Friday, November 13, 2009

No Sleep Til Brooklyn

Getting on the train in Chicago was a completely jarring experience from the California Zephyr. For starters, everyone in line waiting to get on was given a ticket with a seat number. I found my seat and noticed that we were each being piled like sardines into a single car. Several people found a problem with this and moved around to find double seats to themselves. I sweet-talked the train rep, Carlos, into reissuing me a better seat.

We got ready to depart and Carlos meant business. He demanded the cards with seat numbers handed back to him and made people move if they challenged his authority. It was clearly a power struggle, but being settled in my double seat all to myself with the okay from Carlos, I kept quiet and was glad I went with the protocol.

Because we left close to 7 in the evening, and were moving an hour later, most people shut out the lights and sacked out right away. Daylight savings time has robbed me of extra light, so I knew I'd be up for a while until my body eased into the trip.

The biggest difference on the train was how many more people there are in the east than the west, at least taking trains. The train had 3 times more people than the Zephyr, and every station had a line of people waiting to board, even in the middle of the night. I didn't want to spend the night strategizing about keeping my double seat. Once I fell asleep, I guess it wouldn't matter.

Sleep was going to be rough. people were moving up and down those aisles like they were in a relay race. The doors between cars kept slamming shut, the wheels on the track were clacking loudly and I couldn't shut out the fluorescent lights. I'm such an insomniac to begin with, I don't know what I expected on the train, when I had less than restful sleep on my two overnights prior.

Still, I found plenty of reasons to be annoyed with the people oblivious that most people were sleeping, or trying to sleep. They stormed around with heavy footsteps and booming voices. Usually when all the reading lights are out in a car, that's an indication people are sleeping. I would love to be that clueless, just for a day, to see what other things I'd miss.

It started getting really cold, and I felt an air conditioning vent blowing on me. I'm not one of those people who sleep better in the cold. I'm not sure exactly what makes me sleep well. And why were so many different train attendant asking me if I was going to Toledo? Did Carlos have something to do with this?

Just when I thought there couldn't be any more distractions, a chorus of snoring began. I searched the car and found the main culprit to be the guy sitting directly behind me, though the woman kitty corner playing video games with the sound cranked was a co-conspirator. Now, what do you do when someone's snoring and you're trying to sleep?

Here's what I tried:


-headphones/blasting mellow music on my iPod

-wrapping my coat around my head

-sticking my fingers in my ears and squeezing my eyes shut

-sighing loudly

Here's what I wanted to try:

-spitballs (my strategy would have involved several other people to shoot from multiple locations)

-finding a long stick and poking him till he rolled over

-that Roald Dahl trick where you put soap shavings in someone's mouth until there's enough foam to make snoring impossible

-shaking him awake and demanding he stop

-getting someone else to shake him awake and demand he stop

-throwing him off the train

Luckily, the thing that worked in the end was fretting about it to the point of exhaustion. At least it's the last leg of the journey and I'm almost home.

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