Last week as I was returning from San Diego on a northbound train, I did the one thing you really should avoid doing on a train in the dead of night. I missed my stop.
I wish I could blame this misadventure on some incidental outside factor, but alas it was absolutely and entirely my own fault. I have never been the most detailed or planned person.
Ok, lets be honest, I may be one of the least such person you will ever have the confusion of meeting.
There are reasons for this, I suppose, and while I could tell you all about how this frees my mind to think outside the ordinary, dwell upon abstract, philosophical ideas and makes way for incredibly focused thought, it also has the most impractical and unfortunate side effects.
Like ending up in the center of Los Angeles in the middle of the night without the first idea as to how I’m going to get back home.
Yes, that was me. I only wish I had a picture for you, as I’m certain it would have been the source of great amusement on your part. Of course, I knew the moment the train began pulling away that I had missed my stop, abruptly roused from whatever deep muse I was lost in to discover my failure to vacate. While I did my best to stop the world from turning and make them go back, it did not. Apparently people aren’t so keen on turning trains around for one bemused girl.
I always say when things go wrong just look for the story in it. (Of course, this only sounds nice after the fact, for while you are still in the midst of it, the only story you’re likely to tell will probably be filled with less than gracious words within one’s head.)
In fact, at this moment, I’m afraid I came fairly close to what can only be described as a meltdown only a child should have. Exhausted, I had just spent three days with an incredibly active three-year-old whom I love dearly, but who also makes me feel rather like I’ve been hit by a train.
How I love you, little one.
In any case, I managed to hold it together and found myself within a story that night, literally, whether or not I liked it.
As I stepped off the train into LA’s Union Station and the chaos that it is, I managed to find my way to the next (and final) south-bound train. As I stood there feeling more than a little foolish, I asked the fellow next to me whether this was, indeed, southbound, for at this point I did not trust myself in the slightest and was greatly concerned I would end up in Timbuktu if I wasn’t careful. He assured me I was on the right train and then offered to carry my bags inside, which I was too tired to decline at this point.
This ended up being a catalyst to a rather interesting conversation between the two of us we rode back to where I had first intended to stop. I say conversation, though as such a term would imply both parties exchanging thoughts, I suppose in all reality it was him telling his story and I listening to it. Tom was his name, a former military officer, writer, and traveler as it were. He was on day 2 of a 45 day train trek across the US to gather information and stories through conversations with fellow servicemen and veterans. I listened as he told me his story and the motivation for his travels, which turned out to be a book he was in the process of writing.
Before hopping off the train, I asked him as politely as I could to please refrain from including me in his book, seeing the only thing he knew about me was my missed train stop blunder. Something about his grin told me he wasn’t planning on heeding my request, but I suppose I am not in the business of trying to save face. After all, I tell you my faux pas and slip-ups as often as I write and cannot help but find some sort of freedom in that.
Best of luck to ya Tom, may you remember that stories come not from the planned course, but often the misadventures along the way.