Thirty-five minutes before my train was set to leave, I arrived at the gate. The line already extended out of the boarding area and was starting to snake down the hall. I never really understood why people feel the compulsion to arrive so early for a train with a guaranteed eat, and yet there I was, early for the train. My stomach rumbled. I opened a baggie of pistacio nuts. I had just begun shoving them into my gaping maw by the handful when an older white couple joined the line behind me. The man was short, wearing navy pants, a hideous navy shirt made of some polyesther looking fabric, and navy pants. The woman was wearing a woven blazer and tasteful gold jewelry. A blond man, maybe in his twenties, wearing a navy jacket, pink shirt, and khakis, assisted them.
"Sir," he said, which of course caught my attention. Who the fuck talks like that? "You'll take this piece of paper" - and he handed him the boarding pass - "and show it to the person when you get to the gate."
The couple asked a variety of questions about where to put their bags and what it would be like coming back to DC from Philly, when they were on their own. I turned around and told them it would be less crazy on the way back, explaining that people don't really line up so early, but also that the train would be more crowded when they boarded, since it was coming from somewhere else.
The woman nodded. "We usually just fly, but it seems silly to fly to Philadelphia. And it's expensive."
Thinking about the clusterfuck of hell that I dealt with back in December when I flew to Philly to connect to a flight elsewhere, but 36 hours later found myself on Amtrak back home, I nodded. "Actually, if Amtrak runs smoothly, it's a pretty relaxing trip."
She seemed pleased. I began reading my book. Suddenly, a man darted into the line. "Are you....." he asked, but I missed what he said. I turned slightly to observe. "I've been following your career for a few years. You are truly a great American!"
The man in navy beamed. Now I was really curious. Who was this dude with the white boy assistant? I tried to peek at the name on his boarding pass. Fail. I tried to glimpse the name on the woman's boarding pass. Another fail. However, she did pull out her driver's license. I still didn't see the name, but it was from Indiana.
Richard Lugar, I thought immediately. Must be. The line moved forward. I asked if they needed help, but they said they were fine. I rushed ahead to get on the train and figure out if I had just offered to assist an anti-choice Republican.
As soon as I sat on the train, I googled his name. The accompanying picture indicated that yes, I had been kind to a Republican former Senator from Indiana who is a quiet anti-choicer, as I had suspected. I felt charitable. Let the weekend begin.