Monday, August 15, 2016

Fried Chicken and a Friendly Face

You know you are in the south when after settling into your seat on a north bound train the older lady sitting next to pulls out her supper of fried chicken, deviled eggs, and a jar of tea. Naturally she offered to share. I was surprised she did not have a linen napkin, but to be practical, it may have gotten wrinkled in transport.

She explained that she was on her way to Virginia Beach to meet her "girl friends" for their annual long weekend. They had made this trip for years. Given she was in her late sixties - probably seventies but had aged well - I can only imagine the stories she had to tell. Her gray tightly curled hair was cut short. Her dark complexion showed the beauty of age and her brown eyes sparkled with youth. When she finally finished her supper, she carefully wiped her hands, wrapped up all the remains and trash into her Tupperware container and stored it in her travel bag that she had under her feet.

She could tell I was having an issue with the foot rest on the back of the seat in front on me. "Oh, honey," she said with a smile,"Just touch this lever." She pointed with her toe, "And push." I thanked her.

She just smiled, "I've been riding the trains for years." She went on to talk about how this particular train named "The Palmetto", which on its way up the Eastern Seaboard ran through South Carolina at night, was notoriously late. "And don't ask me why," she said in her soft southern lilt. "Makes no sense to me. The other trains are on time, why this one never is beats me."

We talked about children and grandchildren, travel, and life in general. I took the opportunity to ask her about the train, her travel experiences, and other trains that run up and down the Eastern Seaboard. As we sped past stations in the night, she commented that usually the train would stop but there must not be any passengers scheduled to get off or board, and the train was trying to make up time.

We spoke quietly as most of the other passengers were sleeping on the dark train. Soon we both dozed off. I awoke when I heard the announcement that we were leaving Petersburg and the next station would be Richmond. 

As I stepped off the train in Richmond, I found myself on a long platform between a northbound and a southbound train that happened to be in the station at the same time. There was no sign of the station nor sign pointing the way to such. My seatmate, who was walking in front of me, turned and politely said, "We go this way." I was glad she was there to guide me because I would have most likely walked the other way and God only knows where I would have ended up.

I was surprised how long the train was as we walked the platform beside it. Finally we came to the end and could cross the tracks to find the elusive station. She smiled and as if she could read my mind and said, "If you checked your luggage, you will find it out in front of the station."

I thanked her and told her how much I enjoyed meeting her. She wished me well and walked spritely into the station. I only hope I can age like that.

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