Monday, October 17, 2011

Winter trains part 1

The coffee came to 1.07. I had the nickel at the ready, expecting 1.04, but the tax had gone up under Democrat control, and I fumbled with two pennies, hastily produced from some pocket.

The coffee's purchase was a thing definitely settled, and in my arrogance I thought it marked me out as a seasoned traveler, beater of chills. With hot liquid input and vigorous walking in the station, I could overcome the dual disadvantage of a pronounced lack of personal insulation and 15 minutes on the platform in sub 10-degree Ipswich already chilling the flesh. This is special cold that can't be rooted out by the heat in most train cars; it is the rare one that can play the role of microwave and re-heat humans who are starting from a refrigerated imbalance, it being hard enough to maintain the warmth of people who enter the cycle at a neutral level. I was unable to get rid of the cold in my feet, which felt like wet soldiers in draft canvas tents at Valley Forge.

The chill is an unwelcome houseguest, insisting on one more glass of wine after an awkward dinner, and then another glass, reveling in others' discomfort. After it is gone, the hollow remnant of its presence lingers. It can't be forced but by bluntness and boldness. Even this, though, requires appropriate conditions.

The coffee was hot and needed but I had rashly chosen the Dunkin Donuts medium over large at the same price from McDonald's. I was already cold again before the last sip. Sidling up to the rail employee in front of the service window, I wait for other harried commuters to ask longsufferingly about their trains, which are as a matter of course delayed so long they aren't worth asking about (assume twenty-five minutes off the top). Trying to play the cool customer, seen-it-all-before commuter rail veteran of a dozen cold Januaries. I smile nonchalantly as I mosey over with my inquiry queued up in the brain-catapult, but stumbling on the destination (usually Haverhill, now Lowell) I ask the question and get the answer everyone else is stuck with; a 5 or 10 minute delay in theory stretches out to around 30 in the real world.

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