Lies and Untruths

Peter Gillette

I have been, in this column, rather grumpy and bitter over the past couple months, and so, this week, I would like to indulge my love of trains.
Over Christmas break, I was fortunate enough to ride on many a train and light rail, and I remembered how great these are. The break also marked my first Greyhound bus trip in 20 years and my first ride in an airplane in 13 years. And I realize I’m a big boy now!
Now, I could go on some big screed about how efficient rail transportation is, how it is environmentally friendly, etc. and these are all really good points, I suppose, but I really don’t know much about that. I just think trains are very fun and very cool.
I like the way that trains go choo-choo. Mind you, I don’t have much of a choice in this matter. My neighborhood, back home, is along a decent-sized fishing lake. While my house is near the north egg (the more fashionable of the two), train tracks run along the western edge of the lake.
If you’ve ever stood on a shore and recognized
the clarity with which you can hear a father yelling at his son in a fishing boat for tangling the two lines during a bad cast, you realize how easily sound travels across water. (I’ve only been told this from bystanders; I was the boy in the boat, you see.)
At any rate, since trains blow their horns coming up to an intersection, I’ve gotten used to train horns over the years to the point when I’m slightly unnerved falling asleep without that sound. Paul Karner might disagree
with me about train horns: he lives right next to train tracks the next town over from me. He probably played on the train tracks a lot when he was growing up. He’s that kind of guy. But nonetheless, ask him: you get used to it.
I tried to console myself with this fact as I stepped-or, more accurately, “was shoved-into a subway car in New York City for the first time last month. You see, the subway is really loud. Chicago’s is pretty loud, but New York’s is louder. And it’s really wobbly. And you see, I got scared, because I used to play model trains when I was younger. Actually, that’s not true: my dad would play with the trains while I would glue a bridge down to the train table in a way that caused a bit of track to jut out. Then the whole train would derail, and it was a bit unnerving. But that seldom happens with real trains. You see, there’s something scary about being miles up in the air: that is, the airplane could fall. There’s something scary about being in a bus: it could crash and that guy across the aisle could literally kill you. But trains are fun. They’re more fun to ride than they are to play with, though.
I really like the Metra ride to Chicago because you can see the city coming up. Also, it’s more fun than driving since you don’t have to watch the road. Also, the conductors wear silly hats. But the best place to ride a train or light rail, I’ve decided, is Washington, D.C. Have you ever been on the Metro? It is clean, efficient, new, and affordable.
If I lived in Washington, D.C. I think I would probably ride the Metro all day and night long and never get off. I saw on Sesame Street that there are people who do that, but they don’t have a home, and I saw that and changed the channel because it was getting sad. When I’m older I’ll give people money in the subway who are poor, but only if they ask.