Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Riding the Rails: Part Two

(The Sisters Bed, Wilhelm Marstrand, 1840, Hirschsprungske Samling Museum, Copenhagen)

The warden smiles as he winds up his conversation with Matt.

He declares authoritatively, "It is 9 p.m. I am here to turn down your beds for the night."

Or he would be if he could get into the room.

He holds up the gigantic key.

We instantly realize that he means business.

Each of us steps out of the cell into the corridor.

I watch through the open door as he inserts his key into a lock in the wall.

The lock is positioned directly over the two seats that Bob and I had been sitting in just moments before.

Suddenly, a metal platform drops down into place.

I see a pillow, two sheets and a blanket lying on the platform.

The mattress is - maybe - 3 inches thick.

Then the warden inserts his key into a second lock.

The same scenario unfolds again only this time the platform is higher up the wall.

Quickly, the warden spins and faces in the opposite direction.







All four platforms are now in place.

A sick feeling flows through me as I realize that these "beds" look eerily like those roll out trays that hold dead bodies in the morgue.

Only the morgue residents have more room to spread out and relax than we're going to have.

It is at this point that I begin to think that Bob has lived long enough.

"HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO US???," I shriek to myself.

I want to get even with him for signing us up for this absurd sort of misery.

My mind begins to filter through the possibilities.

Smothering might work.

I could fold him up into the wall after he falls asleep and send him off to a permanent dreamland.

Enough with the fantasizing.

The fact is, I'm going to have to get a grip on myself.

And the sooner the better.

The warden exits our cell and says brightly, "Have a good evening!"

I want to take his big key and shove it in his ear.

But I don't.

The four of us traipse slowly back into our compartment.

There is only one place to stand.

That's right down the middle of the cell.

And that's only if we stand single file.

The warden graciously created a new aisle for us when he lowered our "beds" into the center of the room.

Bob surveys the scene and says, "It's not like we have a choice. We have got to get on our beds for the rest of the evening and stay there."

I snarl to myself, "Do you think so, Sherlock?"

Bob and Matt decide to be "chivalrous" and take the top beds.

I am no physicist but even I can see that the top platforms have a ton more breathing and turning space than the lower beds have.

I'd love to pick a fight with Bob over which one of us is going to get the upper 'bunk" but I have no more fight left in me.

I look pitifully at Tara, shrug my shoulders and slink down on my lower level platform in complete defeat.

Several minutes later, all three of my traveling comrades are sound asleep.

Please allow me to explain.

Matt and Tara are the parents of two gorgeous, highly intelligent and very rambunctious children.

This automatically means that Matt and Tara can fall asleep at anytime and at anyplace.

Surrounding circumstances - whether they be conducive to sleep or not - don't really matter to them.

Sleep - if and when they can get it - is their top priority.

Morgue trays for beds?

A jerky, noisy train to send them off to the sandman?

Matt and Tara joyfully exclaim,


Bob is either sound asleep or he is faking it so he won't have to deal with me.

I am wide awake.

And I am doing some more mental measuring.

I finally conclude that there might be a grand total of 10 inches between the top of my body and the bottom of Bob's tray.

I stare at those 10 inches for several seconds.

I know that's not a good thing.

But I can't seem to help myself.

My heart starts pounding.

My breathing gets jumpy.

I'm feeling really wired.


That's it.

If I don't get off this platform - RIGHT NOW - I absolutely know that I am going to explode and die right here in this cell!

My mind wanders for a few seconds and thinks, "At least I'll be lying on the appropriate surface when the warden comes to collect my cold, dead body."

I plead with myself, "Girl, you have got to get it together!!!"

So I talk myself down from panic mode, pick up my book and begin to read.

But the words aren't sticking in my brain.

That's because I am so mad I can hardly see straight.


Then I answer my own question:

"Who knows? You should have signed on at some other planet, honey, if what you really wanted was a fair shake."

I pick up my novel and force myself to pay attention.

Eventually, I look at my watch.

It is now midnight and they are all sleeping like milk-filled newborns.


Nature is calling me - loud and clear.

I avoid voiding for as long as I possibly can.

Who knows what demons are lurking at the end of the corridor in the lavatory?

I decide to delay uncovering that bit of knowledge as long as possible.



I roll off my tray, slip on my shoes and slowly pull myself up into standing position.

The train is jerking wildly and running at what feels like lightening speed.

I wonder if I am going to make it down the corridor without falling all over myself.

Seconds later, I arrive at the lavatory and open the Lilliputian door.

Basically, it comes down to this:

In order to use the facilities, I am going to need major surgery.

Someone - undoubtedly the warden because he seems to do everything on this train - - is going to have to lop some serious fat off each side of my body before I will be able to seat myself and "water the lilies."

Somehow, I manage to squeeze into the lavatory, close the door and take care of business.

Then I wobble up the aisle, banging my hips on the walls of the corridor as I go.

Cautiously, I open the door to cell 3.

1 comment:

  1. Funny - I had to chuckle to myself several times!