We have been having good times with our friends in Berkeley, handing round our baby to be dandled on their knees and scampering off to eat olives and drink cocktails. Now—this very minute, even—we are in the middle of traveling back by train. It is a long ride, because there are many stops and you never do pick up all that much speed in between them. Ten hours! But I still feel it is the best way to go.
Steve is hanging out in our miniature sleeping compartment with Jane while she naps and I partake of the wifi in the parlor car. I am sitting opposite two large and affable Australians who seem to be enjoying gin and tonics. One has a single dangling cross earring à la George Michael circa 1987.
The missing "p" key on Steve's laptop has lent a certain piquancy to the whole endeavor, and I have been relieved to find that there were not too many alarming emails piled up in my inbox.
Later we will have lunch in the dining car, and then after a stint ambling about, we can retire to our seats for novel reading and more napping. If only all modes of travel allowed one both to walk about and to lie down whenever one wanted, how much more relaxing it all would be.
Earlier the conductor announced that the lounge car was open. Apparently this is the snack bar bit of the train. The conductor would like to head some frustrations off at the pass.
"When you get to the front of the line, please do not try to open your box," he says with the sad voice of long experience. "Please do not touch the lids. Please do not try to help. That will just make your fellow passengers have to wait in line longer. It will all go much faster if I do it all myself. Thank you."
I hope he gets his wish.
So it is all very civilized and pleasant, but the best part is the inhabitant of the sleeperette opposite ours. He is a ropy, white-haired, leathery sort of fellow who looks like he is probably from Maine (as Steve observed). His compartment door is closed, but the curtain is open, so we can see the glow of his laptop.
What's more, he seems to have vision problems, because he has the screen set to display in quite large type. The type is so large, and the contrast so beautifully high, that it is nigh impossible to avoid seeing what he is reading—or perhaps writing? Oh, please, God, let it be what he is writing.
It is Harry Potter fanfic.