Mack Williams: All aboard, almost

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mack Williams

Since the natural history building of the science museum where I work is also the Amtrak station ( the lobby, that is), I sometimes get a chance to meet the rail-going public when the train is running late.

The other day, Amtrak was held up ( delayed, not “The Great Train Robbery”).

In such situations, the security guard must remain and usher the prospective passengers out to the track upon Amtrak’s arrival. That day, Amtrak arrived around 11:30 a.m.; and the guard led the little assembled group of travelers to the gate where Amtrak No.20 (northbound) had come to a stop.

The passengers had just reached the train conductor when a man burst (figuratively) through the front door of the station carrying luggage. After setting it down, he made two more quick trips, bringing in additional pieces. It was a very nice, high-quality brand of luggage! In past situations , I’ve seen a variety of luggage, or what passes for it, even in the form of garbage bags (not just “poor man’s luggage,” but “the poorest of man’s luggage”). These were all of one color-coordinated brand and five in number (implying a fairly long stay at his intended destination).

This “traveling man” was tall and “substantive,” being muscle and a little fat, mixed with a look of athleticism. Someone standing nearby said he was reminiscent of a baseball player (and adding to that “mystique,” the man wore an athletic jersey and baseball style cap, but without “emblazoning” of team or league).

While on his way out the door to the tracks with several trips of his luggage, I asked the man if he had called ahead to Amtrak for a reservation, but he replied in the negative, giving me a bad feeling (which I kept to myself) about his chances of boarding. The northbound Amtrak soon departed without him, reiterating the importance of “calling ahead!”

In conversing with the man, I had some difficulty in understanding at first, until my ear became a little more “attuned.” I had almost thought there was some impediment involved until he mentioned that he was from New Jersey. And I say this without meaning offense! It’s because I’m used to the nuances and pace of Southern speech, my only exposure to that particular Northern “tongue” having been through the movies (Tony Curtis) and TV (William Demarest), both movie and TV “Jersey”(“Joisey”), instead of its first-hand, in the flesh  production.

The man inquired about bus service, and I told him that Greyhound and Trailways had departed Danville “permanently” some time ago). I added in that the one of the major airlines used to have “puddle jumper” (prop-jet) service to Danville airport, but had discontinued it long ago. I then said: “They” don’t want us to leave Danville,” to which he grinned and laughed.”

Resorting to traveling to another city to utilize it’s still-extant bus service, the man then called a cab service listed under the train station’s clear desk blotter, but the cab never showed. I found the number of another cab service, and the voice on the phone said the cab would arrive shortly. In the meantime, the gentleman had moved all of his luggage outside the train station, when rain began to fall. I quickly retrieved my compact umbrella from my car for him to use. The umbrella was compact, but he wasn’t, resulting in an odd “parasol” effect. He said: “God bless you,” seeming to me sort of like a blessing by a Bowery Priest.

His cab arrived, and when the man had loaded his luggage I waved, and he waved back.

Although we didn’t converse very much, considering the “language barrier,” I will always have a permanent “memory picture” of this man, his “luggage entourage” in tow.

We are all “traveling through this life,” sometimes literally.

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