We left D.C. at 7:30 PM, meaning we would not see daylight until Savannah, Georgia. It came with the first real sun we had seen in days; a nice way to begin December. Extra cars, not in the best condition, had been ordered up to meet holiday traffic, and we had eight hundred people on our train, full occupancy, half the usual number of toilets, and a heating system that ran full blast with no way to turn it down. Think cattle car -- Amtrak was doing its best with what it had, but there were frayed nerves in evidence.
I was, for whatever reason, in a good mood myself, and found myself surrounded by elder women whose resilience -- in pain much of their lives, on oxygen, coming home from burying a daughter exactly my age -- I was kept busy changing bottles, listening to amazing stories, being prompted to tell such as I would of my own. I made a particular friend in my seatmate, who was from Jamaica but had lived many years in Connecticut, and en route to Miami to see a daughter. A traveling great-granddaughter was a helper to one of these women, and I rewarded her considerable and modest helpfulness by lending her a headset for her movie, which she solemnly returned to me afterward.
A heart attack in the next car greeted us with the dawn, and a young passenger with EMT training was rounded up to intervene. The train then stopped at a crossing in a remote section of Georgia near the Sea Islands to offload the unlucky couple for a hospital stay. The wife was packed away in the back of the ambulance, the husband shook hands with the conductor and thanked everyone, and they were on their way and we on ours.
This put us a half hour behind, but, though there had been disgruntled people aboard, up to this point, we all seemed rather satisfied with out lot now. We do seem to know how to adjust our expectations when faced with a sample of reality.
Though my stop was in the middle of nowhere, the attendants knew to round me up and deposit me at the right time and the right place, and I walked up to my poor, dear, frighteningly skinny mom -- and her best friend who drove her to the station -- and said "Hi."
Blogista's note: we may be doing some "best of Stony Re-Run" posts for awhile. I'm around -- but it's not that I'm going to be busy -- I'm just not going to want to make this blog my whineboard. I trust everyone -- especially those who have been through such times -- will understand.