Last week I took the VIA train (Canada's national passenger service) on a four-hour trip from my own city to Windsor, Ontario. I honestly can't remember ever taking a whole train ride by myself--I've done buses and airplanes, but we don't ride the train that often. An economy ticket is not that expensive, though, if the train is going where you're going at the right time. This one, even with one change in the middle, was pretty close and the timing was right, so that's what I did.
Some snippets from the day's travels:
1) Although I live in a good-sized city, our railway station is not very big, and at certain times of the day there isn't even a human being at the ticket window. I got to the station around noon, sat down to wait, and noticed a woman and her teenage son looking around with confusion. She came over and asked me something I didn't quite get the first time, so she repeated her question: was this the whole station? Was she missing something? It turns out they were from London (the London in England, not London, Ontario), where train stations are somewhat bigger and busier than our little shoebox. The two of them were on their way to Toronto, where the train station is not only much bigger, but was also a big mess of construction the last time I saw it; I hope that made her feel more at home.
2) For part of the trip, the two VIA employees were sitting across from me, doing paperwork and having a chat about the good old days. Just before we pulled into London (London, Ontario, this time), they started making frantic phone calls to people at the other end. We were ten or fifteen minutes behind schedule, and it looked like the train that fourteen of us planned to connect to was not going to wait for us. The conversation went something like: What do you mean, not going to wait? That's it, not going to wait. But it's only ten minutes. That's right, it's ten minutes, and they're not going to wait. What are we going to do, put them into taxis? (My stomach just about hit my shoes.) Okay, taxis, but how much is that going to cost? Well, we're going to have to do it anyway.
At that point I stuck my head around the corner and asked the person who wasn't on the phone, "Is there anything we should be concerned about?" She said "no, no, everything's fine." Um-hm.
About five minutes before pulling in, they made an announcement that all fourteen connecting passengers should gather in the parking lot at the London station, and they would put us into taxis for the last half of the trip.
About one minute before pulling in, they got another phone call. The people at London had changed their minds, and the train was waiting, if we could hurry ourselves off and sprint up the platform to the car. I would have sprinted, hopped or anything else they wanted at that point, rather than be stuffed into a taxi.
So that worked out.
3) It's always nice to see friends waiting at the other end.
I'll post more about the trip later.