So happy that Orlando has joined the ranks of cities with mass transit trains! I think it’s better for the environment to have less cars on the road, and it is definitely better for traffic on I-4 to have less people driving. Except for a few major mishaps with drivers not realizing their car can’t be on the tracks when a train is coming, the new SunRail seems to be off to a good start. The latest reports show that the numbers are slowly growing, and hopefully that means they will keep expanding the line with more stations. I hope so. I would love to just hop on the train and take off to Orlando or Tampa without traffic.
Most of my experience riding commuter rails comes from time spent in Europe. It’s very common there, and I wouldn’t dream of navigating Paris or London without using the underground stations to save time and avoid the congestion of the city. It’s great to get across country as well. Much better to sit back and relax or read a book than to juggle a map and a translation dictionary while driving unfamiliar territory.
For the most part, I have had only good experiences on trains. The only time I’ve gotten on the wrong train and got lost was in NYC here in the US. Go figure–I can navigate the Metropolitan in Paris without speaking the language, but manage to get on the wrong train in my own country. And lucky me –I picked one of the few trains that doesn’t stop again for like 20 blocks, so it wasn’t an easy fix.
That’s not to say that I haven’t had some interesting adventures on the trains abroad.
I almost got thrown off a train on my first trip to Italy. My friend and I didn’t realize when we bought our ticket from Rome to Naples that you have to get the ticket stamped immediately before boarding the train. The irate conductor berated us in Italian, and a nearby Dutch family was nice enough to translate what we had done wrong and that he wanted us to get off the train at the next stop. Luckily, a hot-tempered Italian passenger stood up and starting yelling at the conductor. According to the Dutch, the Italian didn’t want to be delayed by us, and his temper kept us on the train. As much as I would love to see more of the Italian countryside, I think getting thrown off a train in the middle of nowhere is probably not the best way to do it.
I learned another valuable commuter train lesson on my first trip to Paris. Ginormous overstuffed American suitcases DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, fit through the tight little turnstiles in the underground Metro stations. Now say it is early in the morning, and people who live and work in Paris are trying to get to their jobs. If you try to get through the tiny turnstile gate with your ginormous American suitcase and you get stuck and can’t back up or go forward, you WILL find out exactly what everyone means when they say the French can be rude and hate Americans. Lesson learned; I pack lighter and smaller now.
All in all, I think the worst thing about commuter trains is the smell. There is just no way to avoid it with so many bodies in such close proximity in such a tight space. When the doors open and everyone rushes into one mass of humanness inside the car, you are up close and personal with everyone’s hygiene habits. And some of those habits are not good.
This is compounded by the fact that most train cars have some type of railing or handles overhead for people to hang onto when the train is crowded and standing room only. My height puts my nose right about pit level when the arms are all raised, and let me tell you, that can be one miserable aromatic experience.
My worst experience on a train though had nothing to do with body odor, although the man involved was definitely reeking. We were coming back into Paris on a rather crowded train car, and we had found empty seats right near the door. It only took a couple of stops with all those bodies trampling over us on their way in and out of the car to figure out why the seats were empty. But at that point we would be crushed if we tried to stand up, so we were kind of stuck there with our suitcases on our laps.
At one stop, a rather disheveled man got on and stood directly in front of me, pretty much on top of my feet. His face pressed toward the window looking toward his stop, making his body lean almost right over me. He had only been there a couple of seconds when he suddenly began to claw at his crotch with his free hand. Now when I say “claw”, I am not saying that he did a slight adjustment in public or discreetly managed an itch in his privates. Oh no, this was some full-on all-out CLAWING at his crotch. Like something was alive down there.
And the harder he dug and clawed, the louder he moaned. Not at all in a sexual pleasure way. More in a being tortured and perhaps eaten alive way.
Keep in mind that with him standing almost on my feet and leaning over me, I had a front row, up-close, almost 3D view of what was happening in his nether regions, no special glasses needed. He had his hand all the way down inside his pants and I do believe that whatever he was fighting had begun to fight back. And it was winning.
For a moment he tried to get both hands inside the pants as he grunted and whimpered in pain, but the train lurched and he had to suddenly grab the hand rail beside me. With the hand that had been in battle the whole time. I shrank back against the seat as much as possible, but my options were limited.
The man continued to wage the war against whatever was attacking his testicles for a couple of the longest miles I have ever experienced on a train, and as much as I wanted to spin my head around 360 degrees like the Exorcist to keep from looking at him, I also wanted to keep a close eye to make sure nothing jumped or made a run for it out of his pants and onto me or my suitcase.
The odor, the smell, the sounds, and the visual display were almost more than this girl could bear, but all things considered, he was having a much worse time of it than me! The only good thing about the situation was that the other passengers had backed away and given him a wide berth of space, so there was at least a little airflow to help with the smell.
This train had a handle you pulled if you wanted to get off at the next stop, and he kept switching his hands back and forth between the train stop handle and his crotch full of varmints, all the while moaning and yelping occasionally. When we finally reached his stop, he pulled the handle hard, anxious to be off the train. I had already made a decision that if no one else stepped forward and pulled that handle when we got to our stop, then I would just keep on riding that train all the way to Russia before I would reach up and put my hand on it. There is no amount of hand sanitizer for a situation like that.