I go by train whenever I travel across land. I love the slow pace of train travel, and I also like watching the country- and citysides go by, from the scenic vistas of marshes and plains to the graffiti artwork on abandoned buildings in urban areas.
I have just returned from a visit to Washington, DC, where I stayed three nights, two whole days and two half days with two cats and a friend. The trains were on time, user friendly, crowded, and, seemingly, uneventful. On the way south, once the sun rose and we moved from darkness to light (not that I saw the sun, just the light of day) the view from the window provided a bare and monotone landscape - we were riding through an old fashioned sepia drawing. Mostly, I read.
Likewise went the return journey. I had a new book and nicely silent and otherwise occupied seat mates. I had brought a sandwich so I didn’t even make my usual trip to the café car. No excitement. Six sevenths of the way home, the train emptied out, as usual, but, not as usual, hordes of grownups and children spanning all ages boarded. Noisily. They were sporting Santa hats and wearing big round pins with pictures of train engines with flashing red lights. Kids were excited; babies cried; one grown-up was scared when the train began to move; parents exclaimed to their children how exciting this first train trip was. They took pictures - it is like a lightening storm in the car. One kid lost his button but luckily only his parent seemed to care.
The conductor came by and said softly to each of the rest of us plain old passengers: "Folks - they are going to be singing Christmas carols but there is room in the next car up. You can move, stay and listen, or stay and join in. Your choice.” I stayed, as did my silent seat mate, engrossed in his computer work. A woman handed out packets of Christmas songs. One kid wanted to know “Where's Santa?” Apparently promises had been made. Another started to cry. And then – there was Santa, doing his thing with a bag of engineer hats for each of the kids. A man with a white, curly beard, a fake conductor suit ,and a lovely voice whipped out a mike and led the car’s inhabitants in an assortment of Christmas songs – I won’t call them carols as they were of the secular Santa-focused variety.
At a break, Santa started in on a long sermon on being good and kind. A little boy went up to him and told him that his brother was mean to him, he hit him and gave him nougies. Santa frowned and the brother was identified and stepped forward in his engineer cap, a sweet little guy with an innocent smile, who owned up with to his actions with a huge grin.
The train came into the station and we all got off, anxious to get home, including Santa. He disappeared down the fairly decrepit station steps with his pack on his back, muttering about elves.