Adventures on Amtrak

Adventures on Amtrak

Adventures on Amtrak

A story of antics and perseverance

April 25, 2024 | Stephanie R.

Mechanical Engineering

Powered by three hours of sleep and some reheated potstickers (in hindsight, this was truly an omen for how the rest of the day would go), I sprung into action at 5:22 am to make the final preparations for my journey back to Cambridge. Coming from a town in Delaware, I had managed to live my entire life without ever taking the train. I was nervous anticipating my first ride on Amtrak, but felt more confident in my travel preparations after stuffing five vacuum-sealed bags of my winter clothes into the largest carry-on luggage I could find. My best friend, Gabby, and I planned to head to the station at 6:30 am so that I would have enough time to find my platform when I inevitably got hopelessly lost. She was patiently waiting for me outside of my house by 6:20 am. Everything fell apart by 6:49 am, when I was still chasing my cat, Percy, around the house and desperately pleading for him to sit in his carrier long enough for me to zip it shut. In my frenzy I ran into his water bowl, soaking the only pair of pants I hadn’t secured in my meticulously-packed suitcase. We didn’t leave until 7:15am.

Percy, a beautiful cat with orange striped patches over a white coat, lounges on the carpet.

Obligatory picture of Percy

I tend to overthink things, so my predictions usually don’t come true. I was assured by many friends and family members that the Wilmington Amtrak station in Delaware was too small for anyone to get lost in. I thought I would be the one to prove them all wrong. However, the station really was only three platforms, and even I’m not talented enough to get lost under those circumstances. After waiting on Platform 2 for what felt like an eternity, I boarded at 8:18 am. Although I was excited to have finally made it on the train, I knew there still was the potential for things to go awry. It turned out that my portable trove actually couldn’t fit in the overhead storage compartment, despite how hard I and the nice lady I sat next to tried to make it work. After watching us struggle for a bit, a man came over to us, took my luggage, and calmly put it on the racks at the back of our car. I was a little embarrassed that I had caused such a commotion, but I was thankful for the generosity of those around me. I sat in my window seat, anticipating the dramatic changes in scenery that would come with passing through the mid-Atlantic and New England. Instead, I found myself stuck in Trenton, New Jersey for two hours due to technical difficulties, fighting off the effects of sleep deprivation that finally started to kick in, and narrowly avoiding falling on another passenger while struggling to stay upright on the moving train on my way back from the  cafe car. The only thing that did seem to go smoothly was Percy’s total lack of concern with the whole ordeal. He was really feeling the spirit of being in the quiet car.

I wish I could say that my troubles ended after leaving the train. After arriving at the Back Bay station, I waited for the Uber I called to arrive. I stood in front of several taxicars, but I was determined not to waste the money I had already spent. I was joined by a quiet, older lady who asked me to confirm that she was in the right location to be picked up by the Uber she had ordered. Shortly after assuring her that she was in the right place, I noticed a car matching my assigned driver’s appear on the road in front of me. I also noticed it completely passing me in the bustling traffic. Naturally, I took off down the street in an attempt to catch his attention. My efforts were fruitless, and I was left waiting on the wrong side of the street for a car that seemed determined to not pick me up. To make matters worse, the irrational ideas of my sleep-deprived mind began to affect those around me. The older lady who I was previously standing next to saw my frantic sprint across the crosswalk and decided to join me, probably fearing that I had tricked her into standing in the wrong location. I apologized profusely and explained the situation, and we had a nice laugh about it after going back to the correct side of the street. It took an additional 15 minutes for my driver to circle back around the block and finally pick me up. I eventually made it back to my apartment and got some much needed rest.

Even with all of the hiccups along the way, I was still able to make it to my destination. Whether you’re facing your first train ride, a new research project, or anything else, you should take comfort in knowing that all things will eventually come to their destined conclusions. Just make sure you get enough sleep to prepare yourself for the journey of getting there.

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