The man I sat next to on the morning train to Chicago


I take trains everywhere. I’ve done EuRail twice, about to be three times. I’ve taken the Amtrak train 8 times back and forth from New York City to my hometown in Indiana – 17 hours each way – basically enough to be one of those people with a rewards card, if that means anything to you. Actually it shouldn’t, cuz anyone can get one. The point is: I’m a huge proponent of train travel; it tends to be cheaper, and the hours spent on the train aren’t spent in boredom, they’re spent reflecting, looking out the window, and chatting with complete strangers who also were probably asked a thousand times, “why don’t you just take a plane!”

Because I tend to put myself through more struggles in order to get the cheapest deals, I found myself on the Chicago-bound Amtrak train at 6:36am. Turns out, it was cheaper for me to take a train three hours, book a hostel for the night, and fly out of Chicago than to fly out of my hometown in the middle of Indiana – so hello, of course I did it.

But I’m telling you, the more times I take the train, the more people I tend to talk to, and this time was no different. Okay, well in a way, this one was really different.


I scour the train looking for a two-seater so I can stretch out for the next three hours…and so I don’t deny anyone that luxury either. There aren’t any two-seaters left, so I stop playing the pushover card and sit my a$$ down next to normal-looking man.

Not thirty seconds after I sit down and get comfortable, I feel a nudge on my arm. Why am I being poked at 7:30 in the morning? I thought everyone was sleeping. I look to my left and notice the man next to me giggling and wanting to show me what he’s been scrolling through on his phone, so I look at him, glance down at his screen, and see his Facebook timeline filled with nothing but naked big booty women posing in, well, I guess we could say the most provocative ways.

He can’t stop laughing.

Spend the last five years of your life taking the subways in New York City and you pretty much know how to deal with these people. “Oh that’s funny” I say, not laughing and quickly searching for my earphones. But I get cut off:

– So where you heading, buddy?

Trying my hardest not to completely shut him down right away, but also not trying to be naive when I might be sitting next to a perverted lunatic, I keep my answer short and sweet:

Chicago, then Europe.

– Wow! Man, you’re on an expedition! How old are you now? 20? 21?

 I’m 23, yeah.

– You know buddy, it reminds me of my days living in Hawaii. I was so young and having the time of my life out there.Looky-here, you see this gray hair up top? Im 53 now. I got to Toledo in 2003 and before you know it, it’s 2015.

OK, so maybe this guy’s just a lil’ over-friendly, not necessarily “crazy”

And now you’re going to Chicago? What are you doing over there?

– I’m passing through to go to Denver. I met my girl in 7th grade and we started getting to talking again a few years ago, and now I’m gonna go try it out in Denver.

Aw. Everyone’s got a story!

– So a flight to Europe, huh? I like trains cuz at least I know I’m on ground, but I guess if it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go.

Yeah, you got that right. This guy started off so badly, but now is spittin’ nothin but those wise one-liners. And just as it was gettin’ good, the man behind me poked me (like stop poking me people!) and said, “You can take my two seats now; I’m getting off.  Oh by the way, did you get cheap flights to Europe?”IMG_5598

And before you know it, I was sittin’ back, maxin’, relaxing in the seat behind my “friend” and as I was moving, he gave me one last bit of his wisdom.

Wow, man you’re really on an expedition, though! You’re so young, and you’ve got your whole life in front of you. Get out there and don’t stop doing your thing because one day, you gon’ look up in the mirror and be 53 and say, ‘Oh shit”


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