously set my bag down, and carefully unzipped the first compartment of the bag to get out my book. So. I had my historical fiction book in hand, and she had her phone. Alright. I’ll just read and you can text away. For five hours. This plan didn’t work out too well, because my book held me for about three minutes, and then I needed something else to do. So back to people-watching I went. A little girl clutching a teddy bear walked by, with teenager in black, black, black right behind her. The anxious lady from the station storms past. Hey, lady, you’re on the train now, chill out! The train passes through a tunnel, and suddenly day turns to night. While traveling for a few seconds in the dark I think of how unfair it was that I got the aisle seat and she’s got the window, and all she does is stare at her phone. Darn.
It takes me several more long minutes to muster up the courage to say something. Who knows what it was, but after a while I found that I could comfortably talk to this girl, and she wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought she was. I learned her name was Sammy, and she was coming home from a month in Colorado that she had spent in a tiny little town with her grandmother, and great-grandmother. Sounded miserable to me. She had been riding the train since 6 o’clock the night before, and was happy to finally have someone her age to talk to. She told me stories of her adventures in Colorado, and back home, and I soon realized that the girl I was sitting next to was a bit of a druggy, who’s idea of good clean fun was going out on the town to smoke and drink and study graffiti. I decided we would be friends none the less. After five long hours of sitting in a chair that only got less comfortable as the time went on, a train attendant came to lead me through winding mini hallways and passageways down to a room meant for the staff. There I waited and watched as the train barreled into Chicago. Two train workers who were obviously pretty high up the train worker ladder sat with me, and I listened to them talk dirt about their fellow workers.
Then finally, we were there! I was the first one off the train, and immediately picked out my tall, and extremely pregnant sister out of the crowd, waiting for me with Brigid in tow. We walked through the magnificent Union Station, marveling at the high ceilings and expansive rooms.
Yes, indeed, this trip was definitely worth it.