The A-Hole Car


‘Dealing with a gang of turkeys on Amtrak’

Actually, I wasn’t sure what to call that bunch of turkeys. Except not to call them for dinner (ba-da-bum). So I checked good ole Google. Turns out there are a variety of terms: ‘muster’, ‘posse’, ‘rafter’ being among them. The only one I decided against was ‘school’, since the ‘gang’ I’m going to describe seemed decidedly uneducated. At least in the mores and folkways of polite train-riding.

The story I’m going to tell happened when Dude and I were Amtraking our way home after spending a most delightful day and a half with The Child up in the Boston/Cambridge area where she lives and works.

You’ve probably heard enough already about The Child and her cool job at the amazing-and-recently-bought-by-Standard-and-Poor Kensho. Suffice it to say that The Dude and I are not only proud as punch but relieved that she won’t be couch-surfing at our place any time soon.

The Child showing us around Kensho’s new C’bridge digs. If you look closely you can see that her door has ‘Troll’ written on it (not by us)

Kensho’s new spread is one of those designed-so-the-workforce-never-wants-to-leave sorts of places. With not only two kitchens stocked with every kind of snack imaginable (even Goldfish, The Child’s personal catnip), but also a gym and a game room and (I am not making this up) a meditation room. The Child and The Dude worked up a bit of a healthy sweat at the ping-pong table, though, sadly, this went undocumented.

The Dude test-swings one of Kensho’s more, um, interesting new ‘office chairs’. (Yeah, I stole this shot from The Child’s Instagram feed; could have cropped the bottom, but wanted to keep those Dude Feet)

Anyway, we had a very pleasant time even not at the fantastic new office — an afternoon walking around Cambridge with Child and BF, capped with a nice dinner in a Millennial-friendly Williamsburg-hipster-esque spot near Inman Square.

Bumping into a few turkeys on a walk around Cambridge. Much better behaved than the turkeys we encountered on our train

Next day, for a change of pace, we went to the Isabella Gardner Museum, which is like one of my favorite haunts in New York, the Frick, in that it is a big beautiful house filled with the art and objects that the big beautiful benefactor left in it. It is my dream that, one day, The Child will be so successful that she can buy me one of these houses. Either one will be fine.

Meeting the benefactrice. Incidentally, if your name is ‘Isabella’, you get in free. We had to pay

Yes, we were allowed to take pictures inside the Gardner House. (I asked a guard, just to make sure.) Here are a few more to enjoy before I get back to the incident-on-the-train part.

This house has, among zillions of other attractions, a four-story courtyard. Sigh

Dude and Child taking in the courtyard while I measure the rooms for the movers

The Child, making like a Sargent

All right, enough with the art and the day-dreaming. Sooner than you can say “Gosh, that visit went fast!”, The Child had ushered us into an Uber, and off we went to the station, where The Dude enjoyed a fortifying Carvel cone before boarding our train back to New York.

We had suffered through a bit of a misadventure on our way up to Boston the day before. See, I can’t sit backwards without getting carsick, so we had dragged our bags through car after car of ‘backward-facing seats’ only to discover when the train started moving that the two ‘front-facing’ ones we finally found (next to the bathroom, ick) were actually backwards. We, duh, thought the train was pointed the other way.

But that was bliss compared to our ride home. Turns out a big snowstorm was predicted for Boston, so our train was crammed with not only experienced, polite train-riders, but a rather unruly mob of, I’m guessing from their (loud) cellphone conversations, o-no-our-flight-was-cancelled airplane-flyers.

You know how on the train they have this thing called the Quiet Car? We didn’t sit there, since we knew we might want to, you know, kvell a bit with each other over The Child. (Besides, the Quiet Car was, no doubt, full already with nice, quiet, and super-smart-for-choosing-it Quiet-Car-riders.)

The Dude, sitting quietly (even tho not in the Quiet Car), reading his Jack Reacher book on his phone instead of talking on it

So we sat in a ‘normal’ car. Which we quickly dubbed the A-Hole Car. (Only we didn’t call it ‘A-Hole’) This car was populated with peeps who coughed a lot, marched up and down the aisle bonking you on the head with bags and briefcases, ate smelly food, were accompanied by loud screaming children, dropped their tray tables so they made resounding bangs, slept with their feet on the adjoining seat, and watched movies without headphones.

