by Beth Boswell Jacks
I’m basically bland, mild as milk, although I do believe we all need a little carbonation in our lives. Normally, I float along, happy and content, welcoming the infrequent adventure.
I only get nervous if I think I’m going to die.
Frightening events are learning experiences though, which is why I must tell about a grim night on a recent girls’ trip.
This trip was to celebrate the eighth birthday of granddaughter Beth Dowdy with high tea and theatre at the American Girl emporium in Chicago. Also along were Beth’s mother (our daughter Bethany) and Beth’s other grandmother, Susan.
Of course, the best-laid plans often take cruel turns, as we heard, “Sorry, ladies. Due to bad weather, your flight has been cancelled.”
We booked two Sleepettes – that’s cutesy talk for teensy weensy cubbies. No kidding. I researched the dimensions. Each cubicle was 3 ½ feet wide and 6 feet long. It was tight, baby, with our carry-on bags and books, purses, bottled water, American Girl dolls and color books. Bethany and Beth were in one cubbie; Susan and I were in the other.
After a nice dinner in the dining car, we settled in our Sleepettes to read and chat till we became sleepy enough to brave the “beds.”
Remember those Burma Shave signs along the road decades ago? One went like this: “Trains don’t wander/ All over the map / For no one sits/ In the engineer’s lap.”
Well, ixnay. We were traveling through strong winds, and there was so much rocking and rolling, clicking and clacking, bumping and shaking, going on that Susan put her book down and remarked, “Whoopeee! If this were a plane I’d be hysterical.”
Eventually Sus and I decided to retire for the night. Our porter, Clyde, disappeared, so we, ourselves, pulled the bunk down from the ceiling in our little cell (bed #1) and shoved the two seats together for the lower berth (bed #2).
The lower berth had nice, firm cushions, not perfect but adequate for lounging. The upper bunk, really nothing more than a skinny platform, was a foot narrower with a pad that was all of two inches thick.
Hubby G-Man accuses me of having, to a fault, the inclination to “nice myself to death.” Now I know the man speaks the truth because I actually volunteered to sleep on the platform.
What was I thinking?
Susan quickly took me up on the offer. She is also nice, but she has good sense.
I dozed maybe an hour and a half. Switching on my wee light, I read for part of the night but mostly just stared at the ceiling, four inches above my nose, and worried about my aching back, an equally uncomfortable bladder, and mounting claustrophobia. I could hardly move, and there was no escape.
Several times, I clung to the straps and peered over the side of the bunk. Each time, Susan was sound asleep. Had I attempted to descend without waking her, I’d have surely stepped in her face. This would start the trip off on the wrong foot, literally.
Nice Beth prevailed; I had to tough it out, but as Queen Victoria once commented after a terrible night in a Scottish inn, “No pudding, and no fun.”
Finally, at 5 a.m., I’d had it. I could go totally psycho or I could get off that torturous scaffolding. I woke Susan. She yawned and shifted so I could heave myself over my rock-hard platform and get a toehold on her comfy cushion. I was grateful.
And I was a survivor, as surely as if I’d clung to a scrub tree on the face of the Grand Canyon or escaped tangled breathing tubes on a coral reef at the bottom of the sea.
For six solid hours I’d hung from the ceiling of a jerky, wobbling, speeding Amtrak train and lived to tell the tale.
I’m done. That most certainly met my adventure quota for the year.
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