I miss backpacking through Europe so much that the closest thing I could afford these days was my own backpacking trip to Bakersfield.
The whole trip by bus and then train took less than seven hours going down, and much longer coming home, but that’s only because there was some kind of incident between our train and some large object. Details are still fuzzy. The conductor was never clear in his regularly spaced updates over the course of the next hour and a half that we sat motionless on the tracks, just two minutes from my final destination, the Richmond Amtrak.
Judging by the tone of the voice, and the length of time it took him to make any point whatsoever, I sensed that he was choosing his words carefully, perhaps to avoid a riot or a mob panic attack.
“Hello, this is Rob, your train conductor speaking,” he started. Many times. “I thought I’d just give you an update. Because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, our train has stopped in the heart of Richmond, the Violent Crime Capital of California. Abruptly. And you might be wondering why that is. Well, before I explain the specifics, and it’s a simple explanation, ha ha, really, I would first request that you keep all limbs inside the train at all times, and will the ladies in Car Number Two please stop flashing the locals.”
“Hello, this is Conductor Rob again,” he said, minutes later. “I thought I’d just give you another update. We should be rolling shortly, just after the inspector checks the tracks. Should take about eight more minutes.”
A half hour later, he was on again. “Hello, this is Conductor Rob. I thought I would just give you an update. And that update is that we have an update for you and that update is that we have some information that might shed new light on our current situation.”
An hour later, we heard this special announcement: “Hello, this is Conductor Rob. I just want to assure everyone that there have been no injuries and that the safety of the train has not been compromised in any way.”
That’s good, because that was the first thing that came to my mind.
“We have Amtrak Senior Officials outside,” he said. “They’re just finalizing the final track check, and we should be on our way. Momentarily. Maybe about four to twenty minutes. Thank you for your patience.”
I was sad when we eventually started rolling again, because our train was becoming a center point of what I can only guess was a Richmond Block Party, as all the neighbors slowly started congregating near our train, many wearing black, I’m sure as a statement towards our current political situation, and gold chains.
I felt a deep connection with them, a sense of community, as they seemed like a jovial group, but then I realized that they were drawn to Car Two — that was my car — because some of the women below had been flashing them.
I just realized you might be wondering why I chose Bakersfield, and there is a reason for that, but now i’ts my bedtime, so I will have to continue this story another day.