Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tickets please!

Not having a drivers license, I am used to travel by train and bus.
Sometimes taking the train can be pretty convenient when traveling to bigger cities, but it can also be a huge pain when you miss connections after a train or bus is late.
Over the years I learned to not worry too much because usually 'something' happens.
A train is hit by lightning, a technical problem or sometimes a train that is just too late. It all happens here, you get used to it and when it happens you better relax. Eventually you will get there. Unless you have a plane to catch, than it does get a bit nerve wrecking.

Besides that, traveling by train is pretty easy, the train stations are open and after getting a ticket at the machine for any place you like, you jump into a train that is standing there with open doors, hoping you picked the right one.
The station is a noisy place, you hear whistles, trains coming in and leaving and the bus station that is always close,you smell coffee, French fries and now and than you get a whiff of the place the homeless people use to relieve themselves or that typical smell of a joint that has been lighted after the stuff to built one was just bought somewhere around a corner.
By the time you find a place to sit,when it isn't too busy, you hope you aren't driving backwards. And that you get a spot for just two people, otherwise you may risk an awkward feet dance with your neighbor and all his or her bags,who is sitting opposite of you. This can be a challenge when you have two dogs with you.

Yeah, the joy of traveling with the Dutch NS.
Still, I do like it, train stations are lively places and I could spend hours just watching the people.

And than Jack decided we would take the Amtrak to Philadelphia...
Talk about culture shock.

First of all, it was a good thing that Jack knew where it was, since there were no huge roadsigns showing the way to the station. (In the Netherlands train stations have their own sign which will show you the way through every city towards the station) But we found it without too much trouble.
And yeah, it looked like a train station. But where were all the people?
It was very quiet and when we entered the big hall where they sold the tickets, I felt the need to start whispering. So clean, so empty, so much open space. The station in Harrisburg is a nice building on the inside though. For some reason I felt like stepping back in time and I wouldn't have been surprised if a steam loc
would have come through, blowing its whistle.

Getting tickets took quite some time, we had to wait in line and a real person helped us out. Turned out I had had the right idea by carrying my passport that day.
Every ticket was by name and we had to show ID. That already gave me the giggles.
You can imagine that it took a little before we had our tickets.
You better not arrive late at these stations, you will, for sure miss your train.
But after getting our tickets, we could go to the waiting room.
I do have to say, that is a lot warmer that sitting on a cold bench on the Dutch platforms.
But again, I never dreamed of someone opening up a door, allowing people to walk down the stairs towards the waiting train.
Geesh, I felt like the Queen herself.
The train in itself was really nice, comfortable seats and from what I could see around me, all modern possibilities provided.
And soooooooooo clean, sigh, really clean.
After our entree, we found a good spot to sit and the train left after our tickets were checked and a sign was put above our seats that we were aboard and sitting where we sat.
And still, I felt the need to lower my voice and keep our conversation as soft as possible.
Since we had to get up early for our day in the city I choose to look outside, enjoy the views and yes, sit close to Jack.
The part of the US we drove through is beautiful, so looking outside is no punishment.

By the time we came close to Philadelphia, our energy supply seemed to have a little problem.Our neighbor had a few problems with his laptop.
And than suddenly the lights turned down and the train slowed down.

Now, you expect this in a Dutch train, but not here.
But, immediately we were told there was a problem with our power, they had to look into it, wouldn't take long.
Everywhere in the train you heard people whisper and the whisper got louder.
LOL, finally I got the feeling I could talk normally.
Until the next message came. We were told there had been an explosion in one of the power houses.
I had something like, yeah right, they must have known I am in the train, since I am so used to that kind of stuff.

Just forgot that I was in the US...
Forgot the fear that is so all around.

I remembered when suddenly after that message almost everyone in the train got his or her cellphone and called home.
I think I heard the word a bit too often that moment. It showed me how deep the fear is.
Suddenly the fact that I had to show ID to get a ticket made sense to me.

Luckily it turned out to be a minor problem, faster than expected we could drive on and we reached Philadelphia only about 10 to 15 minutes later.
Which would be a minor delay in the Netherlands.
But even though I would like to laugh it off as Americans being Americans.
I won't, for some reason I suddenly got a bit of an idea of what happens when a country lives under a threat.

I will make fun of things in the future, when I think they overact.
But I do realize that there is a reason for it.
A good one.

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