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Missing the train

Friday, October 9, 2009 by Marianne Elliott

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Yesterday I missed the train. It's a short story. I was planning to catch the 4:13 train. But there was no 4:13 train. There was a 4:03 train, which I chased fruitlessly along the platform. The next train would be too late to get me into town in time to teach my yoga class.

I spent a moment wondering why, when all the other trains run thirteen minutes after the hour, the 4:03 train had to be different. I spent a moment berating myself for not double-checking the timetable before I left the house. I spent a moment contemplating calling my boyfriend, before I realised that he couldn't get me into town either and although I wanted a little sympathy what I really needed was a plan.

I considered my options. They were few. I have no car, there are no buses from our village and the next train would be too late. It was too far to walk or bike, at least in the time available. I glanced across to the highway on the other side of the railway tracks. I watched the cars whizzing by on their way into the city. I realised there was only one way for me to get to my class on time. I was going to have to do something I hadn't done since I was backpacking around Africa more than ten years ago. I was going to hitchhike.

I felt a moment of hesitation. Would I be safe? Was I about to do something really foolish and end up as a headline in the evening news? Probably not. I decided to take a chance on good fortune and the kindness of strangers. I walked to the end of the train platform and crossed the busy highway. When I got to the other side I turned around to face the oncoming traffic and thrust my arm out, thumb up.

I had been there for about thirty seconds when a car pulled out of the village onto the highway and immediately pulled over in front of me. I walked up to the vehicle and bent down to open the door. The driver was a woman in her forties or fifties. She didn't look up at me but, keeping her eyes on the road, asked "Where are you going?" In the passenger seat was a black curly-haired dog who watched me with anticipation.

"I'm going to the city," I replied, "I just missed the train." "Well, I'm only going as far as Porirua," she responded, "but there are plenty of trains from there."

"Great," I said as I bent to climb in. The dog leapt over into the back seat but as soon as I was settled she jumped back and perched on my lap. She was not a small dog. The woman scolded her affectionately and eventually she conceded the seat to me and retreated to the back.

"I'm Alison" she said.

"I'm Marianne. Thanks again for picking me up. I was a bit stuck there."

All the way to Porirua we talked about composting toilets, wetback wood burners, solar panels, water storage tanks and household sized windmills. We shared an interest in making our homes as self-sufficient and environmentally kind as possible. We talked about the council's efforts in the 1980s to put our village onto sewage systems, rather than the septic tanks we (thankfully) still have. The problem, Alison pointed out, with a town sewage system is that the developers can come in and build high-rise and multi-unit properties. It's harder to do that on a septic tank.

As we pulled into Porirua I was telling Alison about the community yoga class I teach in the village hall and she was telling me that she had been meaning to come along for months. We arrived across the stream from the train station just moments before the 4:03 train did, so I ran across the bridge and through the tunnel under the tracks and made it up onto the platform just in time to leap onto the train before the doors shut again. 

As we rolled away towards the city I smiled because missing the train is one thing, but missing the moment would have been much sadder.

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8 Responses to "Missing the train"

  1. cath says:

    this makes me smile.

  2. Paris Parfait says:

    That is a great story! Hitchhiking a bit alarming, but one has to improvise at times, right? And luckily, your thinking-on-your-feet got you where you needed to go, on time (and hopefully another yoga client). xo

  3. John Mullis says:

    thats really cool how you linked this to your facebook. Good to hear you’re as sharp as ever.

  4. Stefanie says:

    That was just lovely.

  5. sassy says:

    I love that!!
    Ok, now would probably not be the moment to tell you the last time I pick up a hitch hiker and how she kept swattings invisible things in front of her face and muttering under her breath…

  6. tiny noises says:

    i heart this!

  7. Anne-Marie says:

    “Remember that not getting what you want can be a stroke of luck.” – the Dalai Lama.
    I love stories like this. I’ve had similar experiences, and always they have left me with a smile on my face.
    I always pick up female hitch-hikers, especially if they are alone.

  8. Lubna says:

    Sometimes the gift of a stranger is the best gift of all.

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