Yup. It was just like being on a plane! But worse, since (at least for now, thank the Transportation Gods) you can’t talk on the phone on a plane. And this bunch of turkeys were indeed gabbling on the phone. Loudly, and a lot. One guy a couple of seats up, over the course of several calls, told us in booming detail all about the deal he was closing. He referred, several times, to his clients as “all pre-sliced, like bread in buns.” Once he even said he was “shaving down the buns”. I’m not sure what all that means, biz-wise, but I sure hope his deal wasn’t a secret one, because everybody in that car knew all about it by the time we pulled into Penn Station.

Oh, speaking of marching up and down the aisle, there was a woman who paused mid-march to ask what I was doing. (I was knitting some mittens.) She admired my handiwork, which was nice, but then she picked up my finished mitten and without as much as a by-your-leave or a how-de-do, she tried it on.

My mittens-in-the-making, pre-disturbance

Well. We made it home, sanity — and mittens — intact. And before the storm hit too. Thanks again, dear Child, for a wonderful visit. We hope to be back again soon. But next time we might drive.

New York City. March 2018


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16 thoughts on “The A-Hole Car

  1. This absolutely trumps my latest post and *those* people on a plane! Wow. I’m stunned she had the gall to try on your mitten! What the actual do-you-have-a-brain?! I’ve always found train travel to be miles ahead of plane travel in the comfort and annoying people factor. I guess not always!

    • Oh, my dear Miss McCupcakes, no one is funnier than thou. Except maybe Miss Try On Your Mitten (!) I just hope she didn’t have, like, leprosy or something. And you are so right; I usually have such fun on the train. I think this was bad because all the A-Hole types were the ones whose planes were cancelled!

  2. josypheen

    I bet the quiet car would have been loud as well (it nearly always is!)…and then you’d have been really mad at everyone! At least in the A-hole car you expect A-holes!! 😀

    I LOVE the look of that four story courtyard. That kind of design is sooo lovely if you have enough space.

    • You are SO right about the Quiet Car. In my experience, it’s waaaaay more annoying because people WHISPER! They don’t seem to understand that ‘quiet’ means ‘quiet’. Like, if you’re going to read or sleep. So that darned whispering is like squeaky chalk on a blackboard. And yes, what else should I expect on the A-Hole Car???? Oh, and yes yes, that courtyard was to die for. No turkeys (or A-Holes) anywhere in sight!

      • josypheen

        One of my old colleagues told people off in the quiet car in the UK (it was a large group of drunk men drinking and chatting on their phones loudly)

        She is a teeny Japanese lady, so I am so proud that she attempted to shut them up. Unfortunately in the end they just laughed at her, so she got soooo mad. The train staff wouldn’t do anything to shut them up either. 🙁

  3. Anne Smith

    Oh dear, I love that trip! Both Acela and regional. The scenery is lovely. Mostly. And the seats are roomy. At its worst, it beats driving. I can complain about the Gardner, though. The new entrance takes away the Wow experience of coming in from the street, through a dark entry into the courtyard.

    • I hear you about the Renzo Piano glass monstrosity attached to Isabella’s House. I am positive she would hate it. They did a similar thing to J. P. Morgan’s House here in NY. The Frick, thank god, remains much as it was when Mr. F. lived there. And yes, the train ride is (mostly) lovely, especially where it follows the coastline. And when the crowd behaves, which is actually most of the time xoxo

  4. Brings back not-so-fond memories of public transportation in Chicago. As a daily rider, I dreaded days like St. Patrick’s Day when every bus and train amateur trekked downtown for a day of parades and heavy green beer drinking. A part of city living I definitely don’t miss!

    • Ahhhhh! Public transportation in Chicago! I have a brother living near there, so I’ve experienced this for myself — tho NOT on St. Patty’s Day. The Big Green Celebration is pretty intense here in NYC too; I try to stay safely inside and away from the parading, marauding green-dyed hordes. One year, even the police ‘guarding’ the parade route were drinking beer out of paper bags!

  5. You saw the best and worst of Boston, Alice. That Gardner Museum is so beautiful and I hope you get to move in one day. And Boston is probably the World’s Rudest City, thank you very much. Glad your Child is doing so well and thriving.

    • Even ruder than New York? Hmmmmm. Come to think of it, maybe so! We were so glad to be there with the amazing Child (and at the Amazing Gardner!), but we weren’t sorry to be back in our own bed last night (!) xoxo

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