Chris spoke first:
"I just had to get out of that Bermuda Triangle of idiocy."
The single mom with two toddlers told everyone in our train car the story of her unfair life. Her children fussed and force-cried for the first half of the night. By the time she had them both properly spanked and sniffling, "Get away from me, you're a bad mommy!" the overweight gentleman across the aisle was able to fall asleep and promptly start snoring like a javelina. After a few hours of negotiating a limited version of rest, one of the kids woke up after snoring guy emitted a particularly loud snorkeling sound. She whined a mysterious phrase over and over, "I want my bat seat," or an equivalent. Her exasperated mother matched her volume in explaining(everytime the little girl finished her sentence) that she couldn't give her the "bat seat" because she had lost it and that she was "going to be" responsible for waking up "everybody on the damn train" and did she really want to be that rude?
What kind of adult tries to reason with a four-year-old in the manipulative way usually reserved for adult-on-adult guilt trips? I mean, it is not going to work to tell a toddler that other people are going to hate her if she doesn't stop making noise, or that she will not receive any of the Easter presents promised to her if she doesn't stop poking her sister.
After the "bat seat" fire had been tamped down to a few stray whimpers, snoring guy fell right off the end of the sleeping pier and started in with his bubbly-sounding snorts. I ground my teeth together and fought, I am not kidding, to keep control of my left leg, which wanted to shoot out and kick the guy in the lumbar region.
Chris got up and stormed to the observation car with his Game Boy, where, presumably, it was quiet.
I stayed clenched in my little ball of fury until I realized that, zoo noises or not, I wasn't going to fall asleep any time soon.
I wrapped my scarf around my face and spread out over both seats.
I love the train.
Further into the night during a snoring volume spike, I went to the bathroom and walked in on an older lady in a state of undress. Wearing only a deep purple bra and some sort of control-top garment, she didn't even notice that I had flung open the door and went on digging around in her suitcase.
Even later, Chris came back to our seats and tried to snuggle up to me, but every position on the seat's incline meant one of us got smooshed and some limb went numb.
Just before sunrise, he crawled under our seats and stretched out on the floor.
"Is that good down there?" I swung my face over the edge of the foot rest and eyeballed him. My scarf was twisted around my head like a lepers bandages.
"It's luxurious!" He pulled his hat over his face and went to sleep.
Soon after, as the sunlight burst into the car like the Kool-Aid mascot in commercials of old, snoring guy shut down his log-sawing operation and almost immediately started making calls on his cell phone to a number of people to tell them that some airline had lost his luggage. It couldn't have been more that 6am.
Single mom woke up and started complaining to snoring man(after he was through telling his missing luggage story about five times) about how behind schedule we were(about two hours), why we didn't stop for a goddamned cigarette break, and how they were "never taking the train again in life,"(?) and how much of a refund they were going to demand. This was punctuated by proclamations of how poorly they slept, how unfair and unacceptable it was that they were going to be late meeting her new boyfriend, and returns to her previous story about why she left the father of her two children.
Even with my scarf pulled over my face, the light got through, the conversation permeated.
"My kids hate the train. I couldn't fly out of Portland on Thursday or we would have done that. My boyfriend insisted that I come home for Easter or we wouldn't be here. On the way up to Portland, the bathroom broke in our train car and we were running two hours behind then too! I have to go live with my parents because I'm having a house built. My husband and I got so stressed about how long it was taking that I left him around last Halloween." She was up and pacing, talking snoring guy's ear off. Then she called her boyfriend and her grandmother and told them the whole story we had just heard.
Oh: by now it was 6:30am.
I started to think about how the only reason I was having a bad time was because of her and her mucus-y offspring. The screaming, the spanking, the loud complaining. Oh my god!
Chris called in the delay to his parents, who were awaiting our arrival in San Francisco. I went to brush my teeth. We gathered our things and sneaked away to the lounge car, noting, on our passage through five other passenger cars, how serene they were. People were still slumbering all around us. My head throbbed.
Chris bought some horrible coffee that only resembled it's label in that it was hot and in a styrofoam cup.
We talked about the Bermuda Triangle of Idiocy in our car.
I replayed the punishment scene from the night before: the older child of single mom wouldn't stop forcing herself to bawl. Huge hitching sobs came from this fairy-sized being. At this point I still had patience. Snoring guy offered to be "surrogate daddy" for a while. Whatever that meant. She told him(and the rest of us) her woes. He told her(and the rest of us) that his own fiance was pregnant, and that he wasn't sure if she really wanted to be with him.
Oh, the drama!
The kid was wailing through all of this. Eventually, I figured, she'd wear herself out. They always do. But her mom cracked first. Warnings were issued and ignored. Tiny four-year-old punches were thrown.
"Alright that's it!" and mom got up and stuffed her two-year old under her arm like a sack of flour, dragged her other screaming child by the wrist down to the lower level, where for a moment we heard nothing.
"Somebody's in big trouble." Chris whispered.
Then, a solid-sounding WHACK! followed by a thin, reedy wailing as the whackee reacted in exactly the way that got her in trouble in the first place.
"I hate you, Mommy!" she caterwauled and tore back up the stairs, dove past us to hide under her seat.
Late breaking news flash:
People around us confirm we will be even longer delayed due to a medical emergency that is happening in the full view of the observation car. I thought we had been sitting here for a while. Some lady(we hoped it was Single Mom) had an anxiety attack about how late we were and opened one of the exit doors and tried to get off the moving train. An ambulance has been deployed, and a fire engine; train employees are all over the place. Evidently, she wants Amtrak to rent her a car so she can get to where she is going on time. This is not going to happen. They are sedating her and driving her away in the ambulance, which is good, because if she got back on this train, an angry mob would surely kill her.
Some little kids down the car from us are playing "No means yes and yes means no."
Chris seems to feel vindicated having predicted that Single Mom's head would explode at some point during the trip, and if the medical emergency lady is one and the same, he would be right.
Things I have seen from the train:
-a sign on a shed door reading: "Keep locked or stay the fuck out"
-a crusty, hardened glove
-a stallion taking a pee (his stream was as thick as a towing chain!)
-a really really bad wig
-hundreds of abandoned appliances
-ditches of sludge
-Chris asleep on the floor under my seat
Things I have heard today on the train:
-more shrill screaming
-a child singing a song phonetically resembling "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" but sounding more like "Twittle Twittle Butter Bar."
-repeated threats of spanking
-I say again: shrill screaming of a pitch and sustainability only utterable by a human under 3 years old. Jesus, but that girl puts her lungs into it. And with a Nuk in there, too!