It was going to be a big day for us: we were meeting our public relations firm in their office in New York to set the strategy for the next six months. It would be accurate to say that I had mixed feelings about this trip to begin with. On the one hand, I am internally screaming with excitement about making progress in my favorite channel. On the other hand, my body is saying, “For the love of God, Sara, please let’s take a break.”
My body is still catching up from landing Monday night from my Iceland trip. My body doesn’t win. Within a few hours of touching back on American soil, I have plane tickets booked to head up to New York for the day, plus a train ride down to Connecticut to see my parents for the weekend.
Only problem, though, is Mother Nature doesn’t want to make this easy on me. So she delivers us a winter storm that promises us five inches or so of snow. And she does it without much warning, as no one seemed to expect it.
So my Friday 6am flight out of Richmond gets cancelled and I am re-seated on a 10:30 am flight, which doesn’t work – like at all. My manager gets a refund while I research some alternative flights. It works out that it doesn’t work out at all since all flights are booked or in a state of cluster-fuck from the impending snow/doom. My plan to fly out that night doesn’t work for my manager, so we move the meeting to Monday.
Only trouble with that is it throws off my family visit. I can either spend $2,000 to fly home (so that’s a hell no), drive (Taurus doesn’t seem like a suitable candidate for this venture, nor does my sporadic sleeping schedule that I’ve had since Iceland), so train it is.
What am I doing? I have no idea; I’ve never taken the train before.
And now I’ll be on a train for over nine hours. Headfirst is a way to get in the water, I suppose. But from a trip that took a sharp turn south, there has been a lot of people buffering the transition and setting my expectations for my first train ride.
Train Trip Tip Set #1: How to prepare for the train
An hour and a half before the train leaves, I book my ticket and ask a ton of dumb questions. What I get from my train-savvy coworkers are the following train tips:
- Bring a blanket: the train gets cold
- Bring a scarf: you’ll want to block out the light from your eyes
- Earbuds: music will help, as will blocking out the sound
One coworker begins to tell me about how he dislikes the train, so I tune him out since this is already turning into more of an endeavor than I ever hoped for and I don’t need that negativity in my life.
After finishing my beer and pizza (dinner of non-Biggest Loser champions), I go home and pack my bags and grab an Uber.
Train Day Accomplice #2: Free water for my first train trip
My Uber driver turns out to be a really personable guy. We end up chatting about golf (there’s a cheap place in Petersburg), where my parents should retire (Oak Island in North Carolina), who to talk to about where to go in Church Hill (I now have his business card) and what events were happening this weekend (that I’d be missing). As I’m getting out, he straight Dads me and hands me a water and says, “Don’t bother paying for what people will give to you for free.”
Bless him, I didn’t want to have to buy water at surge pricing on a train.
Then I head in and pop a squat by the concession stand. Soon a light ginger guy walks up and looks oddly familiar (I think he just looks like my old roommate) and his presumable girlfriend. She pulls out tickets – paper tickets – and I have an “oh shit” moment when I realize I was probably supposed to print out my ticket.
Helpful Train Person #3: Best Train Friend Forever
I lean over and say, “Should I have printed my tickets out?” And she assures me that my PDF version in my email is sufficient. I apologize with a “Sorry, I’m a newbie on the train,” which launches her into some really useful tip-giving:
- Head as far back as you can so you can have quiet (there’s different sections and one is a quiet section).
- The WiFi will suck, so be ready for a lot of cut-outs.
- Next time: bring alcohol because you’re allowed to BYOB on trains.
- Be careful in the summer because sometimes they overheat and have to go slower.
- If you book and need to change, trains don’t charge you hundreds to do so.
- Don’t worry if we leave late: they usually make up time speeding on the rails.
As my mom called her, my BTFF (best train friend forever) was really helpful and then did the right thing and sat with her husband away from me. Nine hours is too long to commit to a stranger even if she is my BTFF.
You know what they say – it takes a village to raise a 24-year-old who is too sheltered to know what to do on public transportation.