As told by Jack Flitton …
It was a cold Las Vegas evening in early 2009 and my so-called “father” suggested I return to Seattle to assist with moving procedures. Never one to turn down excitement and adventure (and a chance to drive a moving truck) I leaped at the idea.
I was a boy, then, filled with wonder and merriment. I had no inclination to suspect the sinister plan that was about to unfold. A quick check of airline prices showed that it would cost just under $200 to fly back immediately. This, however, was not where fate would bring me. A certain unnamed man suggested I try riding the train.
“It will be a new experience” he teased, knowing full well my curious, naive nature.
It was at that moment, though I did not know at the time, that I would become a man.
For around $150 a train ticket was purchased. It would leave from Kingman, Arizona, and the train ride would drop me off safely at my destination. What fun, I foolishly thought.
After many hours driving to the train station, my father left me in the dead of night to board a steel hell-crate and leave childhood behind.
I was assured there would be dining options on board, so I took little as far as rations went and departed on a journey that will haunt me until the cold grip of death relieves me from my rotting memories.
Once I got on, I quickly found my seat. The train was relatively empty, but they insisted I not change places with the lack of humans taking up nothing around me. I tried to sleep only to discover that train noises are constant and deafening. Not one to fret over such things, I employed the use of my iPod and attempted in vain to drown out the whir of engines and wheels.
I did not sleep long. The train pulled into either San Francisco or Los Angeles the following morning. I do not recall the exact location of my only chance to disembark before continuing. I like to think it was the City of Angels, because the remainder of my journey was daunting to say the least. After shoving through the bustling station, I boarded the second train, bound to take me north.
I once again found my seat and found soon that I would have ever so slightly more freedom aboard this mechanical beast. The first day was rather pleasant, though wearing. I scurried from car to car, making an effort to find a nook somewhere that people would not bother me in. I finally found such a place and settled in for the long haul. I was gifted with a chair and small table and I even had a window to enjoy the view of a never ending ocean. I read and dozed for what seemed like hours, though it was actually only minutes.
After some time I became hungry, as is custom, and I sought nourishment. They only available food was a small trolley that carried hot dogs and chips.
Are you aware of hot dogs?
I was under the impression they are common place. Evidently, the train was misinformed of this. The hot dog alone was $6, and it was a pitiful tube of animal flesh to boot. As a growing lad, one would not suffice and I was indeed about to lose a large portion of my already scarce pocket money. I shambled, defeated, back to my humble post. I ate in silence.
It was just past noon and we were still in California. The rest of my evening was much the same as my day. That night I again suffered the fate of poor rest and would be delightfully cranky for the second day of train living. If there was anything worthy of mention during the second day, I would regale you with the details, however train life is exhausting and tedious.
We can skip to later that evening. The train had finally pulled through into familiar territory; I was close. It was delightful to see the forests of my former home state. There was still much distance to be covered, though, and so my moment of elation was cut short by the dread of the hours I had to spend. As all desperate men do I began to plea for a way out.
I then thought of a brilliant plan!
I would call my ride from my final destination and ask them to pick me up at a nearer stop. After much convincing my prayers were answered. I eagerly awaited to disembark my foul mobile prison and upon arriving I kissed the earth in jubilee. We drove to where we were uprooting in a mere 30 minutes, one third of the time the train would have taken to reach my original stop.
And that is the reason I hate America’s railways.