Wednesday, February 18, 2009

not our finest hour

“... and while all of this was happening, NOT EVEN ONE of these men over here got up to help!”


Let me back up just a bit. Last night a commotion woke me up (yes, fast asleep on the train).

“Hey - watch where you’re going!”

“He fell right on top of that lady! Are you ok?”

“You’ve been drinking.”

“He’s smoking - hey, no smoking allowed in here!”

“Get over there! No, this is my seat. Where’s you’re seat? Get over there!”

“And stop smoking - my son has asthma. I had to take him to the hospital last week...”

You get the picture.

Well, after all that (which, by my groggy estimation, might have taken 2 minutes, with about 3 different voices pitching in, along with the occasional mumble from the man shaking in the aisle), things seemed to settle down and the situation seemed under control. I wasn’t anxious to get involved. I went back to sleep.

To awake this morning to the sounds of a conversation with the VIA rail staff:

“... and while all this was happening, NOT EVEN ONE of these men over here got up to help.” An angry stare around the car.

Let me back up again, a bit further.

It’s a sunny and clear afternoon, and we’re rolling along west of Jasper. How is anybody supposed to get any work done with scenery like this rolling by outside?

“In about 20 minutes, if you turn around and look out the back you’ll have a really good view of Mt. Robson. It’s the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.”

A friendly off-and-on conversation ensued with someone who, it turns out, has worked on the railway all his life... pointing out the different spots where the Fraser, Thompson, and Columbia rivers start their long passage to the sea... telling us how far the salmon swim up the Fraser... an amiable soul on his way to visit his sick mother on Vancouver Island...

... and who a few hours later was squatting in the aisle, eyes glazed and squinting in confusion, sucking hard on a cigarette fragment pinched between shaking fingers.

The VIA attendant continued to listen: “... I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night, I was so worried. I looked for a staff person and couldn’t find any. I thought about shutting myself and my baby in the bathroom... and not even one of these men...”

I guess I should have gotten up and asked if everyone was ok. Or offered to go and search for a VIA employee. I wasn’t thinking about how the others were feeling as much as I was embarrassed for the friendly man I had met that afternoon...

And, of course, I was enjoying my sleep.



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