Scintilla13 Day Four

Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation; anything from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of the car on a family road trip.

Over the years, starting in my childhood, I have taken several long train trips on Amtrak. It’s my mother’s preferred way to travel long distances, and her, my younger sister and myself took several cross country trips on the train when I was a child. I have taken a handful myself in adulthood.

Contrary to the requirements of this prompt, I can’t say that any of these trips have ever presented a powder keg. There have been some unpleasant experiences, such as Amtrak’s notorious delays, being stranded at one stop for several hours, whining kids in the same car. The usual. And while annoying, none of that rises to the level of “powder keg”. I suppose it could have, but it didn’t.

When you ride coach, there can sometimes be micro-dynamics. Based on the passengers, (all of whom are heading to the same general area), your car has a particular atmosphere. You know who the loud ones are, who the ones that get up for the bathroom the most, and such things. You walk through other cars, albeit for brief amounts of time, and the dynamic just feels different. You know right away it has a different feel. It’s a micro-nation with its own culture and customs.

Within a car, there are smaller demographics. Counties, if you will, within those micro-nations. The people across the aisle, a seat behind and a seat ahead of you. That cluster of humanity makes for its own relationship dynamic. You may never have reason to interact with someone on the other end of your own car, even if you get used to them, but you will probably, at least for a few moments, interact with those in your county.

On the trip in question, a stout middle-aged woman that was born in Hawaii (so she said) was across the aisle and one seat behind us. Her comments, directed sometimes at us, and sometimes out to the county in general, were consistent; Hawaii needed to secede from the United States.

This was before idiotic secession petitions, so common in the lunatic fringe of the country today, were common place. And whatever occasional  talk of leaving the Union one did hear didn’t usually come from Hawaii.

But on that train those two days it did.

The head of the secessionist movement, as time went on, availed herself of the pony bottles of scotch available for sale in the nearby dining car, and the speechifying became more elaborate with each bottle. (Though thankfully not much louder.)

The pattern would be as follows:

1) Hawaiian history lesson.

2) What can no longer happen now that it is a state.

3) How the Hawaiians were wronged by the U.S. Government.

4) How each of the problems would be solved if the state left the Union.

5) A brief respite in the presentation while she got up to get the next batch of ponies. This was usually 10-15 minutes.

6) Return with more booze.

7) Consume same and begin the process again. (With a stray commentary here and there about how late the train was.)

A day and night or two of that. It was interesting at first, as she made some valid points. Then stale. Than tedious. Eventually it bordered on the incoherent thanks to the contents of the dozen or so empty tiny bottle she had positioned in front of her on her fold out table.

Finally at one point she managed to slur, “I think it must be the scotches talking,” and there ended the lesson. She slept for much of the rest of the journey.

It could have been a lot worse. She could have been belligerent. She could have gotten loud, or staggered up and down the car trying to convert people to the cause. None of that happened. She was just persistent in her topic. And within the few seats of our little “county”, on the micro-nation that was the train car we rode in, it began to wear a little thin.

Hardly a powder keg, but for certain something that could only take place as it did within the confines of public transportation.

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