Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Long Night's Journey into Day: July 21-22

When I climbed aboard, the conductor lady told me to find a seat upstairs. There were only a few seats on the first level of the coach cars. They appear to be a step up from the regular coach seats, a little bigger, maybe softer, fewer people. I left my suitcase on the first level at the porters'(?) suggestion and climbed the narrow stairs to the second level. The cabin lights were dimmed and only a few people were talking softly. I found a pair of unoccupied seats, set my backpack on the aisle seat (on the left) and leaned back in the window seat (on the right).

A mother and her 3 kids were in the row behind me. They were pretty quiet, but I still figured my luck was improving when they got off at Omaha 'round about midnight. I was wrong, oh so horribly wrong. They were replaced by a couple (in their 60's, maybe) and their 4 girls around the age of 10. The girls were somewhat lively, but the parents were ornery. It just didn't seem like the daughters' moderate unruliness warranted their peevish chastising.

Of course, as an outsider you never know how often they have to put up with those annoying little habits. To top it all off, one of the girls was sick and would throw up into one of the Amtrak-provided plastic bags at least twice an hour throughout the night. Even taking that into account, I still much preferred the kids to their parents. Although they were quite affectionate with the sick girl, this threw their ill tempers into greater relief.

Being new to train-sleeping, I tried a couple different positions. Just leaning back in the seat didn't work since I'm a side-sleeper. I tried the same thing on my side: no dice. I lay down across both seats with my legs folded against my belly and my head resting kinda awkwardly on my mom's inflatable neck pillow on the aisle arm rest: snake eyes. I lay diagonally across both fully-reclined (45 degrees at most) seats on my side: like throwing a seven when you don't wanna throw one (whatever that's called).

Long story short, I did not sleep that night. Mainly I stuck with the horizontal position until my neck got sore. Not a great night, but not as bad as it could've been. It was an early morning for most of the passengers as the sun woke us up to catch the tail-end of Nebraska with its rolling prairie occupied by horse and cattle ranches. The soil became drier and hills popped up when we crossed into Colorado.

There was an elongated stop in Denver, and then we snaked our way up into the mountains. The views were beautiful. Unfortunately, that was when my sleep deprivation caught up with me. Despite the unpleasantness of maintaining consciousness (exacerbated by the aforementioned parents behind me), I bravely fought off sleep, yielding only a few minutes to "the cousin of death." (I think that's what Shakespeare wrote. It was either him or Bruce Vilanch.)

But the damage was done. I could not enjoy the scenery in my sleep-deprived and old-ornery-parents-of-10-year-olds-aggravated state.

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