Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Travel Studies Seminar: Wrong Track

Wrong Train

Journal Entry:
March 27, 2007
I got on the wrong train.

Today I flew into Newark, which has a train station right in the airport. The train that would take me to my grandkids was leaving at 6:04 p.m, so I waited on the platform until a train pulled in at 6:03. A sign lit up with my destination front and center, and several other passengers waiting for the same train hopped on board with me.

NJ Transit

It was crowded and I shoved my suitcase through the doors and stood jammed in the aisle with a lot of tired people on their way home. About 20 minutes later the conductor came through punching tickets and informed me I was going the wrong way.

Apparently the train just ahead of mine was running late, and so was my train, so the train I was on was the one that should have departed at 5:54 p.m. "Don't worry. This happens to lots of people everyday on this train," he said. (Maybe there's a problem here?) When I asked about the sign at the station he said, "The signs don't mean anything. They're usually wrong." Now what? "You'll have to get off in two stops, cross the tracks, get on the train to Rayburn, cross the tracks and get on your train."

The conductor gave me a nod when we reached the right stop and I got off. There were 8 other people who got off, too, having made the same mistake. We were suddenly fellow wanderers, standing on a platform with no station, no train personnel, and no direction. It was interesting to see how quickly we bonded.

All of us had folks that needed to be notified. Immediately we were sharing cell phones and stories of the flights we'd just arrived on, where we were coming from and where we were expected. One young man had come from Paris to interview at a university. He spoke very little English. There were 2 sisters from Singapore, one of whom spoke English and French, and she became the translator. Another woman was originally from England, but had flown from Perth after visiting family. A wedding photographer was returning home after attending a posh society wedding in Chicago, which we heard all about.

Wrong Station

We waited almost 45 minutes and finally our first train came in. When we got off at Rayburn 30 minutes later, we found the station completely locked up. It was dark and we all wheeled our bags down the stairs, across the street, and back up to another track. There were some creepy looking people hovering around and we all commented that we felt safer because we were together.

While we waited I talked to a man who had just flown in from Toronto. He teaches Greek and Latin at a boys prep school. He had spoken recently at a conference on the Classics in Montreal. It all seemed pretty out of my league. He mentioned that he was originally from the west, had done undergraduate work in California and Montana, and had lived in several states. As we continued talking he referred to Judge Memorial High School. I commented that we have a high school in SLC with the same name. It turned out to be his high school! He grew up on Panorama Way, the street next to mine! He was several years younger than I am, but we knew some of the same families in the area. What a small world.

Suddenly a young girl (about 18) discovered she had left her purse on one of the trains. Extremely upset by the whole experience anyway, this was the crowning blow and she was close to tears. One of the Singapore women quickly put an arm around her, and the other found the number of the police on a poster. She called and reported the loss, and told the girl how to follow up.

The Perth lady needed to find a restroom and the photographer said she'd go along so she wouldn't be alone. The Panorama guy volunteered to walk with them and stand outside because he was concerned about the fearsome dudes in the hoodies.

"Good luck."

Finally our train arrived and we rode to our different stops. As each person got off, there were hugs and handshakes. One woman even offered to drive another woman to her final destination, because her connecting train had already left. We didn't exchange names, but I think we'll remember each other. We'll be part of each other's stories.

Where am I?

When we're on the wrong track there are always people who can help us find our way. When we've lost something precious there are people who can comfort us. There are people standing guard, watching out for us, who understand us; sometimes we don't even know their names. We are fellow wanderers, and there's an instinct we have to help each other. I think when it comes down to it, most of us are coming from the same place.

Happy Trails!

Homework: Do any or all or be inspired.

~Have you ever been lost? How did you get found? Write about a travel experience (or a life experience) where you needed help finding your way back. Prompt: "I didn't realize I was lost until______."

~Remember a time you felt a connection to a stranger in a strange place. Start a paragraph with this sentence: "I never found out his name, but I won't forget how__________."

~Read a journal entry you wrote a few years ago. Let your heart visit that place and time, remember what you learned, and realize how far you've come since then.

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


Christie said...

That is such a fantastic story. I love it.

Ginger said...

I have such hope for the world, when I read stories such as this. Do we really need to be such strangers? Thank you for this lovely piece.

I wrote about being lost today for the assignment. http://alittleginger.blogspot.com/2009/09/no-longer-in-dark-and-lost.html

Tiffany said...

I love, love, loved this post. You never cease to inspire me! I'm turning out to be such a poor student, but I'm still attending class, I hope you know!

Alyssa said...

New Jersey - especially its transit system - can be so confusing. But any time I have frustrating travel experiences I try to remind myself they make much better stories than the times you get on the correct train and just get to your destination as planned.

kenju said...

What a great story!! I haven't had anything like that happen to me, and more's the pity, I think. It is so nice when you can connect with strangers.

audrey said...

Thank you! This writing thing is slowly getting easier.


Diane said...

This brought back some fun family memories.
wk 5 assign 2

dalene said...

you are giving me the traveling bug.

and now, in completely unrelated news, my homework is done.

diane said...

I really love this story.

crissy // mama boss said...

What an incredible experience. (Aside from the whole wrong train thing...) Here's my story.

Allison said...

What a wonderful story. I loved that everyone had diverse backgrounds and literally came from everywhere, yet found common ground to help each other out.


KJ said...


Mrs. O said...

This story is so wonderfully written and full of many layers. I just loved it and it came at a perfect time for me. I hope things are much improved for you and your husband.

My take

~j. said...

I'm back! (I know I'm behind -- recovering from surgery, but I'm writing!)

Study in UK said...

You have some interesting thoughts! Perhaps we should contemplate about attempting this myself.

Anonymous said...

Truly the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly.