A Train Education, Part One

An unexpected consequence of starting this blog is that it seems to be on my mind constantly.  Maybe it’s simply the newness of the whole concept, but let me tell you, I spent most of the day thinking about what I would write tonight.  While I was scanning through intimates at my glorious retail job, I decided I’d write about that; the ironic drudgery of spending your life digging through polka-dotted bras and stomach-flattening camisoles (which, by the way, may have been helpful during The Burrito Incident of January 2012).  Then, when a certain coworker, who has been a vessel of life for about 5 months now, pushed me to my breaking point, I thought maybe I’d write about our impending Nerf Gun shootout in the toy aisle. But blasting darts at a pregnant woman seemed a little intense and, well, cruel, so I scratched that idea too.

All that’s really left is a rather more dignified incident that didn’t happen today, but a few months ago.  It is also something I’ve been thinking about lately.  I’m sure you’ll figure out why.

I was on a train from Paris to Amsterdam with my two traveling buddies.  They sat together, and I, with sharp elbows and the tendency to keep the overhead light on for reading, was banished to the seat across the aisle.  Then came the few tense minutes of waiting to see whether someone would be sitting in the window seat next to me, or whether I would be able to hunker down in blissful peace for the next few hours.  I was disappointed when a man tapped me on the shoulder and said that yes, that was his seat, and could I excuse him please.

As he settled in, I opened my book, politely letting him know that it was all right, we could each entertain ourselves.  It’s not that I don’t like to talk to strangers.  I do.  It’s just that I can be such a coward about things like that, and never want to be the one forcing conversation on someone else.  Thankfully, then, he began the conversation.  He was from New Zealand, but hadn’t really lived there for years.  In New Zealand, as he put it, one would like to stay forever, but it just isn’t possible if you want to further your career, if you want the best possible opportunities for improving and educating yourself.  I thought that was sad, and I remember lamely murmuring something about Lord of the Rings having been shot in New Zealand, so it couldn’t be THAT bad.  Yes, I’m chock full of appropriate fun facts.  Bring me to a party sometime and you’ll see.

Anyway, the man (I never caught his name) also asked me about myself.  I told him that I was studying in Salzburg, but that I hailed from Minnesota, I told him about my school and my major.  He was interested to know that I was an English major:  “What does an English major do?”

“Well,” I began, trying to sound impressive, “We basically read books and poetry and then discuss them.  Sometimes we write papers about them.”

That got a dubious look.

“It’s…it’s more than that…” I struggled.  “We connect literature to its historical context.  We talk about politics, art, economics.”

He was kind, but I saw his next question coming.  They always ask it eventually.  “And what do you want to do with your English major?”

“I want to be a journalist.”  At the time I did.

“What?  No!  You can’t be a journalist!”

You know, I always got this reaction.  It’s not why I don’t want to be a journalist anymore, but I guess I’m too innocent for the job.  Or something.

“Well, I don’t want to be a corrupt journalist.  I want to write for National Geographic.  I want to travel and learn about cultures, and then report on them.”

He nodded.  That was okay with him.

-End Part One-

I apologize, but this will have to be continued.  I didn’t get where I was going with the story, and I don’t think I will anytime soon, so I’m going to finish tomorrow.

See you then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *